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2023 Australian Open: Brooksby, McDonald, Volynets lead parade of U.S. wins in Round 2

Victoria Chiesa | January 17, 2023


Round 2 of the Australian Open started with a bang for American tennis: California's Mackenzie McDonald defeated No. 1 seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 inside Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday in Melboune, handing the Spaniard his earliest exit at a Grand Slam in seven years. 

 

But that wasn't the only big upset to be had by an American in the Round of 64. Just ask Jenson Brooksby, Michael Mmoh, Tommy Paul, J.J. Wolf and Katie Volynets. By the end of two days of play, 14 Americans—eight men and six women—reached Round 3. It's the most to reach this round in Melbourne since 15 in 1996.

 

Read on for more Round 2 highlights from Down Under.

 

McDonald and Brooksby beat Nadal and Ruud, lead five U.S. men to beat seeds

McDonald started the match with a clear game plan and high-level execution, and broke the top seed twice to lead 4-1. But the course of the match changed drastically in the middle of the second set. At 4-3, Nadal moved to his left to chase a forehand on the first point of the game when he pulled up in pain. At 5-3, he left the court with a physio for a medical timeout, and was hobbled for the rest of the match.

 

"I'm really happy with how I started that match," McDonald said. "I thought I was playing really well, serving great, returning well too. I was really taking it to him. ... He's an incredible champion. He's never going to give up, regardless of the situation. Closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough.

 

"I was trying to stay so focused on what I was doing, and he kind of got me out of the rhythm with that. I'm happy I just kept focusing on myself in the end and got through, I got it done." 

McDonald joins a short list of young Americans who've defeated Nadal in the last 12 months—Taylor Fritz in Indian Wells, Frances Tiafoe at the US Open, and Tommy Paul in Paris in October—something he said played on his mind coming into the match. The UCLA alumnus had won four games in his last meeting against Nadal: a 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 defeat at Roland Garros in 2020.

 

"I thought about Taylor taking him out, yeah and Foe. I talked to Tommy about it too last night. That definitely gave me some more confidence," he said. 

 

"Even seeing him at United Cup with de Minaur, and Norrie also helped me a little bit. I think today I had that belief, and I showed that, and I took it to him. I didn't fear it this time as last time at the French. I don't think I was quite ready to do anything against him."

As the match wore on, and Nadal's hip injury became more troublesome, McDonal said his did his best to focus on what was happening on his side of the net, while trying not to get overwhelmed by the prospect of his best-ever win by ranking against the all-time great. 

 

"I feel like when he was kind of hurt there in the third, it made me think a little bit more about the match and stuff and about myself and the game, which I was executing and playing so well in the first couple of sets," McDonald said. "So I hate that for him. I hope he feels better."

 

McDonald is now 2-13 against Top 10 players in his career, and he will next play No. 31 seed Yoshihito Nishioka. He looks to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for a second time, having first done so in 2021. But after his best career win, he says he remains focused on the business at hand. 

 

"I was in the locker room, and I was, like, 'Hey, that's actually really big for me because I haven't beaten someone of that caliber,' McDonald said. "But honestly for me right now, which I think is good because I feel like I've matured in this sense, I don't feel like much has changed. I'm going to keep going about how I'm doing things. I think I'm working really well with my coach.

 

"Even there I feel like I can take some learning lessons away from that match. I'm grateful I had that opportunity to play on that court and play against him, and I feel like I can just learn from it. ... There's another match to be played, so I have to refocus." 

 

Elsewhere on Wednesday, No. 16 seed Tiafoe and No. 29 seed Sebastian Korda also reached Round 3, while four U.S. men (Maxime Cressy, Brandon Holt, Denis Kudla and Michael Mmoh) finished off first-round victories that had been carried over from Tuesday due to rain. 

 

Thursday's order of play saw the upset festival continue, as three more American men took out seeded foes. The group was led by Brooksby, but also featured Michael Mmoh (def. No. 12 Alexander Zverev); Tommy Paul (def. No. 30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina); and J.J. Wolf (def. No. 23 Deigo Schwartzman). 

