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Friends and foes promise riveting rivalries

  • Alex Sharp

Some riveting rivalries have blossomed at Melbourne Park over the years.

And across the Australian Open 2023 fortnight, we enjoyed several compelling clashes that could well develop into recurrent duels.

Here are some we would like to see more of for the rest of the season – and beyond. 

Emma Raducanu v Coco Gauff

In the build-up to their Rod Laver Arena clash, both Raducanu and Gauff referred to their similar backgrounds and how they burst on to the scene as teens.

There was plenty of hype around their second-round match and they duly delivered, with Gauff fending off two set points in a thrilling encounter. 

"This was a long-anticipated matchup since the draw came out," said Gauff. "So, I’m glad this was a good match for you guys." 

The Brit relished the prospect of a rematch.

"She's a great mover, great athlete. Puts another ball in play, so you feel like you have to squeeze it closer to the line and then she kind of teases errors out of you that way," said 2021 US Open champion Raducanu. 

"I'd really like to play her again. I think that we're going to be playing each other many times in the future as we're both young and coming. We're going to be the next generation."

Tommy Paul v Ben Shelton

This pair truly exemplify why American tennis is such an exciting entity right now.

Tommy Paul, on the way to fulfilling his potential on the major stage, broke new ground to topple college superstar Ben Shelton in the quarterfinals.

They're close friends and the captivating clash was played in high spirts. But even so, they both went for broke, mixing up the play with huge variety.

Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul (Getty Images)

Along with Paul's effortless striking and Shelton's slingshot serves, both players can carve winners with deft volleys and both are rapid across the court. 

Paul now believes he belongs in the upper echelons of the sport and Shelton's sharp rise is both fascinating and exciting.

RELATED: Shelton shaping up for shining career

Simply for their energy and versatility, this would make an absorbing rivalry.

"Ben is such a tough player to play against," said Paul. "He's going to be in many more matches like this. Everyone should be really excited for that kid."

Iga Swiatek v Elena Rybakina 

It was a blockbuster fourth-round showdown between two Grand Slam title winners from 2022.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina knocked the world No.1 off balance and consistently found her target with laser sharp serves and groundstrokes. 

Twenty-four winners marked her statement victory, but the stats were irrelevant; it was more about the manner in which the ice cool Kazakh completely nullified the Swiatek game.

Swiatek has been the clear world No.1 since Ash Barty's retirement a year ago, and will want to gain revenge next time around.

Back in 2021, she edged Rybakina 7-6(5) 6-2 in Ostrava, showing that this burgeoning rivalry is likely to be finely poised and essential viewing.

Andrey Rublev v Holger Rune 

This top-10 battle involves two players who keep their foot to the floor with uncompromising aggression.

They gave us a taster of things to come when the Danish teenager scored a tight triumph as part of his Paris Masters title tilt in November.

Rublev turned the tables at Melbourne Park in an astonishing fourth-round match of intensity and shotmaking, taking the match 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6[11-9].

Saving two match points, it was a rollercoaster Rublev said he will "remember for the rest of my life."

And with good reason.

"I was 5-2 down in the fitfh set, 6-5 down two match points, then 5-0 7-2 down in the super tiebreak. In my life I've never been able to win matches like this," he said.

Hopefully, this thrilling matchup will be repeated sooner rather than later.

Sebastian Korda v Daniil Medvedev  

Not many players completely outfox and dominate Daniil Medvedev. But then again, not many players have the potential of Sebastian Korda.

RELATED: "I think I can can do some really big things," says Korda

Rewind to the 2021 Paris Masters and Medvedev dissolved a set deficit to sweep past Korda in three.

Then, until his right wrist injury in the AO 2023 quarterfinals, the towering American was a wonderful example of all-court tennis and had threatened a 'dark horse' run.

Daniil Medvedev and Sebastian Korda (Getty Images)

Korda, the son of 1998 champion Petr, chalked up a statement straight-sets win over Medvedev in the third round, dealing with the unorthodox strokes and trickery from the former world No.1 to play tennis his mentor Andre Agassi would be proud of.

Nothing seems to faze Korda, but Medvedev is the ultimate disrupter.

Expect them to be in the latter stages of tournaments throughout 2023, and expect some rallies beyond belief.