Auger-Aliassime rallies, Andreescu eliminated in 2nd round of Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal defeats Alex Molcan of Slovakia 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and advanced to the third round of the Australian Open. Fellow Canadian Bianca Andreescu was not so fortunate, losing her match to Spain's Cristina Bucșa 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.

Top men's seed Rafael Nadal eliminated in straight sets

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada lets out a scream holding his tennis racket in his left hand and with a right-handed first pump celebrates his victory.
Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada celebrates after defeating Alex Molcan of Slovakia in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

Two sets into his delayed second-round singles match on Monday night, social media was abuzz with tennis upset alerts.

It appeared, after uninspired 6-3, 6-3 setbacks, that sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was going to become the first major upset of the 2023 Australian Open.

But Alex Molcan, the 25-year-old Slovakian singles star, sputtered and then collapsed, as Auger-Aliassime stormed back with spirited 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victories to avoid an early exit at Melbourne Park.

Auger-Aliassime, who struggled out of the gates in the first round before bouncing Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver in four sets, started even slower against Molcan, but appeared by the fourth set to have run his rival out of gas.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime completes comeback win over Molcan:

Auger-Aliassime rallies from 2 sets down to defeat Molcan

4 months ago
Duration 2:22
Number six seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal beats world number 53 Alex Molcan of Slovakia 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and advances to the third round of the Australian Open.

"I had belief in myself after winning the third set. I had come back before and I felt I could do it again. But boy, it was a difficult day," said Auger-Aliassime, who finished with 23 aces in the match that took three hours and three minutes to complete.

Andreescu bounced in 2nd round

Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., was not as fortunate as her fellow Canadian. Cristina Bucsa of Spain eliminated Andreescu with a 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory after a lengthy delay due to rain. The Moldovan-born Spanish player will now face top-ranked Iga Swiatek of Poland.

WATCH | Andreescu sent home from Australian Open by Bucsa:

Andreescu bounced in Australian Open 2nd round

4 months ago
Duration 2:02
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., was ousted by Cristina Bucsa of Moldova 2-6, 7-6, 6-5 in the second round of the Australian Open.

Andreescu defeated Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4 of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Open, while Busca bounced Eva Lys of Ukraine 2-6, 6-0, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., was a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-5 winner over Japan's Taro Daniel.

Shapovalov, seeded 20th at the tournament, fired eight aces to Daniel's one and won 73 per cent of his first serves.

The Canadian also broke Daniel six times on nine attempts.

Shapovalov appeared flustered at times during the match, not with his opponent but rather with the loud heckling coming from stands at Court No. 2.

The world No. 22 complained to the umpire about the behaviour from at least one fan and suggested that the rowdiness was being fuelled by alcohol.

"It's excessive," Shapovalov told the official. "They had a beer too much and now they're fooling around."

Shapovalov will next face No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, out-lasted Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a marathon match that drifted into the early hours of Thursday morning in Melbourne.

WATCH | Shapovalov bests Japan's Taro Daniel 

Shapovalov storms into Aussie Open 3rd round

4 months ago
Duration 1:54
Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., defeated Taro Daniel of Japan 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-5 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.

Clearly hampered Nadal loses in 2nd round

Rafael Nadal bowed his head during changeovers and rested his elbows on his knees, the very picture of resignation.

What already was a poor start to 2023, following a year marred by all manner of health issues, reached a low point at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The defending champion and No. 1 seed at Melbourne Park, a clearly hurting Nadal lost his second-round match to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, abruptly ending his bid for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam trophy.

It was not immediately clear what was bothering the 35-year-old Spaniard, but he pulled up awkwardly at the end of a point late in the second set against the 65th-ranked McDonald.

WATCH | Nadal eliminated from Australian Open in upset loss McDonald

Rafael Nadal upset by Mackenzie McDonald in Australian Open 2nd round

4 months ago
Duration 2:15
Hampered by injury, defending champion and No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal fell to American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round of the Australian Open.

Nadal was visited by a trainer on the sideline, then left the court for a medical timeout. Up in the stands, his wife wiped away tears. Nadal returned to play, but was physically compromised and not his usual indefatigable self.

"He's an incredible champion. He's never going to give up, regardless of the situation, so even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough," said McDonald, a 27-year-old American who won NCAA championships in singles and doubles for UCLA in 2016. "I kept focusing on myself in the end and got through."

This is Nadal's earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since bowing out in the first round in Melbourne in 2016 against No. 45 Fernando Verdasco. That also made Verdasco the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal in Australia — until, of course, McDonald on Wednesday.

McDonald has never been past the fourth round at a major tournament. In his lone previous matchup against Nadal, at the 2020 French Open, McDonald won a total of just four games in a lopsided loss.

"He kicked my butt," McDonald recalled Wednesday.

A year ago, Nadal won the Australian Open for the second time to earn his 21st major championship, then raised his total to 22 — the most for a man — at Roland Garros.

