Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends (until 5 AM).
Yes, we’re gearing up for day two of the Australian Open as the first round of action continues.
Day one was, overall, pretty dang fun. If you missed any of the action, you can get caught up by checking out our live blog from the first day of action. If you don’t want to wade through all that, which is completely understandable, here’s your Too Long; Didn’t Read version:
- The Americans had an absolute nightmare. Ryan Harrison won, but when Ryan Harrison is leading your front line, that’s a problem. Three would-be contenders on the women’s side are out (Williams, Vandeweghe, and Stephens). Jack Sock and John Isner are out as well, leaving Sam Querrey as pretty much the only hope for an American contender. The draw for Sam is…oh there’s Roger Federer in his quarters. Good luck, Sam!
- Two of the three best matches of the day were played by young kids. Kyle Edmund outlasted US Open finalist, Kevin Anderson, in five sets. That quarter is now completely out of seeded players. Andrey Rublev nearly gave away his match against David Ferrer, but he would eventually get it done in five. The Russian youngster cranked 77 winners and also 91 unforced errors. It was one of those matches.
- Some love also needs to be given to Monica Puig, who beat hometown favorite, Sam Stosur, in an impressive comeback effort. I’m in the tank for Puig.
Here’s what you need to know for day two.
- On the men’s side, there aren’t any matches that jump out at you on quality, perhaps other than Mischa Zverev vs Hyeon Chung. Tiafoe and Del Potro could feasibly be good, though I’d be surprised if the young American makes that a match. The real storylines are, big surprise, based on guys coming back from injury. Donald Young isn’t any good, so if Novak Djokovic can’t put him away easily, we’ve got problems. Ditto for Stan Wawrinka against Ričardas Berankis. The good Zverev, Roger Federer, Querrey, and David Goffin all get started today as well.
- On the women’s side, Pliskova vs Radwanska might be neat. Madison Keys goes up against Qiang Wang in a battle of two top 50 players. If Keys goes out, the four women who were upheld as proof of the American tennis renaissance after making the US Open semifinals will all be done in Melbourne without a second round appearance between them. No pressure! My pick to win the tournament, Sharapova, as well as top seed Halep also will play today.
Here are some other odds and ends:
- Nike is all in on pink this year. Everyone’s wearing it and it looks crisp and also good.
- Sleveless Rafa is…not as good as it used to be.
The sleeveless look for Nadal is bold, considering he's also going bald. pic.twitter.com/cvPJAHjJIL
— Ben Goren (@BenG412) January 15, 2018
- The concern trolling about Rafa’s health might have been dumb. He looks pretty healthy. Granted he was playing a guy several standard deviations worse than he is, but still, pretty impressive.
- I like Kyrgios. I’m also already tired of the “KYRGIOS IN AUSTRALIA?????????” talk that is omnipresent. Pump the brakes, guys.
- I am really interested to see how ESPN handles this tournament without so many American names to lean on. Obviously the big stories are just going to be Roger and Rafa, but if Kyrgios skips out early, what are they going to do? This really isn’t a tournament setting up for casual fans.
6:05 PM CST:
Ben Goren: We’re back!
Well, I’m back. Tristan is on a plane. So I’ll be flying solo for the early set of matches. Tristan is not missing much.
these matches all suck! pic.twitter.com/tygjIGgtvi
— Ben Goren (@BenG412) January 16, 2018
Whew. I will have Konta-Brengle on one screen and Bautista Agut-Verdasco on the other. We’re mostly just waiting for good matches to start.
6:20 PM CST:
Ben: We’re one game into RBA-Verdasco, and my boy Bautista Agut is already down a break. He doesn’t look like he’s all the way into this match. That’s gonna have to change fast. The good news is that Verdasco’s serve looked all kinds of crooked in the run-up to Melbourne. I’m not loving it.
6:45 PM CST:
Ben: Shoutout to Cedrik-Marcel Strebe on being the first player to lose a set today, as he got bageled by countryman Maximillian Marterer. Elsewhere, Verdasco got the double break, Konta is about to put down Brengle with ease in the first set, and Raonic-Lacko is looking like a good match. Milos is almost assuredly not back to full health and Lacko, who is a good Challenger level player, is very much in the match.
6:55 PM CST:
Ben: Robert Bautista Agut has decided to wake up. After gifting the first set 1-6 to Fernando Verdasco, he buckled down and broke Verdasco to start the second. This has the potential to be a psycho match.
Elsewhere, Lacko and Raonic are going to a first set tiebreaker. Lacko doesn’t cover the court at all, but he’s turning around Raonic’s pace pretty effectively. I’d still be surprised if Lacko wins this match, or even takes it five sets, but he’s acquitted himself well so far.
7:07 PM CST:
Ben: First set Raonic. Fair play, he’s certainly been the more impressive player to this point. He also completely flipped a switch late in the tiebreak. He all of a sudden looked like the elite player he was before his injury problems.
Bernanda Pera is about to become the second American woman into the second round as well. The only bit of drama so far is Verdasco threatening Bautista-Agut. RBA is up a break in the second and on serve right now. Things seem to be working themselves out.
7:17 PM CST:
Ben: Another American is out of the draw. Farewell, Madison Brengle, we hardly knew ye.
7:36 PM CST:
Ben: Yup, Zombie Verdasco is officially a thing. He’s got Roberto Bautista-Agut swinging at shadows out there. Verdasco is up two sets to love and is showing no signs of letting up. It looks like we might have another seed go down.
And, finally, the next batch of matches is starting. Look at all these interesting players!
