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Men's wrap: Tsitsipas, Felix, Tiafoe hold strong

  • Ravi Ubha

Men's singles first round

After his 6-3 6-4 7-6(8) win over Quentin Halys at AO 2023 on Monday, Stefanos Tsitsipas let loose with some Australian slang. 

Yes, there was a "crikey", and the third seed added in his on-court interview at Margaret Court Arena: "Really glad to be playing flat out, like a lizard in the water. I'm going full in. I'm committed. I'm happy I got the biscuit in the end."

Tsitsipas isn't Australian but you would be forgiven for thinking he was, given the support he habitually receives in Australia. Greek flags were out in full force, and Tsitsipas especially whipped them up late in the third. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 1 at AO 2023

Not facing a break point in the first two sets and leading by a break in the third, Tsitsipas suddenly found himself trailing 4-2. 

He saved four set points serving at 5-6 before digging out of 0-3 in the tiebreak against the 61st-ranked Frenchman, who routinely served in the 200km/h range.  

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

Halys – up about 90 spots in the rankings from early last season – might rue the fourth set point he missed in particular, given he bossed the rally and had a chance to finish with a forehand. 

Tsitsipas stepped up his game and whipped up the crowd in the third (Getty Images)

"I think my fighting spirit showed at the end," Tsitsipas, who tallied a tidy 46 winners and only 17 unforced errors, said. "I got some good crowd support and we came back and won it together."

That crowd support might wane a tad in the second round, since the three-time semifinalist at Melbourne Park meets Australia's Rinky Hijikata. 

Auger-Aliassime overcomes tough start 

He played a friend. Expectations are high. And he exited in the first two rounds in his past two Grand Slams. 

So Felix Auger-Aliassime had to be a little relieved on Monday in passing the first hurdle, especially as he lost the opening set 6-1 against fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil. 

Auger-Aliassime lifted his game in the most important moments thereafter, dispatching the former Wimbledon quarterfinalist 1-6 7-6(4) 7-6(3) 6-3 in four hours at John Cain Arena for a first win of the new campaign. 

Auger-Aliassime described his win on Monday as a "struggle" (Getty Images)

Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 on a tear, compiling a 20-3 record, bagging three straight titles and leading Canada to a maiden Davis Cup crown with Pospisil alongside. 

"We recently had amazing memories together, winning the Davis Cup just two months ago, so it's always tough to play a good friend," Auger-Aliassime, ousted in his Adelaide opener, said in his on-court interview. 

"He came out firing, played really well. On my part, it was a bit of a struggle. But it's okay. It's a first round. It happens. I'm just happy I was able to get back into this match." 

Pospisil completing the match certainly wasn't a foregone conclusion. He dealt with cramps early in the third set, though did recover. 

Tiafoe narrowly averts decider

Another of the names to look out for at AO 2023 must be Frances Tiafoe

A shotmaker oozing with charisma, Tiafoe sits at a career-high 17th in the rankings after reaching the US Open semifinals – and starting 2023 with five straight wins to help the US land the inaugural United Cup. 

Things went to plan for Tiafoe for two-plus sets against another flashy performer, Daniel Altmaier, prior to the German breaking his opponent as he tried to serve it out at 4-5 in the third. 

Altmaier – who served and volleyed and uncorked his booming one-handed backhand – saved a match point with an ace in the fourth and even held a set point later to extend the contest. 

But back came Tiafoe, and to his relief, for a 6-3 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(6) victory at Kia Arena. 

"Just happy I got out of there," Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. "You can't win the tournament in the first round, but you can damn sure lose it."

Shapovalov powers past Lajovic 

Speaking of flashy … Denis Shapovalov continues to be one of tennis' supreme entertainers. 

Auger-Aliassime's pal extended eventual champion Rafael Nadal to five sets in a heated quarterfinal last season – and brought the heat against Dusan Lajovic at 1573 Arena. 

The lefty struck 52 winners and – crucially – limited his unforced error count to 39 in a 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-1 win. 

Lajovic, however, did lead 3-1 in the third. 

"Obviously I played well here last year," the 20th seed told reporters. "The years before I also felt like my game was good, just wasn't able to really go deep in the tournament. But I like the conditions here, I like the courts. I think everything is amazing here."

Korda keeps it going

More than a few have tipped Sebastian Korda for success at Australian Open 2023, and understandably so.

The 29th seed knocked off the likes of Andy Murray, Jannik Sinner and Roberto Bautista Agut on the way to the Adelaide final in early January. Once there, he earned a match point against the mighty Novak Djokovic. 

Djokovic rallied but Korda – who won the junior title in 2018, 20 years after dad Petr bagged the top prize – wasn't to be denied on Monday. 

Korda thumped 16 aces and claimed 78 per cent of his first-serve points in a 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-2 win over Wimbledon quarterfinalist Cristian Garin on Court 7.