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Day 2: Three to see at AO 2023

  • Gillian Tan
Matteo Berrettini v Andy Murray

Head-to-head: 3-1

Five-time finalist Andy Murray, hunting for his second win at Melbourne Park in five years, likes his chances against the 13th-seeded Italian.

“I know how I am feeling today compared to when I went into the match at the US Open and I am playing better,” said Murray, who fell to Berrettini in four sets in New York.

“I am in a better place physically, I feel well prepared for the event,” said the Scot, whose only win against the player nicknamed “The Hammer” came in 2019.

“I feel ready to play a top player early… the conditions are playing pretty fast, so when the conditions are quick, it is even more important to be light on your feet and move well," Murray said.

At 26, nine years Murray’s junior, the right-handed Berrettini is defending points from a run to the semifinal last year.

Unlike the Scot, who lost to Sebastian Korda in Adelaide, Berrettini has played a handful of matches already this year, posting United Cup upsets over Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz and losses to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz.

Even before their US Open bout, the big-serving Berrettini had Murray’s number, eking out wins over the Scot in their two meetings on grass in Stuttgart in 2022 and London’s Queen’s Club in 2021.

Garbiñe Muguruza v Elise Mertens

Head-to-head: 2-0

In a tantalising encounter, the Spanish former world No.1 will seek to maintain her winning streak against Mertens with an eye to clinching the 26th seed’s slot in the AO 2023 draw.

Muguruza, a runner-up in Melbourne in 2020 to Sofia Kenin, has never been ousted in the round of 128 here, but needs to shake off tough first round losses against Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic in Adelaide earlier this month.

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 men's singles

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's singles

To be sure, the 29-year-old hasn’t strung together two consecutive wins since the US Open and will be glad to see the back of a 2022 season that saw her win-loss record slump to 12-17, marking the first time defeats outweighed victories since 2012.

Mertens, fresh from a loss to countrywoman Maryna Zanevska in Hobart, is seeking to replicate her winning ways in Melbourne.

The 2021 women's doubles champion garnered her best results in a Grand Slam singles draw when she reached the final four in 2018, losing to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Since making her main draw debut that year, the Belgian has never fallen before the third round – a trend she’ll want to continue.

Andrey Rublev v Dominic Thiem

Head-to-head: 4-2

Fifth-seeded Rublev faces a grueling test against the Austrian wildcard, who is one of just six men’s Grand Slam champions in contention at AO 2023.

A run to the 2020 final, which Novak Djokovic won in a five-set blockbuster, paved the way for Thiem’s breakthrough in the form of a maiden US Open title later that year.

Three years later and on the comeback from injury, the former world No.3 has crept back inside the top 100 thanks to wins over players including Hubert Hurkacz, Grigor Dimitrov, Roberto Bautista Agut and Tommy Paul in 2022.

Thiem’s coveted single-handed backhand needs to be firing against the heavy groundstrokes and relentless intensity of Rublev, who started the year with a surprising pair of losses to Bautista Agut and Thanasi Kokkinakis in Adelaide.

READ: Dominic Thiem to make AO return with wildcard

The 25-year-old Rublev, who won four titles last season, has commandingly won all four of the duo’s most recent meetings (three on hard courts) in straight sets.

There are no surprises between the athletes and occasional training partners, with Rublev naming Thiem among his best friends on the tour in a 2021 interview.