Naomi Osaka on things coming full circle, Rafael Nadal having a blast - Australian Open diary
In the latest Australian Open diary from Reem Abulleil we take a look at Naomi Osaka pondering things coming full circle as well as Rafael Nadal having a blast and enjoying every game he gets to play. Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+. A subscription for discovery+ is now £29.99 for the first year for UK users, down from £59.99
'I'm not God' - Osaka reacts to Australian Open defeat
The former world No.1 has spoken openly about her mental health struggles last season and started 2022 with a fresh perspective, looking to enjoy her time on tour and putting less emphasis on wins and losses, focusing instead on the process and journey.
After the loss to Anisimova, Osaka said the match was “fun to play” and felt content with the effort she put in throughout the contest.
‘It is going to be a tough road’ – Wilander on not expecting the old Osaka to be back
The most poignant moment of her press conference came when she shared her perspective on her own losses, and what they mean for her opponents and for the sport, rather than for herself.
“To me, it's exciting. Not the loss itself, but, like, the person I lost to, because it's like showing the growth of tennis,” said the 24-year-old Osaka.
“I feel like now I'm in this position where if I lose to someone, it might make a headline, but I also think it kind of grows more superstars, and I feel like that's good for the game.
“So it's kind of like everything is coming in full circle.”
What an incredible way to look at things. Respect!
Rafa having a blast
Former world No.1 Rafael Nadal came through a tricky four-set affair with Karen Khachanov to move into the last 16 and improve his 2022 record to 6-0 win-loss.
Nadal has struggled with a foot injury since the pandemic struck early 2020 and it worsened over time that he had to miss Wimbledon and the US Open last year and ended his season prematurely.
Up until last month, Nadal was unsure whether he would be ready for Melbourne and his preseason training took another hit when he contracted Covid-19 before Christmas.
Fast forward a few weeks and Nadal already has an ATP title under his belt this campaign and has made it to the fourth round at the Australian Open.
At this stage of his career, it’s remarkable to see how much all this still means to the 35-year-old Spaniard.
Nadal on injury nightmare: I had doubts ‘every single day’
"It’s a very special week for me, coming back after from where I’m coming… every single time that I’m able to play here is just a very special thing,” Nadal said in his on-court interview.
“Tonight I played against a great player and I think a good friend on tour. Has been my best match without a doubt since I came back.
“I have been going through some very tough times the last year and a half. But for me nights like today mean everything. That's a lot of energy in my pocket, to keep going, keep fighting, every single day and all the effort that we put together me and my team and my family to try to be back where I am today, means everything.”
Past midnight in Melbourne
French lefty Adrian Mannarino was understandably exhausted at the end of his four-hour 38-minute 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4 victory over last year’s semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, which ended at 2:35am.
The crafty Mannarino survived 77 winners coming off of the Karatsev racquet and benefitted from 86 unforced errors committed by his opponent en route to a maiden fourth round appearance at the Australian Open.
Mannarino - Karatsev - Australian Open Highlights
The 69th-ranked Mannarino has now knocked out two seeds back-to-back after dismissing No.10 Hubert Hurkacz in round two and now taking care of the 18th-seeded Karatsev.
The 33-year-old Frenchman was so tired and so focused on the match he had just won when he spoke to the press at 3:00 in the morning, he had no idea his next opponent is none other than 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal.
“I don't know who I'm going to play against next. I don't like to watch and I don't want to know,” said Mannarino.
“It's 3 a.m. Just finished my match. I don't really care about who I'm playing next. Is the last thing I'm going to think about. I just want to enjoy the moment right now. We got time to see for the next one.”
Vika weighs in on testing honour system
There has been a lot of talk about the fact that there hasn’t been strict, mandatory, testing for Covid-19 for players and their staff at the Australian Open this year.
Players are given test kits by the tournament and are expected to test themselves at their hotels before heading on-site but they aren’t obligated to show their results upon arrival to Melbourne Park and the whole process is based on an honour system rather than a rigid one.
