Five things we learned on (a colossal) Day 2 of AO2020

  • Suzi Petkovski

There's terrific Tuesdays, and there was Terrific Tuesday (capitals appropriate) at Australian Open 2020 on Day 2, where we had 88 matches, 13 five-setters, and more than 15 hours of on-court play ... 

1. We may have seen the last of Maria Sharapova

The AO2008 champion did nothing to hose down retirement speculation after a humbling 6-3 6-4 loss to No.19 seed Donna Vekic at Rod Laver Arena. Coming in as a wildcard at No.145, Sharapova’s ranking will plunge to a surreal 366.

“I don’t know; it’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time,” the former No.1 replied, on whether she’d be back at Melbourne Park. “I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet.”

Not since 2010 has Sharapova exited first round at Melbourne Park – against the long-retired Maria Kirilenko. She made her Grand Slam debut at AO2003 as a 15-year-old and has notched more wins in Melbourne than any other major.

2. There’s a good reason to cheer Belinda Bencic’s double-faults

Normally this would be very bad form, but after her opening-round win over Anna Schmiedlova, the talented Swiss revealed a twist on AcesforRelief – which sees players donate $200 for every ace served to bushfire aid. Bencic donates $200 for double-faults instead; she’ll be handing over $800 after her 6-3 7-5 effort on Tuesday. And no, Bencic is not short-changing the relief appeal; she served four aces too.

3. Fabio Fognini pulled off the ‘Slingshot Slam’ 

The Italian went through, and went through dramatically

A shout-out to our American colleague Ben Rothenberg for this one. What is it? The Italian’s comeback from the brink against Reilly Opelka means he has won from two sets down at all four Grand Slams.

Naturally, Fognini didn’t do it quietly, flinging his racquet, punching his equipment bag (leaving him with a bruised index finger and knuckles on his playing hand), dropping f-bombs, disparaging the umpire in Italian and sarcastically referring to Rafa Nadal as ‘His Majesty’. 

Jordan Thompson, his next opponent, may want to invest in earplugs.

For the record, Fognini’s seven two-sets-to-love down major comebacks include three at the US Open (2012 v Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 2015 v Nadal, and 2016 v Nikoloz Basilashvili), two at Wimbledon (2010 v Michael Russell and 2014 v Alex Kuznetsov), one at Roland Garros (2010 v Gael Monfils), and Tuesday’s Opelka escape. 

4. Too much tennis is never enough

Day 2 had a supersized program, after Monday’s rain-affected matches carried over. Sunny, mild conditions drew a record first Tuesday attendance of 58,637.

No less than 96 singles matches were scheduled on 16 courts, with a bumper 13 Aussies in action. In one of the best days for the locals, 10 went through, including John Millman, Ajla Tomljanovic, Marc Polmans, Jordan Thompson, Alex Bolt, Nick Kyrgios and Arina Rodionova.

The youngest of them, 20-year-old Alexei Popyrin, progressed at the expense of his idol Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The genial Frenchman, 2008 finalist and Melbourne Park favourite, sadly retired with an injured back after winning the first set.

“I’ve never felt like this after a match,” said a visibly emotional Popyrin, who reached the third round last year. “He was my favourite player as a kid.”

5. Rafa is not looking ahead to Roger’s 20 majors mark

Rafa's reasoning? Focus on the small things, and big things will come

Never before has Nadal been so close to equaling Federer’s magical mark of 20 majors. But after his 6-2 6-3 6-0 bossing of Hugo Dellien, Nadal gave an insight into the mentality that makes his arguably the game’s most indomitable competitor.

“I think about Sousa or Delbonis [his next opponent]; that’s all,” Nadal said. (It’s Delbonis.) I think about my practice tomorrow, try to follow the level of tennis that I played in the third set.

“If I am able to reach my highest level, that’s the thing that I have to worry about. So I don’t worry about 20 or 15 or 16. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. I am very satisfied about my tennis career because I give it all most of the time.”