The match of the day on paper between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Denis Shapovalov lived up the billing on Wednesday at the Australian Open. The swashbuckling Shapovalov stunned Tsonga in the second round of the US Open, and the Canadian looked on his was to another win after leading by 2 sets to 1, and then in the fifth by 5-2, 30-30.
But Tsonga showed his experience and fitness running the last five games of the match to get a very tough 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 victory.
“Since the start I was behind him,” said Tsonga who improved to 16-10 in 5-set matches. “I had to fight a lot and make him finish the match. He never did, so it’s good for me. The most important for me, it’s to fight, give my best on court until the last point. That’s what I did today. I think he deserved to win also today, but I was also courageous and I did my job at the end. I played well. I think I deserve it, too.”
The 18-year-old Shapovalov, who was making his debut at the Australian Open, says there’s a lot to learn.
“There’s always nerves in a tennis match,” Shapovalov said. “It’s a sport. I wasn’t thinking about it much. Just didn’t play a good game on my serve. Then he picked up his level.
“As much as the loss hurts, you know, I don’t find it as a loss. I find it as an opportunity to learn. Yeah, I mean, I’m turning it into a positive. Hopefully next time I’m in this situation, I play things a little bit differently.
“But I’m the type of guy when things don’t go my way, instead of sulking or getting mad, down on myself, I go back on the court and try to work twice as hard so next time when I’m in that position I can hit some good serves, you know, just close the match out.”
Tsonga know moves on to another tough match with a youngster on Friday in Nick Kyrgios, who eased past Viktor Troicki in three sets.
“He’s got the fire in the arms,” said Tsonga. “I think it’s going to be a good match. Yeah, what can I say? Everybody know what he will try to do, what I will try to do.”
Added Kyrgios on the matchup, “It’s going to be fun. We played last year in Marseille. He beat me in a three-set battle. It was a lot of fun. Obviously a guy I looked up to growing up. I’ve seen him play a lot. I know what he’s going to bring. He knows what I’m going to bring. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
After punishing Victor Estrella Burgos in his opener, Rafael Nadal had a far tougher time with Leonardo Mayer. In the third, Nadal failed to serve it out at 5-4 but eventually closed it in a breaker for a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) win.
Afterward, Nadal spoke about losing his serve at 5-4.
“In this case particularly I personally was not losing the game because I was too nervous, because I felt too much tension,” Nadal said. “He played a great game, all the returns in, very long, playing so aggressive, hitting all the balls super strong, and having success.
“I was there, no? I had small chances. I hold until deuce two times. But that’s it. He really went for the game. The opponent always have the chance to play aggressive. If he’s right at that moment, then is so difficult to stop.
“Only thing, I could serve a little bit better. Maybe yes. But I didn’t serve worse that game than the rest of the games that I won all the games.”
As he hunts for a 17th Slam and second Career Slam, Nadal has now won his last nine Grand Slam matches. Up next is Damir Dzumhur who eliminated Aussie John Millman.
Ivo Karlovic racked up 53 aces and a 4-hour 12-10 final set win over Yuichi Sugita. In a wide-open section, Karlovic will take on Andreas Seppi with a chance to play the Kyle Edmund-Nikolaz Basilishvili winner to get to the quarters!
Former Australian Open semifinalist Marin Cilic looked good rolling past Joao Sousa 6-1, 7-5, 6-2. He’s now 4-0 against the best player from Portugal.
Cilic now meets American Ryan Harrison who dispatched No. 30 seed Pablo Cuevas in straight sets.
Gilles Muller and Pablo Carreno Busta took different routes to their Friday third round showdown. Muller held off Malek Jaziri in five sets while Carreno Busta advanced when recent Pune champion Gilles Simon retired in the second set due to a leg injury.
In the nightcap, Grigor Dimitrov had a surprisingly difficult time beating unheralded American NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 8-6. He’ll next face Andrey Rublev in a rematch from the US Open won by the Russian.
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