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  • January 16, 2024
  • 21°


  • Updated

Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka will feature in the same session again on Rod Laver Arena. But this time Sabalenka will get to play first. Djokovic took four hours to complete his first-round win on Sunday night and Sabalenka didn’t get on court until late. On Wednesday second-seeded Sabalenka will lead things off in the night session against 16-year-old qualifier Brenda Fruhvirtova. Ten-time winner Djokovic will take on local talent Alexei Popyrin after that. U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff will play fellow American Caroline Dolehide in a day match at Margaret Court Arena.

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Olympic tennis champion Alexander Zverev has won his opening match at the Australian Open a day after being ordered to stand trial later this year in an assault case in Germany. German news agency dpa reported details of the trial but said Zverev will not have to appear in court in person. The 26-year-old Zverev is accused of assaulting a woman during an argument in Berlin in May 2020. He has denied the accusation. The dpa says Zverev’s trial will start on May 31, during the French Open. Zverev reached the semifinals in Australia in 2020 but has not been beyond the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park since.

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The extra-day experiment for the first round finished on time on the Australian Open’s two main courts with Jessica Pegula converting her second match point just before midnight. Organizers added a day to the tournament in a bid to reduce the number of late finishes. It didn’t prevent Days 1 or 2 going well past midnight. But Carlos Alcaraz advanced in straight sets on Rod Laver Arena and Pegula finished off the Margaret Court Arena program to make the deadline. Wimbledon champion Alcaraz’s 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over 37-year-old Richard Gasquet meant a record 30 seeds advanced to the men's second round.

Rafael Nadal is going to serve as an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation. It is part of a recent effort by the kingdom to make inroads into tennis and other sports. Nadal is a 37-year-old from Spain who owns 22 Grand Slam titles but currently is missing the Australian Open while recovering from a muscle tear near his surgically repaired hip. He had hoped to return to Grand Slam action at Melbourne Park after missing nearly all of 2023. Nadal’s new role includes promoting tennis in Saudi Arabia and plans for a Rafa Nadal Academy there.

Second-ranked Carlos Alcaraz has overpowered 37-year-old Richard Gasquet to win his first Australian Open match since 2022. Bugs bothered the 20-year-old Alcaraz and so did Gasquet, at least for the first set. After taking an hour and 12 minutes to clinch the opener in a tiebreaker, Alcaraz raced through the rest of the match for a 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 win.

Players are still sounding off about a lack of notice on a rule change. The criticism is continuing two days after Novak Djokovic complained to the chair umpire about wasting “30, 40, 50 seconds” because of spectators moving after every game during his first-round match at the Australian Open. Tournament organizers have been criticized for not giving players enough information about the decision to allow spectators to move around the courts between games. The past convention has been fans can exit and enter the arena only during changeovers. Organizers say the change is to enhance the tennis experience for fans.

A 37-year-old veteran didn’t mind the music and a 16-year-old on debut in the Australian Open main draw picked up on the vibe from the two-story courtside bar and thought it was energizing. Petros Tsitsipas didn’t like it one bit while he and his brother, 2023 Australian Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, lost their first-round doubles match: “It’s a very weird concept, in my opinion.” There’s a certainly a buzz around the bar that overlooks Court 6 and gives Australian Open fans a shady place to have a cool drink on a hot day. It’s popular with fans but the music and constant movement adjacent to a Grand Slam tennis court is dividing opinion among players.

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Germany news agency dpa says Olympic tennis champion Alexander Zverev will stand trial for alleged assault in Berlin in late May but will not have to appear in court in person. The 26-year-old Zverev is accused of assaulting a woman during an argument in Berlin in May 2020. He has denied the accusation. The dpa news agency says Zverev’s trial will start on May 31, which is during this year’s French Open. However, dpa cited a court spokesperson who said he will not need to make a personal appearance and can be represented by a lawyer.

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Naomi Osaka’s comeback to Grand Slam tennis after a 15-month break has ended in a 6-4, 7-6 (2) loss to 16th-seeded Caroline Garcia in the first round at the Australian Open. The four-time major winner gave birth to a daughter last July. She’s one of three past Australian Open champions who returned to play at Melbourne Park for the first time as moms. Osaka was only three matches into her return to the tour. U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff is through to the second round. The 19-year-old U.S. Open champion needed exactly 60 minutes for the victory.

Novak Djokovic has been named the Best Balkan Athlete of the year for a record eighth time, ahead of NBA star Nikola Jokic. The 36-year-old Djokovic won three Grand Slam titles in 2023 to take his record tally to 24, while Jokic was named the NBA Finals MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to the title. Both are from Serbia. The results of the annual poll were published by the Bulgarian News Agency. A total of 58 athletes received votes in the poll this year, with Bulgarian basketball player Alexandar Vezenkov coming third.

Ben Shelton is dialing it right back when it comes to questions about his relationship with Novak Djokovic after the U.S. Open semifinals last year. The pair could meet again in the fourth round at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic is aiming for his 11th Australian Open title. The 16th-seeded Shelton beat Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 7-6 (2), 7-5 on Monday and will meet Australian Chris O’Connell in the second round. Comments attributed to Djokovic by the French sports newspaper L’Equipe emerged this week, saying the 24-time major winner mocked Shelton's “Hang up the phone!” celebration gesture in retaliation to some unsporting provocation.

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