Perfect start for the Aussie men on day 1 at the Australian Open
It was three from three for the Australian men that took to the court on day one of the opening Grand Slam in 2023.
The first to claim a win was Jason Kubler, the world no. 84 playing in his fourth Australian Open, his first was back in 2010.
Kubler took on Argentina’s Sebastian Baez the world no. 44. Baez is just 170cm so does not possess the most powerful serve going around. He does however have a decent forehand and moves well.
The Australian twice would break early in a set and then stay in control to take the opening two sets.
Both players earned three break points, Kubler would convert all three, Baez failed to convert any.
“I’m proud of myself. I wasn’t sure last year if I’d be in this sort of situation,” said Kubler, who also won matches at Roland Garros and the US Open.
“It’s kind of cool now just almost the last four Grand Slams that I’ve been able to win a match in main draw. If anything, I’m more proud of that, but also to be able to play in front of the Australian crowd. I haven’t really had the opportunity to do that.”
Next up for Kubler is 2022 US Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov the 18th seed and world no. 20.
“I’m super excited. He’s a great player. Hopefully we can play on one of these courts again,” Kubler said about Khachanov.
“Now that I’m getting a tiny bit older in the tennis world, I want to play on these courts, I want to play in front of so many people. Knowing that I’m going to play him next just means I get to play in front of all you guys again, so I’m super pumped.”
The five set marathons
Next came five set wins for a veteran near the end of his career and a 21-year-old. The first was John Millman, now ranked at no. 140. He faced world no. 51 Marc-Andrea Huesler from Switzerland.
The opening set saw the games go with serve although Millman had to fight off a break point along the way.
In the tiebreaker the Aussie raced to a 5-0 lead, but then he faltered. Huesler got to 5-4 before Millman hit a winner to earn a set point. Back-to-back winners from the Swiss saw the score at 6-6.
Millman failed to convert several set points before Huesler wrapped up the opening set 10-8.
In the second set Millman broke for the first time in the 11th game and then he held serve to take the second set 7-5.
The Swiss player moved to a 5-2 lead in the third set only to see Millman fight back to earn a tiebreaker, but he was never in the hunt and Huesler was up two sets to one.
Millman then lifted and he won the fourth and fifth sets to complete a memorable come from behind victory 6-7(10), 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 in four hours and five minutes.
“They are the ones you remember. The ones where you leave everything out there. I had a lot of people come down from Brisbane to watch. These are the ones that will be special long after I finish playing,” said Millman.
“It’s as memorable as any match I’ve ever played.”
In round two Millman faces Daniil Medvedev.
To cap off a great opening day for the Australian men we saw Rinky Hijikata come from two sets down to win 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann the world no. 128.
Hanfmann hit 63 winners throughout the match to 58 from the Australian. Unforced errors were 38 for Hijikata and 50 from the German
“I couldn’t have done it without the support today,” Hijikata said. “I’m so grateful for everyone coming out. That is the most fun match I’ve ever played in my life.”
Hijikata has earned himself a match against third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a three-time Australian Open semifinalist.
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