Bernard Tomic was one of the first players to criticise the tournament for not enforcing testing. The Australian revealed he was symptomatic during his qualifying first round last week and said he was sure he would test positive when he got home. He was not wrong and turns out he had indeed contracted Covid-19.
Alexander Zverev spoke about the issue earlier this week in the wake of Ugo Humbert’s positive Covid-19 result and said he was sure more players and members of their staff would return positive results had there been mandatory testing in place.
Victoria Azarenka, who is a member of the WTA Player Council, weighed in on the matter on Friday.
“I think we had it both ways. We had it with rigorous testing and people weren't happy. Now it seems people are also somewhat not happy,” said the Belarusian.
“I think it will be hard to find the middle ground. Hopefully we will. I think it's important, of course, to take your own responsibility for all the precautions, for all the measurements and for testing. That's really where I stand.”
Leo takes the mic
Following her 6-0 6-2 rout of Elina Svitolina in the third round, Azarenka turned up for her post-victory press conference with her son Leo, who adorably responded to a question from a journalist by saying his mother played “awesome” against the Ukrainian No.15 seed.
“Being a parent is not easy. He's full of personality. I don't know where he gets it from obviously,” laughed Azarenka. “But I always feel privileged that I'm able to have him here. These kind of moments are really priceless for me. To be able for me to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”
'Awesome!' - Azarenka's son Leo gives verdict on his mum's performance
Talk about maximising on an opportunity! World No.77 Miomir Kecmanovic was meant to face fellow Serb and nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the first round.
When the world No.1 was forced to withdraw due to the cancellation of his visa and eventual deportation, Kecmanovic was given a lifeline and he grabbed the chance with both hands as the 22-year-old booked himself a spot in the fourth round of a major for the first time in his career with victory over Italian No.25 seed Lorenzo Sonego on Friday.
“It's unbelievable. A week ago I was supposed to play the world No.1 and didn't have much of a chance there, but now I'm in the last 16, so I'm happy that I was able to use this chance and that I've been playing some really good tennis,” said Kecmanovic, who next takes on Gael Monfils.
“I didn't have much pressure just because I felt that I got a second chance, so I just wanted to use it the best that I can. I've obviously been showing that well up until now.”
Rally of the day
From Mannarino’s dropshot return and tweener lob, to Karatsev’s retaliatory tweener, to Mannarino’s finishing skills at the net, this 1:00am rally simply had everything. Enjoy!
Stats of the day
- Berrettini’s four-hour 10-minute victory over Alcaraz saw both players win the exact number of points, 159 apiece.
- Berrettini is now through to the fourth round for a fifth consecutive Grand Slam and the sixth time in the last seven majors.
- By making it to the last 16 for an eighth time overall at a Slam, Berrettini has equaled the Open Era record held by Fabio Fognini and Adriano Panatta for most Grand Slam fourth round appearances by an Italian man.
- This gem is courtesy of WTA Insider: Ashleigh Barty is a combined 11-3 win-loss against the the remaining players in her top half of the draw. The only players to have beaten her are Azarenka, Keys, and Badosa. The only one to have beaten her since she became No.1 is Badosa, who bested the Australian in Charleston last year.
- With her 6-2, 6-3 victory over Camila Giorgi on Friday, Barty has extended her streak of consecutive service holds to 57. The Australian has not been broken in her last six matches.
- The top-seeded Barty has dropped just eight games en route to the fourth round this week in Melbourne.
- Over the court of four sets played over four hours and 38 minutes, Mannarino hit just 22 unforced errors against Karatsev. Clean!
- Two of the four longest matches contested so far this fortnight involved Karatsev. The Russian won a four-hour 52-minute tussle with Jaume Munar in the first round, before his marathon against Mannarino on Friday. Karatsev exits the tournament having struck an alarming 238 unforced errors through three matches.
- With her triumph over Osaka on Friday, Anisimova has snapped a nine-match losing streak against top-20 opposition.