The 2023 Grand Slam season is officially upon us, as Day 1 of the Australian Open took place in front of a lively Melbourne crowd. We saw 64 men take the court, with 32 notching wins that secured them a berth in the second round. Let’s look at all the good and the bad from day one of the 2023 Australian Open on the men’s side.
Australian Open Day 1 Recap
Stefanos Tsitsipas was able to easily navigate what seemed like a tricky match on paper against Quentin Halys. The three-time Australian Open semifinalist took down Halys 6-3 6-4 7-6(6), backed by 46 winners and just 17 unforced errors. The 24-year-old seems to ooze confidence on the courts of Melbourne.
21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner came out firing with a 6-4 6-0 6-2 victory over Kyle Edmund. Sinner looked in good health and was able to completely control the pace of play from start to finish. As he gains match fitness, do not be surprised if the young Italian plays his way deep into the second week.
Young Czechians Jiri Lehecka and Dalibor Svrcina had quite the day on Monday in Melbourne. Lehecka took down No. 21 seed Borna Coric 6-3 6-3 6-3, and Svrcina bested Jaume Munar 6-3 6-2 6-2. Both men dominated their opponent with strong offensive attacks that forced the opposition deep into the court. If Lehecka and Svrcina continue to play with this offensive confidence, they will both have a chance to win a few more matches.
17-year-old qualifier Juncheng Shang took down veteran Oscar Otte 6-2 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 to secure the first victory for a Chinese man at the Australian Open in the Open Era. Shang hit 53 winners compared to just 33 unforced errors. He is also the first male born in 2005 or later to win a Main Draw match at a Grand Slam.
No. 6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime looked a bit lost at times during his 1-6 7-6(4) 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over compatriot Vasek Pospisil. The elder Canadian was the better player in the first and second sets but eventually fell victim to his lack of fitness. If Auger-Aliassime has any hopes of making a deep run in Melbourne, he has to quickly correct his shaky play. Pospisil controlled this match from the baseline.
22-year-old Argentine Sebastian Baez continues to struggle. Baez was bested by world No. 86 Jason Kubler 6-4 6-4 6-4. It was his 17th loss in his last 18 matches. Luckily for Baez, he will be back on his favorite surface, clay, in just a few weeks.
I would be remiss to do a day one recap without mentioning the battle in Rod Laver Arena between Rafel Nadal and Jack Draper. Though neither player definitively struggled, I believe both Nadal and Draper learned something about themselves from this match. Nadal was getting pushed around the court for a good part of the first two sets and certainly did not play his best tennis. Unfortunately for Draper, his game declined as the match progressed. The 21-year-old must up his fitness if he wants to compete with the best players in the world in a best-of-five format.
Match of the day
Californian natives Brandon Nakashima and Mackenzie McDonald battled for four hours and two minutes on Court 16 on Day 1 of the Australian Open. McDonald was able to edge out Nakashima 7-6(5) 7-6(1) 1-6 6-7(10) 6-4 in the match of the day in the men’s draw. This was the third meeting between the California natives, and like the previous two, the margins were very thin.
Both players were very comfortable playing from the baseline, leading to many long rallies. In the first two sets, McDonald raised his level when it mattered most. The 27-year-old was solid in the first and second-set tiebreakers. McDonald played with controlled aggression, allowing him to dictate points and keep Nakashima on his heels.
The same can be said for Nakashima in the fourth-set tiebreak. The 21-year-old hit six winners and staved off two match points to take the fourth-set tiebreak 12-10. At this point, all the momentum was with Nakashima as thoughts of a sixth 2-0 blown lead had to be creeping into McDonald’s head. All credit is due to McDonald as he stayed consistent, picked his spots, and was able to break at 4-4 with a backhand winner. The former UCLA Bruin consolidated his break and closed out the fifth set 6-4. His serve and first-ball tennis was very impressive. McDonald notched 57 winners and just 29 unforced errors.
McDonald will square off against No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal in Round 2. Nadal won their only previous meeting.
Main Photo from Getty.