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2023 Australian Open: Mathewson, Wagner reach wheelchair QF; Korda, Pegula fall

Victoria Chiesa and Arthur Kapetanakis | January 23, 2023


On Tuesday in the Melbourne quarters, Jessica Pegula and Sebastian Korda saw their campaigns come to an end. Pegula was turned back by former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, while Korda was forced to retire with a right-wrist injury in the third set of his matchup with US Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov.

 

Meanwhile, the wheelchair tournament also began, and Dana Mathewson and David Wagner were each victorious in their first matches. While Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton will face off on Wednesday for a spot in the men's semifinals, four American women are still alive amongst the pairs in mixed doubles. One is Desirae Krawczyk, who's also through to the semifinals in mixed doubles. 

 

Mathewson, Wagner win wheelchair openers

The top-ranked American woman and quad player both won their opening matches with ease, losing just 11 games in four sets.

In her second Australian Open, Mathewson was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Argentina's María Florencia Moreno to match her quarterfinal result from a year ago, when the draw featured just eight players. She'll next face No. 2 seed Yui Kamiji

 

In the quad singles draw, Wagner was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over doubles partner Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain, with whom he won last year's Australian Open quad doubles title. The pair are the No. 2 seeds in their title defense. 

 

He, too, will face the No. 2 seed in his next match: His semifinal opponent is Sam Schroder of the Netherlands.  

 

The third American in the field, Casey Ratzlaff, played a strong match in his AO debut before losing to No. 3 seed Tokito Oda of Japan.

Pegula's perfect run ended by Azarenka

Pegula entered this match in blistering form, winning eight of her first nine matches of the 2023 season, including four as she helped the U.S. claim the inaugural United Cup. The world No. 3 had not dropped a set in any of her victories, being pushed as far as a tiebreak just once in the first four rounds at the Australian Open.

 

Azarenka quickly put an end to that streak with a 6-4, 6-1 quarterfinal win. While Azarenka ran away with the victory, it was Pegula who was doing most of the running in the points as her opponent controlled the match with an attacking game plan from all parts of the court.

 

"That was a tough match," Pegula said in her post-match presser. "I think she played at a high level the entire time. I felt like every time I tried to get a little bit of momentum, I just wasn't able to really grab hold of it.

 

"I don't think I played my best, but I also think she played very well from the start, didn't have too many ups and downs throughout the match."

 

A lightning start saw the No. 24 seed Azarenka jump out to a 4-0 lead before Pegula began to sink her teeth into the match in Rod Laver Arena. The American left her mark as she saved four set points to claw her way back on serve 5-4, but Azarenka's aggressive hitting reaped rewards again for her decisive third break.

 

Pegula continued to battle in set two but could not turn the match around as she bowed out in the AO quarters for the third straight year. It was her fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance overall, including runs to that stage at Roland Garros and the US Open last year.

 

"I just think I need to take a step back and look that I made three quarterfinals in three years," she said of her Melbourne success. "Judging by where I was from the first quarterfinal [in 2021], I've definitely come a long way.

 

"I think I can be a perfectionist and really tough on myself. Obviously I'm upset about tonight, but at the same time, I'm putting myself in these positions to go deep in these tournaments. I think I've proven that. I've been super consistent."

 

Despite the defeat, Pegula's Australian Open is not over: As the No. 2 seed in women's doubles alongside Coco Gauff, she will take the court again on Wednesday in Melbourne (Tuesday evening in the U.S.) to take on No. 11 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Yang Zhaoxuan.

 

Korda's campaign cut short by injury

Korda's bid to knock out a third seeded opponent in succession — and improve to 4-0 against Top 20 players in Melbourne — was thwarted by a right-wrist injury and a relentless performance by Khachanov.

 

After a tightly contested opening set, Korda took a medical timeout while leading 3-2 in the second as he had his wrist taped up. The 22-year-old was not the same when he returned to the court, losing seven straight games before retiring with Khachanov leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0.

 

"I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago, but then it went away," Korda said of his injury. "During the matches, it was completely fine. Then just one kind of mishit return [early in the second set], and it started to bother me a lot of after that."

 

He later added: "Some forehands I couldn't even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough."

 

After defeating Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first major quarterfinal, Korda is set to rise to a new career high of world No. 25 or 26 in next Monday's ATP rankings.

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