This next set of matches is maybe the best of the day. Zverev, Goffin, and Querrey, Sharapova are all starting up. pic.twitter.com/ALZpBKkjVW
— Ben Goren (@BenG412) January 16, 2018
It’s exciting! I can’t wait for Tennis Channel to force Sam Querrey on me!
7:53 PM CST:
Ben: Lascko!!! He can’t move, he’s outclassed, and he’s leveled the match at a set all. Raonic has to be absolutely fuming. Lascko has an impressive record on the Challenger Tour, but it’s definitely fair to say he’s out of his depth here. Him taking even one set in this match is definitely something to be proud of.
Bautista-Agut has already given up his break against Verdasco in the 3rd set. Terrific.
Also Sam Querrey is up an early break, so everything’s looking good there. Another American woman is out, too, after Strycova won in straights.
How about this for efficiency, Angelique Kerber just won her first set in 17 minutes. 17 minutes! I take longer showers than that!
8:15 PM CST:
Ben: DAVID GOFFIN IS STARTING!
Sharapova also nabbed an early break, and will probably run away and hide.
Jordan Thompson dragged his match to a fourth set to be a pain in the ass.
Sascha Zverev is also starting and needed a sprawling drop shot volley to save a break point in his second service game. Deeply concerning!
8:20 PM CST:
Ben: Well, Sharpova’s been broken and Zverev broke Fabbiano. I’m dumb.
8:45 PM CST:
Ben: Fernando Verdasco is 34 and he just absolutely beat down Roberto Bautista-Agut. Straight sets and RBA never once looked like someone who even could win that match. Count it as another big upset. RBA is fresh off a title at Auckland, and maybe that explains why he looked so flat. Tired legs will always be a reasonable explanation for a poor match.
And Lacko continues to do it against Raonic! A well-timed break of serve gave him the third set, and now all he needs is one of the next two to send Raonic home. If this is any indication for Djokovic and Wawrinka, they should be nervous. Getting match ready is no joke. Raonic might not be, and he’s had more time to get back than Stan and Novak. Maybe it’s time for a cheeky Donald Young bet?
9:10 PM CST:
Ben: Well, well, well. Stan Wawrinka got broken easily in his opening service game. Major tip of the hat to anyone who was bold enough to pick him in this tournament. My sweet Belgian son, David Goffin, gave up the first set and looks really bad. That’s not fun.
Maria Sharapova seems to be putting the finishing touches on her first round match.
Sam Querrey, by the way, won, saving some face for the Americans. If his serve is on, who knows?
Sascha Zverev got broken, but immediately broke back. After winning the first set 6-1, that may be the last gasp of resistance he has to deal with.
9:44 PM CST:
Ben: Some good news, some bad news. First the bad news.
Sascha Zverev, who is boring despite his incredible talent, is extremely lucky to escape a second set tiebreak against Thomas Fabbiano. Fabbiano had a couple of really good looks to put that set away but just couldn’t seem to come up with the big shot when he needed it. Zverev is going to put this match away in three, which is a good break for him.
The good news is that Lukas Lacko knocked off Raonic.
It’s really nice to see Lacko get this big win. He’s 30 years old and a force on the Challenger Tour, but his success at the ATP level is few and far between. He needed a lucky loser draw to get into Auckland, where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas before getting eliminated by Haase in straight sets. He earned his way into the main draw here and notched a massive win. He even has points to defend here in Melbourne after a third round showing last year. That’s a massive match for him.
For Milos Raonic, I actually don’t think it’s time to panic yet. That wrist injury is a big one, and he’s still very clearly working his way back into shape. He was a mess physically in that fourth set. Remember he only played two singles matches since Montreal last August coming into the Australian Open (a win against Victor Troicki in Tokyo and a straight set loss to Alex De Minaur in Brisbane). There’s still plenty of time to regain the from he had when he clawed his way into the top 3. He probably won’t ever get that high again, but let’s not call it a career on Milos just yet.
10:35 PM CST:
Ben: The live blog is calling it early tonight, folks. And I was wrong about a whole lot.
Wawrinka looks fresh. He’s handled business professionally through the first two sets and should be finishing the deal shortly. I suppose the question now becomes how much punishment that knee can take before he starts to buckle.
Alexander Zverev got it done in three sets. Fabbiano had roughly 1,000 chances to make that a mtch, but as the great players do, Zverev found a next gear on important points and was able to keep the italian at bay. Gojowczyk will provide a good test for Zverev, though. He’s in good form coming into the tournament and won a clean 3, 3, 1 straight set match in round one. Let’s put him on upset alert now.
Djokovic is playing Donald Young, and I’ve seen enough Donald Young after 4 games to remember that he is Donald Young, and a bad tennis player. Djokovic will win easily and we will learn nothing from the match. I still think Monfils gets him in the next round.
Compared to day one, there haven’t been nearly as many great matches nor big storylines. There’s a lot more chalk to be found, and most wins were handled pretty easily. The good news is that tomorrow brings with it a number of potentially great matches.
Tsonga-Shapovalov Volume Two should be a blast, as should Kyrgios-Troicki, which is in the same quarter. Edmund-Istomin will be some high quality tennis, and Sugita-Karlovic pits the 5-8 Sugita against the giant 6-11 Karlovic. Karlovic matches aren’t exactly exciting, but that will be a fun match all the same.
We’re two days into Australia and I’m far from burnt out on the action. Let’s keep it going tomorrow.
HOW TO WATCH:
TV: Tennis Channel, starting at 6 PM CST, ESPN2 starting at 8 PM CST
Streaming: WatchESPN will have coverage of every court throughout the day and night.