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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Australian Open 2023 – Grading the Australians at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE, Australia — Alex de Minaur‘s crushing defeat on Monday evening to 21-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic marked the end of the road for the Australian contingent at this year’s Australian Open.

Once again it’s time to rate the performances of the locals. For this excercise, we are only considering singles, not doubles. So, taking into account experience, expectation, opposition and of course performance, it’s time to grade them.


Alexei Popyrin
Defeated by Ben Shelton in 3rd round
Grade: B+

He’s becoming a real Australian Open specialist. Alexei Popyrin wowed the crowds at Melbourne Park with his run to the last 32, highlighted by the defeat of American eighth-seed Taylor Fritz. Popyrin is the only Aussie man to defeat a top 10 seed at the Australian Open in the last 18 years; and he’s now done it twice! The epic match against Fritz, as well as his first-round match against Chun-Hsin Tseng, which also went five sets, may have taken it’s toll, as he struggled to fire against Ben Shelton in the next round. But with Shelton now in the quarterfinals of the tournament, that result is looking very respectable for Popyrin.

Alex de Minaur
Defeated by Novak Djokovic (4th seed) in 4th round
Grade: B

This year’s Australian Open campaign was very similar to last year’s for de Minaur, who breezed through his opening three matches before being totally outclassed in the fourth-round, albeit by the nine-time champion of the tournament. For that reason, he has to be graded lower than in 2022, where he received an A.

Once again, de Minaur will depart Melbourne Park with plenty to work on. His serving continues to be a real weakness of his game, and Djokovic exploited it with ease. Through the tournament, de Minaur was only able to land his first serve 57% of the time. The 23-year-old should also spend time practising his overhead smashes, which gave him grief against both Djokovic and Benjamin Bonzi in the third round.

Thanasi Kokkinakis
Defeated by Andy Murray in 2nd round
Grade: B

It was the match of the tournament and one of the most remarkable in Slam history. The five hour, 45 minute slug fest between Thanasi Kokkinakis and Andy Murray will live long in the memory banks, particularly for the Aussie, who came up agonisingly short. Kokkinakis lost the deciding set 7-5 but earned many admirers with his gutsy effort against the three-time major winner. Earlier in the tournament, he routed Italian Fabio Fognini, dropping just five games in the one-sided affair.

Kim Birrell
Defeated by Linda Fruhvirtova in 2nd round
Grade: B-

She fell a set down to 31st seed Kaia Kanepi, but Kim Birrell refused to give in, taking the second in a tie-breaker before running away with the decider. It was perhaps the best win of her young career. Unfortunately, Birrell was unable to back up against 17-year-old sensation Linda Fruhvirtova in a lopsided second-round match.

Jason Kubler
Defeated by Karen Khachanov (18th seed) in 2nd round
Grade: B-

A second round appearance from wildcard Jason Kubler should be considered a real win. The 29-year-old from Brisbane got the job done against Sebastian Baez in his opening match, before falling to eventual quarterfinalist Karen Khachanov in four. Kubler was able to take a set off the Russian and far from disgraced himself in what is now his best performance at his home Slam. Kubler has now won a match at the last four majors.

Olivia Gadecki
Defeated by Marta Kostyuk in 2nd round
Grade: C+

The 20-year-old from the Gold Coast, ranked 199th in the world, was on song in her first-round match against Polina Kudermetova, winning 7-5, 6-1 to advance to the second round at the Australian Open for the first time in her career. Gadecki struggled to back up against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, winning just three games in the round of 64 loss.

Rinky Hijikata
Defeated by Stefanos Tsitsipas (3rd seed) in 2nd round
Grade: C+

It was a win in his first match at his home Slam for Rinky Hijikata, coming from two sets down to dramatically beat German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. As to be expected, world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas made light work of him in the next round, winning in straight sets, but it doesn’t stop Hijikata from taking home a cheque worth AU$158,850. His ATP ranking is also set to be significantly boosted in the coming weeks.

John Millman
Defeated by Daniil Medvedev (7th seed) in 2nd round
Grade: C

Another Aussie wildcard, John Millman was able to progress from the first round before bowing out in his second match. The likable battler from Queensland edged Marc-Andrea Huesler in a see-sawing five-setter and can consider himself a touch unlucky to have had to face 2022 Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in the next round. Millman was well beaten by the Russian, a loss which looks a little worse now that Medvedev was sent packing in the round of 32.

Aleksandar Vukic
Defeated by Brandon Holt in 1st round
Grade: C

Aleksandar Vukic gave everything but came up short in a five-set epic against American Brandon Holt, a match in which he actually won more points than his opponent (144-140). He also deserves credit for knocking off another American, Michael Mmoh, in qualifiers, who then went on to reach the last 32 as a lucky loser.

Jordan Thompson
Defeated by J.J. Wolf in 1st round
Grade: C-

Far from disgraced, Jordan Thompson bowed out of the event early with a four-set loss to American J.J. Wolf. Like many of these Australians, it’s a loss which looks quite respectable after Wolf reached the fourth-round and very nearly secured a quarterfinal berth.

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