Day 3 Preview: Nadal & Federer Continue Title Pursuit
With the first round in the books at Melbourne Park, second seed Rafael Nadal and third seed Roger Federer will look to continue on their semi-final collision course at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Nadal, competing in his first tour-level event since last year’s US Open, was impressive in a straight-sets victory in his opener. The Spaniard will look to ride the momentum from that win into his second-rounder against a second consecutive home favourite: Matthew Ebden.
“Beginnings are tough, but every day helps and every day makes me feel better, makes me feel more confident,” Nadal said after winning his first match in four months. “So that's an important victory because it’s the first victory in a while, and at the same time, because that gives me the chance to be on court again.”
Nadal won his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Ebden, but that match came seven-and-a-half years ago, on grass. The Aussie has earned three wins against Top 10 players, and will be looking to reach the third round at his home Grand Slam for the third time.
Ebden, who was ranked No. 699 just two years ago due to injury, may not blow the second seed off the court, but he likes to come into net and play aggressively, so don’t expect him to sit back and play defence against Nadal.
Third seed Federer will clash against Brit Daniel Evans, who advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park in his last appearance at the event, two years ago. Federer defeated Evans at Wimbledon in 2018 with the loss of just eight games, but the 37-year-old Swiss is fully focused on the task at hand.
“He's got all the shots. Likes to take chances, takes the ball early,” Federer said of Evans. “It's nice to see him back on the [ATP] Tour as well. I'm happy for him that he won his first round.”
While World No. 189 Evans has already won four matches at this Australian Open — three to qualify and another in the main draw — history is not on his side. Federer’s last loss against an opponent ranked as low as the Brit came in August 2000, when the Swiss was only 19 years old.
Fifth seed Kevin Anderson and sixth seed Marin Cilic will also look to move into the third round, with Anderson facing 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Frances Tiafoe and Cilic clashing with American Mackenzie McDonald.
Anderson defeated Tiafoe in all three of their matches last year, but Tiafoe was able to win a set in two of those clashes. The favoured South African is fresh off his triumph at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, India.
Cilic faces a foe in McDonald, who has plenty of experience against top players at the Australian Open. Last year, McDonald extended 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov to five sets in the second round. He also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018. Cilic battled to the final in Melbourne last year, falling to Federer in five sets.
Leading the #NextGenATP charge on Wednesday are No. 14 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sydney titlist Alex de Minaur, the 27th seed. They both are trying to reach the third round at the Australian Open for the first time, with each playing a qualifier.
Tsitsipas faces a tricky test in Serbian Viktor Troicki, who has made the third round in Melbourne four times. Tsitsipas brings his elegant one-handed backhand to the court, and Troicki’s strength is arguably his solid two-handed backhand.
De Minaur has won eight of his nine matches this season, and he’ll look to make it seven consecutive victories when he plays World No. 166 Henri Laaksonen, whose best win by ATP Ranking came against World No. 21 Marco Cecchinato in Basel last October.
The doubles event gets started on Day Three as well, with Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan leading the way. This is their first Grand Slam together since last year's Australian Open, in which they made the semi-finals. Two-time Nitto ATP Finals champions Henri Kontinen/John Peers also begin their tournament, as do fifth seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.