Andrey Rublev faces Marin Cilic, Taylor Fritz goes up against Roberto Bautista Agut and Felix Auger Aliassime plays Dan Evans in round 3 at the Australian Open. Damien Kayat previews.
2022 ATP Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
Selected 3rd Round Matches- 22nd January
Andrey Rublev 32/100 | Marin Cilic 47/20
Workaholic Russian Andrey Rublev has been exceptional outside of the Slams over the past two years (he’s been especially dominant at ATP 500 level). But the Russian has lacked the consistency and physical resilience to worry the latter stages of a Slam.
I personally think he has played too much tennis over the past two years, resulting in lethargic displays in the taxing five-set format of Slams. This was evident in the second half of his 2021 campaign, as he failed to reach the semi-final of any event after Cincinnati.
I think he has taken this to heart, skipping the ATP Cup in preparation for this year’s event. A quarterfinalist last year, Rublev has looked supreme this week, demolishing Berankis and Mager in one-sided affairs. Could he be ready to break his Grand Slam hoodoo and go beyond the quarterfinal stage?
His next opponent will be someone with a fair degree of Grand Slam expertise: Marin Cilic. Sure, the Croatian hasn’t reached the quarterfinal stage of a Slam since the 2018 US Open.
But the 2018 Aussie Open losing finalist is a three-time Grand Slam finalist who knows what it takes to persevere in this pressure-cooker atmosphere. The 33-year-old also showed signs of rejuvenation last season, winning titles in Stuttgart and St Petersburg to take his ATP tournament win tally to 20.
Can Cilic harness all his Grand Slam know-how and put together the perfect performance against his much younger opponent? He snuck past Gombos in four tight sets in the 2nd round and will need to significantly elevate his game this week.
Verdict: Rublev to win in straight sets at 31/20
I just can’t give Cilic an inch here. The Russian has a dominant 4-1 head-to-head advantage over Cilic. Furthermore, Rublev has won their last four meetings on hard surfaces. This included wins in Miami and Cincinnati last year.
Taylor Fritz 83/100 | Roberto Bautista Agut 19/20
Top-ranked American Taylor Fritz has been on a steady upward curve over the past few years. Fritz reached three finals in 2019, claiming his one and only title at Eastbourne.
He then reached his maiden ATP 500 final at Acapulco in 2020. Fritz truly elevated his performance last year, reaching his first Masters 1000 semi-final at Indian Wells.
He would also go on to reach the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters. He served brilliantly during his excellent 2nd round performance against compatriot Frances Tiafoe, hitting 21 aces en route to victory.
The American used to be very one-dimensional, utilizing his big-serve in one-two punch tennis. He has added more variety to his game and he is able to sustain longer rallies. This was evident when he beat both Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the ATP Cup.
But in Roberto Bautista Agut he will face the ultimate test of his all-court play.
Roberto Bautista Agut is one of the most consistently underrated players on the tour. The 2019 Wimbledon champion is a nine-time ATP winner who gets the very most out of his abilities.
He looks in spectacular form, defeating four opponents before losing to Auger Aliassime at the ATP Cup. He dropped a set in his opening match this week but he was devastating against seasoned pro, Kohlschreiber.
He won 82% and 72% of his first and second serves respectively during that match. Bautista Agut will look to extend the rallies and push Fritz outside of his comfort zone.
Verdict: Bautista Agut to win in four at 39/10
This is the 7th career meeting between these two, with the Spaniard enjoying a resounding 5-1 head-to-head lead. Fritz has actually only won two sets in that period. But Fritz is a far more mature player than when they last met in 2019.
He will love these quicker surfaces and will push Bautista Agut all the way. But Bautista Agut, a real iron-man of Spanish tennis, should have the resilience to withstand Fritz’s assault.
Felix Auger Aliassime 9/10 | Dan Evans 87/100
The odds seem to suggest that this should be a closer affair than one would have anticipated. Felix Auger Aliassime, so often the bridesmaid of men’s tennis, came into this year’s Aussie Open on a euphoric wave.
He helped Canada win the ATP Cup, getting a little taste of that victorious energy. The Canadian made significant breakthroughs in Grand Slam tennis last year, reaching the quarters in Wimbledon and the semi-finals of the US Open.
But he has made real hard work of his tournament thus far. He needed to win the 4th and 5th set to avoid an embarrassing first-round defeat to Emil Ruussovuori. He then endured another titanic four-set dual against Davidovich Fokina (all four of the sets went to a tiebreaker).
Can the Canadian rebound from the physical toll of these two titanic struggles?
Dan Evans will have been watching Aliassime’s arduous 2nd round match with a great deal of relish. Evans had the benefit of a walkover 2nd round victory against Rinderknech.
Couple that with his straight-sets victory over David Goffin in the first round and you have an obvious advantage for the Brit heading into this match. He has spent very little time on court this week.
He also came into this event in decent form, fresh off a semi-final run in Sydney. Evans will look to manoeuvre the Canadian around the court and take advantage of this fortunate series of events.
Verdict: Auger Aliassime to win at 9/10
I’m not going to try nail this down to a specific score-line. But Auger Aliassime just screams value at 9/10 to win. Sure, he lost his only ever encounter to Evans in Australia last year. But he is a far more rounded player with truly explosive power on both wings. I think he may have perversely benefited from the extra time on court.