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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday January 22, 2020

 
Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki and Coco Gauff both exhibited a lot of what makes them formidable on Day 3 in Melbourne.

Photo Source: Mark Peterson/ Corleve

Five thoughts on the run of play of Day 3 at the 2020 Aussie Open.

More Aussie Musings: Day 2

1. The Exuberance of Coco Gauff

The game is still very much developing, the serve is big, the backhand can be wicked. But if there is one area of Coco Gauff’s arsenal that is already fully formed at the age of 19 it is her ability to back herself in big moments.

We saw that again on Day 3 as Gauff fought back from 0-3 0-30 in the third set against Sorana Cirstea and unleashed torrents of passion and well-metered intensity into her performance, pumping her fists and even lecturing an umpire after her serve was affected by Cirstea holding her racquet up.

Rarely do you see a 15-year-old own the court in such big situations, and as we watched we couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities between Gauff and Serena Williams. Generations apart, yes, but these two women are of the same ilk when it comes to presence on a tennis court.

Tennis Express

2. 5’7” Heaven

Yoshihito Nishioka and Diego Schwartzman are fan favorites among tennis purists, and for good reason. No, not because they are two of the more diminutive players on the ATP Tour in terms of stature (though that does play into it), that would be too simple. These two highly entertaining players are adored for their larger than life personalities and their ability to captivate an audience with improbably good tennis.

Schwartzman, who has yet to drop a set through two rounds, is closing in on the Top 10. He plays a booming brand of tennis that belies his stature. The 5'7" Argentine is a shotmaker of the highest order and a jaw-dropping talent on any scale. He'll face Dusan Lajovic of Serbia with a shot to make the second week in Melbourne for the second time in three years. It should be on of the best matches of Day 5.

Nishioka, also 5'7", is not nearly as accomplished as Schwartzman rankings-wise, but this could be his year to make a mark. He plays a style more suited to his size, and his game is colored by incredible footspeed and intellect. He's a defensive wizard. Currently at 71 in the world, Nishioka has never been into the Top 50 but we expect that to change in 2020. The Japanese No.2, who scored his first two Top 10 wins in 2019 including a massive victory over Japanese legend Kei Nishikori, faces Novak Djokovic in round three at Melbourne—a tall task if there ever was one but expect the southpaw to make a mark on this match and to earn a few accolades of his own, even if he doesn’t come away with the win.

3. The Practical Passion of Sakkari

Maria Sakkari is a woman very much in her element in Melbourne. While Stefanos Tsitsipas has his own views on the passionate Greek fans that populate Melbourne Park (Tsitsipas thinks they should behave more like tennis fans and less like football fans—whatever), Sakkari is a woman that is fully embracing the spirit of the support and eager to use it to power her to a career-best run at a Slam. She is a practical woman, a warrior willing to use any and everything that can help her achieve her goals on the tennis court.

So far, so good. The Greek has matched her best result at a major and will bid to reach the second week of a major for the first time when she faces Madison Keys in the third round.

Sakkari is the embodiment of intensity on a tennis court. Supremely fit and supremely focused, she has been a player on the rise for a few years now and she seems ticketed for the Top 20 this year and the Top 10 in the not too distant future.

The raucous fan support that Sakkari has been receiving only seems to make her stronger in Melbourne, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Australian Open becomes the place where she makes her mark.

“I really like it and it makes me play even better and get more pumped; that’s why it’s one of my preferred places to play,” she said, when hearing that a group of 20 or so fans was banned from Melbourne Park after her match on Day 3. “So I really hope that [them remaining banned] is not going to happen.”

Tennis Express

4. Roger Federer Undercooked? Like He Cares…

The jury is still out on whether or not the ATP Cup was the ultimate tune-up for a Grand Slam. One one side you have Novak Djokovic, who went 6-0 at the event and headed to Melbourne basking in the glow of a hard-earned victory for Team Serbia. You also have Rafael Nadal, who some think might have pushed a little too hard at ATP Cup by playing singles and doubles on many nights.

On the other hand you have Roger Federer, who appears to not have skipped a beat despite not playing any tune-up events before the Australian Open. The six-time Aussie Open champion has looked daunting in his first two rounds and he is looking very much like a title contender.

We’ll know more about Federer’s form when he faces John Millman on Day 5, but for now let’s just say that Federer is a master of making use of a long training block and he appears to have spent his time wisely in December and early January.

Asked if he was worried about not being tested through two rounds and being perhaps a bit “undercooked,” Federer replied: “No, not really. Not any more. I prefer this much more than overcooked. As easy as it looks, there's always the effort, trying to extend the lead. Of course, it's not quite the same stress level if you're down a set or a break or two sets, whatever it may be.”


5. Some Vintage Wozniacki, anybody?

How excellent was it to see Caroline Wozniacki weather the storm of an opponent that was hitting out of her skull for segments of the match on Day 3? And how wonderful was it to see the Dane stick to her script, as she has done all her career, and go about the business of finding ways to make things harder for Dayana Yastremska?

That has been Wozniacki’s calling card throughout her career, finding ways to defuse players who have more power than her, using her guile and her patience and her tenacity to keep turning the screw. In her last professional tournament, Wozniacki did that again on Day 3 and rallied from a double-break down in both sets to prolong her career one more round.

There are so many ways to win on a tennis court but none of them work without conviction. Conviction, both in the long term and in the short term, is exactly what has made Wozniacki such a phenomenal talent over the years and it was great to see her rewarded for it last night.

It will be really crazy if Wozniacki and Serena Williams both win their next round and end up meeting in the round of 16. Not sure how that one would play out at all.

 

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