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Men's wrap: Next Gen make all the right moves

  • Ravi Ubha

If you were a Next Gen player in the men's draw – or Next Gen-ish – Saturday was a good day at Australian Open 2022.

MORE: All the scores from Day 6 at AO 2022

Jannik Sinner, 20, Alex de Minaur, 22, Felix Auger Aliassime, 21, and Taylor Fritz, 24, all reached the second week at Melbourne Park. 

Sinner beats Murray conqueror

Sinner had reason to be wary of Japan's Taro Daniel in the third round. For a start, Daniel beat three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray two days earlier. 

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

And the Japanese had won all five of his matches – including qualifying – in straight sets. The three in qualifying all came against Sinner's fellow Italians. 

Daniel indeed tested Sinner before the 11th seed progressed 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-1 at Kia Arena for a maiden fourth-round berth at the Australian Open. 

In a high-quality affair, both produced more winners than unforced errors, Sinner registering 58 and 31, respectively. 

"It was a tough match for me," Sinner said in his press conference.

"I didn't know him very well. I started well, then I made a couple of unforced errors. Then he raised his level. It wasn't the most clinical performance but I'm through for the next week."

De Minaur's feat at home Slam

An Australian double remains a possibility with women's No.1 Ash Barty and men's 32nd seed de Minaur still in the singles. 

While Barty won her third-round tussle on Friday, de Minaur moved into a first round of 16 at the Australian Open by dispatching Spain's Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena in front of the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion. 

"Pretty excited to play at Rod Laver Arena at 7pm in front of the great Rod Laver himself," de Minaur said in his on-court interview. 

"So it's a pretty amazing feeling. And I got the win. So what more can I ask for?

"There's no place I’d rather be. I'm in my home Slam doing what I love. I'm living the dream."

De Minaur made the fourth round at a major for the second time

Renowned for his movement and fitness, a video clip during his interview with former No.1 Jim Courier showed the Sydney native training with his golden retriever, Enzo, drawing a chorus of "ahh". 

"That was the first time we went and did hill sprints," said de Minaur. 

"So we did the usual 10 hill sprints, he was by my side the whole time, great dog. Next time we did it, he did about two and he decided to go into the water and relax, so he is a smart dog."

Enzo and the home supporters will be pulling for de Minaur when he plays Sinner on Monday. 

Quicker this time for FAA 

Taken to five sets in his first match and then to four-and-a-half hours in the next, Auger-Aliassime sought a less taxing victory Saturday. 

He got it, downing Dan Evans and his tricky game 6-4 6-4 6-1 in one hour, 53 minutes at John Cain Arena. 

The ninth seed cruised after the pivotal first set, when he saved two break points in two games before breaking Evans at 5-4. 

Last year at the Murray River Open in Melbourne, the roles were reversed as the Brit eased past the Canadian to win his first title. 

"Definitely one of the best Grand Slam performances I've had," Auger-Aliassime, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and semifinalist at the US Open, said on court afterwards. 

Auger-Aliassime was untroubled after a tight first set

"Was fortunate to get that break point to close out the first set, then after that for some reason everything was working for me. 

"I'm really happy because my first two matches were tough. Happy to be through in straight sets."

Another of Auger-Aliassime's standout performances in a major came against a Brit – Murray, at the US Open in 2020.

Taylor tames RBA to end drought

A former junior No.1, Fritz achieved a significant milestone on Saturday.

When he edged 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-0 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-3 at Kia Arena, the American reached his first Grand Slam second week. 

The 24-year-old had previously been an agonising 0-7 in third rounds at majors. 

"After that match I was almost close to like tearing up a bit," Fritz, at a career-high 22 in the rankings, said. 

"But it seems stupid, because so many people have made the second week of Slams, but it's just eluded me for so long. 

"I have had a lot of tough matches, honestly a lot of tough draws, never gotten a great look at it, I guess.

"But yeah, it means a ton and also to do it against someone who has basically been my dad my whole professional career."

Fritz blasted 19 aces and tallied a whopping 73 winners, with only 43 unforced errors, against a player he lost to five of six previous times. 

There were no cramping issues for him, one round after they surfaced on match point against fellow American Frances Tiafoe.