He is currently ranked No. 2 but was the top seed at Melbourne Park because No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is sitting out the Australian Open with a bad leg.

Nadal's body has betrayed him quite a bit recently.

He needed pain-killing injections for his left foot on the way to winning the French Open last June, pulled out of Wimbledon last July before the semifinals because of a torn abdominal muscle and also dealt with a problem with rib cartilage in 2022.

Spain's Rafael Nadal waves with his right hand as he leaves the court.
Spain's Rafael Nadal waves as he leaves after his singles against Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S. on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. (Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images)
Nadal's exit drains the tournament of yet more star power. In addition to his absence and Alcaraz's, 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios pulled out because his left knee needs arthroscopic surgery, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is off the tour while she is pregnant, two-time major champ Simona Halep is serving a provisional doping ban and Venus Williams is hurt.

That is all on top of this: The 2023 edition of the Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams and Roger Federer announced their retirements.

No. 1 Swiatek cruises past Osorio into 3rd round

No. 1-seed Iga Swiatek eased into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday as she beat Camila Osorio of Colombia 6-2, 6-3. In a match played with the roof closed because of rain, the Polish player was broken when serving for the match at 5-1 but sealed victory two games later.

The reigning French Open and U.S. Open champion will now play either Andreescu or Bucsa.

"I think it was much tougher than the score says," Swiatek said. "It was really intense physically. She didn't give me many points for free.

"It was tough but I am happy that I was consistent in being proactive," she added. "I'm pretty happy that I won and can play the next round."

Iga Swiatek of Poland fist pumps with her right hand while holding her tennis racket in her left hand during a round two singles match at the 2023 Australian Open.
Iga Swiatek of Poland reacts during a round two singles match against Camila Osorio of Colombia during day three of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Pegula, whose family owns Bills, honours Hamlin

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula was tested by Aliaksandra Sasnovich before coming through 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Pegula served for the match at 5-4 in the second but was broken, before regrouping to win the tiebreaker. She'll next play Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine or Olivia Gadecki, a wild-card entry from Australia.

Pegula had Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on her mind — and his No. 3 jersey number on her outfit.

Pegula, whose parents own the NFL's Bills and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, is wearing a white screen-printed patch with Hamlin's uniform number on her black skirt while she competes at the year's first Grand Slam tournament.

Jessica Pegula of the U.S., wearing a white screen-printed patch with Damar Hamlin's uniform number 3 on her black skirt.
Jessica Pegula of the U.S., wearing a white screen-printed patch with Damar Hamlin's uniform number on her black skirt, reacts during her second round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus at the Australian Open. (Dita Alangkara/The Associated Press)

Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated on the field when he collapsed after making a tackle during a game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2. He spent more than a week in the hospital, part of that time in critical condition, before being able to go home.

"I definitely wanted to do something," Pegula said Wednesday after reaching the third round at Melbourne Park with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

"We were kind of figuring out what the Bills and the Sabres were doing, just as far as what was the message. I knew they would probably do something and what message were they trying to send. It ended up being kind of the `3' was the symbol," said Pegula, a 28-year-old who was born in New York and now is based in Florida.

"I just thought it would be cool to put on my outfit here. I thought it would be a fun way to kind of connect with the team and then also just show my support," she said. "I felt like it was such a global event."

Pegula reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open each of the past two years, equalling her best result at any Grand Slam tournament.

She is currently a career-best No. 3 in the rankings — a coincidence that drew some reactions Pegula found amusing.

"I saw someone tweet that: `Why would you put your ranking on your skirt?' I'm, like, `No, that's not why,"' Pegula said with a laugh.

She said she watched the Bills' win over the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round on TV before playing her first match in Melbourne. Buffalo's next playoff game is Sunday against the visiting Bengals.

Sakkari not happy with Shnaider's vocal celebrations

No. 6-seeded Maria Sakkari survived a test from the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, Diana Shnaider, before advancing 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

The left-handed Shnaider, who is scheduled to attend North Carolina State this fall, saved two match points on her own serve at 5-2 down. But Sakkari held from 0-30 in the next game.

Sakkari took umbrage with opponent Shnaider's vocal celebrations after winning points during the match. 

Shnaider made a habit of roaring in Sakkari's direction and throwing her icy stares, and it got too much for the Greek sixth seed at 5-5 in the second set at Margaret Court Arena.

After a wry grin, Sakkari grew serious and walked toward the chair umpire holding up a finger, saying: "If she screams one more time in my face ... No, no, no, no.

Taking charge of the situation appeared to work for Sakkari, who duly broke the 18-year-old Russian to take the set, then locked down the match to reach the third round.

"During a match you can be very pumped or, you know, the way that some players celebrate their points, it's not appropriate," Sakkari later told reporters.

With files from CBC Sports, The Associated Press, Reuters

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