Melbourne—Top women’s seeds including Garbine Muguruza were sent packing on a day of shocks at the Australian Open on Thursday ahead of men’s title favourite Daniil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios squaring off in a blockbuster encounter.
Third seed Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit both suffered second-round upsets in straight sets, opening up the bottom half of the women’s draw.
WTA Finals winner Muguruza struggled with her serve against 61st-ranked veteran Alize Cornet, losing 6-3, 6-3 in 1hr 27min.
“I am a bit of a dinosaur on the tour,” said Cornet, who turns 32 on Saturday. “I’ve been there for 16 years so I have played a lot of matches and faced a lot of situations that I have overcome.”
Kontaveit, seen by many as a serious title contender after a breakout 2021, committed 27 unforced errors as she was stunned 6-2, 6-4 by fast-rising Danish teenager Clara Tauson.
But second seed Aryna Sabalenka lives to fight another day, just, after coming from a set down for the second successive match to beat China’s world number 100 Wang Xinyu.
The Belarusian has struggled with her serve since arriving in Australia and served 19 double faults — six in the opening game alone — before managing to drag herself through 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
In the men’s draw, Australian wildcard Chris O’Connell continued the day of upsets with a straight-sets win over 13th seed Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-4.
World number 175 O’Connell, who has reached the third round of a Slam for the first time, faces America’s Maxime Cressy.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev calmly avoided the carnage with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 demolition of Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.
He will now face Marin Cilic, who lost the 2018 Australian Open final to Roger Federer. Croatia’s Cilic, seeded 27, beat Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Later, world number two Medvedev faces ultimate showman Kyrgios in a night match on Rod Laver Arena that could play a big part in shaping the destiny of this year’s Australian Open men’s title.
‘Best player in the world’
Also in action are Andy Murray and fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, but all eyes will be on Medvedev and the maverick Kyrgios, who won both the pair’s previous meetings in 2019.
With Novak Djokovic kicked out of Australia and Federer absent because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old US Open champion Medvedev— but first he has to get past Kyrgios and the raucous antics of his legion of home fans.
“It’s definitely going to be not easy against the crowd. He’s going to try to pump himself up, he likes to play big names,” said Medvedev, who will take on Kyrgios in a prime-time evening match.
Kyrgios said he was looking forward to locking horns again with Medvedev, who he beat in Rome and Washington three years ago.
“It’s going to be a hell of an experience for me. He’s probably the best player in the world at the moment,” said Kyrgios.
Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style for his first win at the Australian Open since 2017 on Tuesday and later faces qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan.
Greece’s Tsitsipas continues his bid for a maiden Grand Slam title against 88th-ranked Argentine Sebastian Baez.
Emma Raducanu will look to repeat the resurgent form that saw her power past Sloane Stephens when she plays Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.
A win for Britain’s Raducanu, who has Romanian heritage, could set up a potential third-round clash against former world number one Simona Halep.
Teenager Raducanu, the US Open champion, idolised Halep when she was growing up.
The two will clash for the first time if they both win, with Halep having a late-night clash against Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil.