Arab No1 Malek Jaziri matched his best grand slam performance by reaching the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The Tunisian world No56 beat talented Kazakh teenager Alexander Bublik 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 to set up a last-32 clash with Germany’s Mischa Zverev, who saved a match point en route to his 6-7(4), 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(7), 9-7 over No19 seed John Isner of the US.
Jaziri’s best major result also came in Melbourne when he reached the third round in 2015 before falling to Nick Kyrgios.
“It was not an easy match, the guy was motivated, he had nothing to lose, was serving very well,” Jaziri told Sport360 of Bublik, who had upset No16 seed Lucas Pouille in the opening round on Monday.
“I played well, I changed a lot the rhythm of the game, I was playing with a lot of variation.
“It was windy today and it wasn’t easy to play but the first two sets I was there in all the points, I was aggressive from the start.
“He’s a young guy, you have to be there since the beginning to put an impression and I felt like I did that well. In the third set I was down 3-5 but I came back after losing my concentration briefly. I’m happy with the win, it was very important for me.”
Jaziri is 2-0 at the Challenger level against Zverev but they haven’t faced off since 2014. Zverev, the older brother of the higher-ranked Sascha, was ranked 171 this time last year but has made a solid march up the standings and is up to No50.
“I think it won’t be an easy match. He’s playing different, more serve-and-volley, more aggressive in the game. He showed a lot of good results in the last few months. He’s a dangerous player,” said Jaziri of Mischa Zverev, adding that joining forces with his new coach Christophe Freyss has been great so far.
“I’ve been working hard, I feel like I have more experience at this level and I’m working with a coach who has a lot of experience as well. So it’s important for the next step for me and hopefully I will make it.”
Grand Slam tennis is back as the 2017 Australian Open kicks-off on Sunday, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray the favourites to rule Down Under.
The tournament has thrown up plenty of surprises over the years, however, so don’t bet against an outsider coming from nowhere to lift the trophy.
Sport360 explores all the stats and numbers from the Australian Open.
No.1 – The ATP world No.1 Ranking could change hands at this year’s Australian Open. For this to happen, Djokovic needs to win the title and Murray needs to lose before the semi-finals.
The last time the No. 1 spot changed hands at the Australian Open was in 2004 when Roger Federer leapfrogged Andy Roddick to become the world’s top player for the first time.
11 – Consecutive quarter-finals for Federer (2004-14), the Open era record for QF streak at the Aussie Open. Djokovic has made the last nine quarter-finals down under (2008-16).
11 – Consecutive semi-finals for Federer (2004-14), the Open era record.
3 – Consecutive finals played by Mats Wilander (1983-85), Ivan Lendl (1989-91) and Djokovic (2011-13) – the Open era record. Swedish great Wilander featured in four consecutive Finals (1983-88 – incl. skipped events); the Australian Open was not held in 1986 due to the Open changing dates from December to January and Wilander skipped the event in 1987.
3 – Consecutive titles won by Djokovic (2011-2013), the Open era record. At the 2017 Open, Djokovic will bid for a second triple down under. American great Andre Agassi won three successive titles (2000-03; incl. skipped events). Agassi withdrew from the event in 2002 (wrist injury).
26 – Consecutive match wins for Agassi in Australia (2000-04; missed 2002), the Open era record. Djokovic registered a 25-match win Streak Down Under from 2011-2014.
2 – Players in the Open era have won the Austrailian Open without dropping a set:
1971 – Ken Rosewall (5 matches)
2007 – Federer (7 matches – the only man to achieve this feat on a hard court)
5 – Players have won the Aus Open on their tournament debut in the Open era: Jimmy Connors (1974), Roscoe Tanner (1977 – Jan), Vitas Gerulaitis (1977 – Dec), Johan Kriek (1981), Andre Agassi (1995)
48 – Games lost by Agassi en route to winning the Australian Open in 2003, the Open era record for least games lost while winning the tournament; the American won 71.6% of games (121-48) in 2003 – the best games winning % at a single tournament in Melbourne.
20 – Consecutive appearances by Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt (1997-2016) at his home Slam, the Open era record for most appearances at the Australian Open.
12 – Quarter-final appearances for Federer (2004-14, 16), the Open era record.
Federer is unbeaten in Aus Open quarter-finals (12-0) – only two men in the Open era hold a 100% winning record in QF matches at a single major (with atleast 10 quarter-finals)
Federer – 12/0 (Australian Open) 2004-14, 2016
Djokovic – 10/0 (US Open) – active streak 2007-16
12 – Semi-final appearances for Federer (2004-14, 16), an Open era record. Federer has, however, lost his last five semi-finals in Melbourne (2011-14, 16).
6 – Australian Open finals for Djokovic (2008, 2011-13, 2015-16), the Open era record. He is followed by Stefan Edberg, Federer and Murray – with five finals apiece.
Djokovic is 6-0 in Australian Open Finals (100%); only four players in the Open era have a 100% record in finals at a single Grand Slam (with at least six finals)
Björn Borg (6-0) – French Open
Pete Sampras (7-0) – Wimbledon
Rafael Nadal (9-0) – French Open
Novak Djokovic (6-0) – Australian Open
6 – Times Djokovic has won the Australian Open (2008, 2011-13, 2015-16), the Open era record. He is followed by Agassi and Federer with four Australian Open Titles apiece. The Serb shares the all-time record with Aussie great Roy Emerson who also won six titles down under (1961, 1963-67).
90.57% – Match winning percentage for Agassi at the Austrailain Open (48-5), the Open era record (for minimum 20 wins). Djokovic has a 90.48% match record (57-6) and is closing in.
14 – Consecutive match wins for Djokovic (2015-16). His last loss came at the hands of Stan Wawrinka (2014 quarter-finals).
80 – Match wins for Federer (80-13) the Open era record at the Australian Open. Federer has also played a record 93 matches at the Aus Open.
30 – Consecutive sets won by Federer from 2006-08. Agassi won 27 consecutive sets in 2003-04.
51 – Men have reached the Australian Open Final in the 48 editions in the Open era.
4 – Australian Open Finals between Djokovic and Murray; the record for most Open era finals meetings in Melbourne → 2011, 2013, 2015-16 (All won by Djokovic). The only other pair to have played in four finals at a single Grand Slam is Federer-Nadal (French Open).
2 – Australians have reached the final since the event has moved to the Melbourne Park (1988). Pat Cash (1988) & Lleyton Hewitt (2005) – both finished as runners-up.
9 – Appearances for Czech Petr Korda (1998) and Swiss Stan Wawrinka (2014) before winning the Aus Open, the Open era record for most appearances before winning the title. Murray will be attempting to win his 1st Australian Open on his 12th visit (could set a new record!).
12 – Successful title defences have occurred at the Aus Open. Djokovic leads the pack with three (2011-13, 2015-16).
26 – Players have won the Australian Open title in the Open era
This year’s Australian Open draw was probably the most anticipated in a long time with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both seeded outside the top-16 having slipped in the rankings because of injuries.
While the possibility of the two all-time greats facing off in the third round did not transpire, with the draw placing them on opposite sides, Federer and Nadal did throw up intriguing potential classes in the sections which they landed. Federer is in Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori’s quarter, while Nadal turned up in Milos Raonic’s.
Raonic and Nadal have already played twice in the last three weeks, with the Spaniard getting the upper hand in an exhibition clash in Abu Dhabi before Raonic avenged that defeat with victory in their Brisbane quarter-final last week.
While Nadal will be happy to have avoided the quarters of the draw that house the world’s top-two Murray and Novak Djokovic, Raonic would be a serious obstacle for the 14-time grand slam champion, should he make it to the quarter-finals.
Federer is surrounded by qualifiers in his section, which would give him a chance to ease in to the competition, with world No10 Tomas Berdych being the first seed he could face, in the third round.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams was thrown a curveball in the form of Swiss ex-world No7 Belinda Bencic, but it’s worth noting that the teenager is returning from an injury-plagued 2016 and is down to No48 in the rankings.
Here are a few questions thrown up by the Australian Open draw:
WILL VERDASCO DO IT AGAIN?
The Spaniard has a chance to play the role of party-pooper for a second year in a row after he was drawn to face No2 seed Novak Djokovic in the first round.
The powerful Verdasco, whose game is definitely better than what his No40 ranking reflects, upset Rafael Nadal in the first round at Melbourne Park last year.
He also almost beat Djokovic last week in Doha, but inexplicably squandered five match points. Djokovic is someone who learns quickly from his mistakes though and it’s unlikely he’ll face similar trouble to what he had to overcome in Doha.
#Djokovic on Verdasco, his 1R opponent: "I hope I don't have to defend match points again! He's a complete player and can beat anyone"— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 14, 2017
WILL RUST AFFECT SERENA’S CAMPAIGN?
The American legend’s only match since last year’s US Open is a defeat to Madison Brengle in Auckland earlier this month. She committed 88 unforced errors in that clash and was unable to deal with the windy conditions.
Williams’ Australian Open path is potentially a treacherous one. Should she get past Bencic, who beat the American in Toronto in 2015, Williams would have to defeat the likes of Lucie Safarova, Caroline Wozniacki or Dominika Cibulkova should she wish to get through her quarter. She will have no time to ease into her game, Williams must come out blasting from the blocks.
lS KYRGIOS READY TO GO BIG?
The young Aussie has already performed well on the big stage, making the quarters at both Wimbledon and his home slam before. He is in Stan Wawrinka’s quarter of the draw and has several beatable opponents in his potential path.
Is the talented 21-year-old finally ready to reach his first semi? It’s highly possible if the knee injury he is currently nursing is not too serious.
CAN KERBER RECAPTURE HER MAGICAL 2016 FORM?
The German has suffered two losses already this season, to Elina Svitolina in Brisbane and Daria Kasatkina in Sydney. She could face the latter in the fourth round in Melbourne but her draw is fairly tamer than that of Williams.