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PREVIEW: 2023 Men’s Australian Open – Selected Third Round Matches – 20 January

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Men’s Australian Open as Danil Medvedev faces Seb Korda and Frances Tiafoe takes on Karen Khachanov in the third round.


Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Men’s Australian Open as Danil Medvedev faces Seb Korda and Frances Tiafoe takes on Karen Khachanov in the third round.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2023 ATP Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Australian Open
Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected 3rd Round Matches
20 January

Danil Medvedev (21/100) | Seb Korda (33/10)

What a day it was for 26-year-old Russian Danil Medvedev. He came through a nervy first-set to easily see off the durable Aussie John Millman. More importantly, arch-nemesis Rafa Nadal was eliminated from the competition, opening up his quarter of the draw.

He won’t need to exorcise the demons of last year’s heart-breaking final defeat. He came into this event in decent form, losing to Djokovic in the Adelaide semi-finals. Could this provide Medvedev the ultimate redemption arc? He served brilliantly against Millman, winning 83% and 88% of his first-serve points in the 2nd and 3rd set respectively.

He really started to come into his own as the match went on, dictating on serve and threatening to break at every given opportunity. But how will the former World No.1 handle the garrulous Aussie crowds? He really capitulated as the crowd turned against him last year. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the charismatic Seb Korda.

22-year-old American Seb Korda is actually one of the form horses going into this event. He never really had a great 2022 (though he did reach finals in Gijon and Antwerp).

But he will feel that he never really developed enough during the year. He has started 2023 in encouraging fashion, beating the likes of Sinner and Bautista Agut en route to the Adelaide 1 final. He actually held match-points against the seemingly invincible Novak Djokovic.

The ungainly Korda has ridden that form into Melbourne, beating Garin in four before a straight sets win against Watanuki. But he simply needs to serve better should he stand any chance against Medvedev. He only won 69% of his first-serve points against the low-ranked Watanuki. That is simply not going to be enough against one of the game’s best returners.

Verdict: Medvedev to win in straight sets at 21/20

They have only met once before, with Medvedev winning in three at the 2021 Paris Masters. Korda is a slippery opponent and arrives in decent form. But Medvedev looks like he is coming into his own. Those last two sets against Millman were an absolute clinic. Also, Korda’s serving stats have been fairly ordinary. That won’t do against the rangy Medvedev.

Frances Tiafoe (88/100) | Karen Khachanov (89/100)

Frances Tiafoe seems a far more determined player over the past six months. He says that his collaboration with coach Wayne Ferreira (a two-time Aussie Open semi-finalist) has really helped him stay focused.

And that was certainly evident during his brilliant end to the 2022 campaign. He reached the semi-finals of a Slam for the first time at the US Open. He also lost a tight ATP 500 final at the Japan Open. And he has looked formidable this week, revving up the baying crowds in typically swaggering fashion. He was excellent against 17-year-old teenage sensation Shang, hitting 20 aces and 40 winners throughout.

He has history in Melbourne- he reache a quarterfinal here back in 2019. These courts are simply tailormade for his brand of offensive tennis. He serves powerfully and looks to dominate with his forehand. He also stands in deep in the court on return, making unbelievable gets that less athletic players could only dream of. Next up for Tiafoe is fellow US Open beaten semi-finalist: Karen Khachanov.

Karen Khachanov was one of my dark horse picks this week. The 2018 Paris Masters champ has often flattered to deceive on the bigger stages. But winning the Olympic Silver Medal in 2021 seems has reinvigorated his career.

Like Tiafoe, he reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at last year’s US Open (ultimately losing to Casper Rudd in four sets). The arch-baseliner has added some more aggression to his overall game, looking to win more cheap points off his serve.

He sailed through his first-round match before surviving a slight scare against crowd favorite Jason Kubler. Amazingly, that match featured a 70-shot rally that actually saw Kubla break the Russian. He will feel strong for surviving that pressure cooker atmosphere, confident of progressing beyond the 3rd round here for the first-time in his career.

Verdict: Khachanov to win in four at 38/10

The Russian leads the American 2-0 in their head-to-head rivalry. Curiously, both of those matches came on the grass-courts at Wimbledon. This has the chance of turning into a real slugfest. I’m a bit torn. I championed Khachanov in my tournament preview. But Tiafoe’s pure power and athleticism has given me pause for concern. I’m ultimately going with my first instinct in the Russian. He does have the head-to-head superiority and he has shown the capacity to absorb power. His US Open quarterfinal victory against Nick Kyrgios was the perfect example of this dogged determination.

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