 

More from the Australian OpenFrom lucky loser to third round, Michael Mmoh seizing the moment at Australian Open

 

American Men at the 2023 Australian Open - Round 2 Results

(WC) Alexei Popyrin (AUS) def. (9) Taylor Fritz - 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2

(16) Frances Tiafoe def. Shang Juncheng (CHN) - 6-4, 6-4, 6-1

(29) Sebastian Korda def. Yosuke Watanuki (JPN) - 6-2, 7-5, 6-4

Mackenzie McDonald def. (1) Rafael Nadal (ESP) - 6-4, 6-4, 7-5

Jenson Brooksby def. (2) Casper Ruud (NOR) - 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2

(LL) Michael Mmoh def. (12) Alexander Zverev (GER) - 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2

J.J. Wolf def. (23) Diego Schwartzman (ARG) - 6-1, 6-4, 6-4

Tommy Paul def. (30) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) - 6-2, 2-6, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4

Ben Shelton def. Nicolas Jarry (CHI) - 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 7-5

(9) Holger Rune (DEN) def. Maxime Cressy - 7-5, 6-4, 6-4

(24) Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) def. (Q) Brandon Holt - 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Jiri Lehecka (CZE) def. (WC) Christopher Eubanks - 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Ugo Humbert (FRA) def. (LL) Denis Kudla - 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4

 

More from the Australian OpenBrooksby, McDonald make recent history for U.S. men's tennis at Australian Open

 
Gauff beats Raducanu under the lights; Collins survives again in 1 a.m. thriller

On the women's side, Coco Gauff also achieved a milestone in a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu. The 1 hour, 42-minute Round 2 win was the 100th WTA-level main-draw victory of her young career.

 

Gauff looked on course for a straight-sets win by building a 6-3, 4-2 lead in Rod Laver Arena's featured women's match of the night session, but she lost three straight games from that point and even had to save two set points in the 10th game. 

"I know a lot of people were looking forward to that matchup," Gauff told reporters afterward. "I'm glad we got the prime spot. I hope we delivered to everyone's entertainment. 

 

"She raised her level a lot towards the end of the second set. It takes a lot of resilience I feel like to do that, especially in the big stages and the big matches. When you're down a set and a break, it's easy to throw in the towel. I think she did a good job of raising her level when she needed to. 

 

"Just honestly, tiebreakers can go either way, and it went my way tonight."

 

Gauff will face fellow American Bernarda Pera next, who upset No. 29 seed and 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. 

Elsewhere, the other seeded American women stayed the course. No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 7-6(5), while No. 10 seed Madison Keys cruised in a 6-3, 6-2 win over China's Wang Xinyu to reach Round 3. But as she did on Day 1, No. 13 seed and 2022 finalist Danielle Collins had the most dramatic win of the day. 

 

In a grueling 2 hours, 55 minutes, Collins beat former Top 20 player and 2021 AO semifinalist Karolina Muchova in a match tiebreak, 6-7(1), 6-2, 7-6(6)—a match that ended after 1 a.m. in Melbourne. 

 

She even had to win the match twice; Collins thought she'd won the match when the score of the final-set tiebreak reached 7-3, raising her hands above her head in relief and triumph. But tiebreaks in the final set of Grand Slam matches are now played to 10 points. 

 

After being reminded of this by chair umpire Marija Cicak, Collins grinned ... and eventually regrouped to finish off the tiebreak 10-6. 

 

“I was a little embarrassed,” Collins said in her on-court interview. “I never had to play a tiebreak in the third set of Grand Slam before. I really thought the match was over. I told myself, at least you didn’t face plant. I had to keep things in perspective … I am not really good with the score, so maybe I have to work on that a little bit."

 

Up next for Collins is a meeting with reigning Wimbledon winn and No. 22 seed Elena Rybakina.

 

Qualiier Katie Volynets was the only one of the five unseeded American women left in the bottom half of the draw to win on Thursday, and she did so in style. She defeated No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova in three sets, in her first-ever match against a Top 10 player.

 

With six women reaching the third round this year, it's the third time in the last five years that six U.S. women have reached this stage at the Australian Open.


American Women at the 2023 Australian Open - Round 2 Results

(3) Jessica Pegula def. Jaqueline Cristian (ROU) - 6-0, 6-1

(7) Coco Gauff def. Emma Raducanu (GBR) - 6-3, 7-6(4)

(10) Madison Keys def. Wang Xinyu (CHN) - 6-3, 6-2

(13) Danielle Collins def. Karolina Muchova (CZE) - 6-7(1), 6-2, 7-6(6)

(Q) Katie Volynets def. (9) Veronika Kudermetova - 6-4, 2-6, 6-2

Bernarda Pera def. (29) Zheng Qinwen (CHN) - 6-4, 6-4

(5) Aryna Sabalenka def. Shelby Rogers - 6-3, 6-1

(12) Belinda Bencic dec. Claire Liu - 7-6(3), 6-3

(19) Ekaterina Alexandrova def. (WC) Taylor Townsend - 1-6, 6-2, 6-3

(26) Elise Mertens (BEL) def. Lauren Davis - 6-4, 6-3

Kateryna Baindl (UKR) def. Caty McNally - 6-1, 7-6(4)

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