Day 4 of Australian Open 2023 was full of trouble for top seeds and title contenders. Big names like Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz and Alexander Zverev got surprisingly eliminated in Round 2, Novak Djokovic was also under pressure.
Casper Ruud has performed the best season of his career, reaching the Grand Slam final and third place in ATP ranking in autumn 2022. The Norwegian approached the second round match against Jenson Brooksby as the highest seed from all the players left in the tournament, after yesterday's loss of Rafael Nadal. He was a favorite of this contest with average odd 1.33, but Brooksby is an opponent to respect, being in a constant improvement and climbing through the ranks. The American caused a trouble for Ruud from the start, winning first set with one break advantage, serving pretty well. Ruud started to make up the gap, breaking early in second set, but Brooksby leveled the score and broke once again winning second set 7-5. Third set could and should be the last one, as Brooksby continued his great run, setting up a chance to serve the whole match out within a score 5-3. He had three match points on his own serve, but did not capitalize it and allowed the favorized Norwegian to stay alive. Ruud equalized and won a tiebreak in a dominant style. It could be the turning point of this match, but Brooksby held his nerves cold and showed again who is the better player on-court today, breaking Ruud three times in a row in fourth set and not bottling it this time. 3:56 hours of battle, but a confident win for Brooksby who achieved his best scalp in career so far. Brooksby is the part of quite opened bottom half of the draw, facing his fellowcountry Tommy Paul (defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in 5 sets) in next round.
Alexander Zverev arrived to Melbourne after not really convincing performance in United Cup, where he came back after the injury suffered in last year's Roland Garros. The German struggled in his first match against Juan Pablo Varillas, coming back from being 1-2 in sets, but he was still a confident favorite ahead of the match against Michael Mmoh. The American was already eliminated from AO during qualifying stage, but gained the place in main draw due to being a lucky loser. And the luck is clearly on Mmoh's side this week, as he earned the biggest win in his career. Zverev won the first set in tie-break, but then he dropped the level and Mmoh utilized it with raising his game and winning three sets in a row with quite a convincing style. Zverev admitted, that he was clearly not fit, feeling some kind of pain in his leg though.
Taylor Fritz showed much better display of tennis during the preceedings of Australian Open, being one of the key factors of the tournament win earned by his team. The American was a big favorite with average odd 1.11 in a match against local player Alexei Popyrin. Here the favorite also started with a first set win in a tie-break. The whole match was a show of great serving, as we saw three tie-breaks in general. Second one went well for Popyrin who leveled the set score. Popyrin was the first who gained the break, as late as in third set, moving into the lead in whole match. Fourth set brought another tiebreak, the first on the favour of Fritz, which moved the settlement into the whole distance. Fifth set brought a huge upset for the top 10 playered, as he had no response for brilliant game of the Aussie, who broke twice and won it 6-2. Popyrin who appeares in Melbourne due to the wild card will face another US player, Ben Shelton, in round 3.
No one could expect any problems for Novak Djokovic today, as his match against #191 ranked Enzo Couacaud from France was considered as a cakewalk. But it wasn't, due to the health issues of Nole, who signalized some problems with his harmstring during the pre-tournament preparations. This issue showed up again today in second set, which was won in second set by the Frenchman. Couacaud can regret some kind of missed opportunity today, because he was also not fit. He rolled his ankle a bit in first set and this could be the reason why he not capitalized the chance to bite the injured grand champion. Djokovic gave away just two games for his opponent in last two sets and made it into round 3. Then, he needs to be more fit, because the opponent will be much more dangerous, as the Serbian will face Grigor Dimitrov who is yet to lose a set in AO 2023 (3-0 wins against Aslan Karatsev and Laslo Djere so far).