After the second round was completed on Thursday, the draws are really starting to take shape. Here’s what we have learned in the first four days of the Australian Open.
Australian Open 2020: What we’ve learnt so far
Big guns going well in week one.
The seven-time champion has been in good spirits off the court and top form on it. Having won six out of six matches as Serbia won the inaugural ATP Cup, Djokovic arrived with plenty of confidence and has breezed through his first two matches. In his first-round match against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, he missed one backhand return in the first two sets.
But it’s Djokovic’s serve, in particular, that has been particularly impressive. “My serve was working extremely well in first round and second round,” he said. “That's something I worked on in the off-season. That's one of the priorities I guess of the training sessions, trying to get that I think advantage of winning a lot of easy points on the first serve. It has been paying off so far I think in ATP Cup and here, two matches.”
Having not played since the ATP Finals, Federer said he was coming into the Australian Open with “low expectations”, but tell that to Steve Johnson and Filip Krajinovic, his first two opponents, who were swept aside with very little fuss.
At 38, Federer is well aware he can’t afford to waste energy early on and his two quick wins should stand him in good stead as he prepares to play John Millman, the Australian who beat him at the US Open a couple of years ago. “I prefer it this way because you have always extra left in the tank if you need it,” Federer said. The Swiss is seeded to face Novak Djokovic in the semis and said being even more relaxed than normal could pay off if he makes it that far. “Maybe, a little bit down the stretch,” he said. “But first I've got to get there.”
Anyone who watched Coco Gauff play at Wimbledon and the US Open last year will already know of her talent but the 15-year-old American seems to be improving by the week. After beating Venus Williams in round one, as she did at Wimbledon, she showed great maturity to edge out Sorana Cirstea in round two and sometimes it’s easy to forget that she’s not even been on the Tour for a year yet.
Next up for the American is Naomi Osaka, the defending champion who also ended her run at the US Open at the same stage in 2019. Gauff says she has nothing to lose. “I think I'll be less nervous this time,” she said. “I think at the US Open, I was nervous. It was my first time on (Arthur) Ashe (Stadium). We're both familiar with each other's games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in I'm going to be more aggressive. “For sure I’ll be more confident because I felt her ball before.”
The world No 1 has not won in Melbourne since 2009 but on the evidence of his first two matches, he may yet be a good bet for the title. The slightly slower conditions may be helping, though he would love it if the heat comes in week two so that the ball will start rearing up around his opponents’ heads.
Nadal has not dropped a set in his first two rounds and he was so relaxed that he even found time to give the ball girl whom he accidentally hit with a ball a kiss on the cheek. Ever the perfectionist, though, Nadal still sees room for improvement. “I have been practising every day a little bit better. Of course, on the match situation, is a little bit different. I am confident that I going to play better because every day in the third set I have been able to show a good level of tennis. I need to do it before the next time.”
When you get a kiss and a headband from @RafaelNadal ...😍🥰 #ballgirl #cute #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/pFrPp5J3rM— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) January 23, 2020
The tennis world has come together in support of Bushfire Relief, in response to the horrendous fires that have caused devastation across Australia over the past two months. The Rally for Relief, which was held at Melbourne Park last week and included many of the sport’s top stars, raised AUD $4.8 million (2.97 million euros); the ATP, WTA, ITF, French Tennis Federation, Wimbledon and the USTA have all made sizeable contributions while a number of players have been getting in on the act.
Nick Kyrgios is among those who have been pledging money through aces while Belinda Bencic is offering cash for every double fault she hits. And Germany’s Sascha Zverev is giving $10,000 for every match win while if he wins the title he will give all of his winners’ cheque of AUD $4.12 million to the relief funds. “My parents always taught me to take care of first of all the ones that you love, but it's also important to take care of the people that need it more than yourself,” he said. “For me, obviously $4 million is a lot of money. For the people in need, it's more important right now. If it happens, I'll be the happiest person on the planet.”
"The whole tennis world is behind it now... everyone deserves a bit of praise." @NickKyrgios leading from the front for the #Aces4BushfireRelief fund 👏— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2020
Join Nick and others here: https://t.co/9RPgZ7cBoB #AO2020 | #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/EQuoGbbgUU