Rafael Nadal not interested in GOAT ‘movie’, Naomi Osaka’s ‘FABEV’ shout-out – Australian Open diary
Reem Abulleil dissects the opening day of the 2022 Australian Open as Rafael Nadal insists he is not driven to finish with more Grand Slams than Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Matteo Berrettini scribbles an, err, expressive post-match signature and Naomi Osaka gives a shout-out to her boyfriend Cordae. Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+
'Nadal intimidation factor in the locker room is massive' - Wilander
Nadal not interested in movie surrounding GOAT debate
With Novak Djokovic out of the tournament following his deportation on Sunday, many eyes have turned to Rafael Nadal, who is the only former Australian Open champion in the draw and could clinch an all-time men’s record 21st Grand Slam title this fortnight.
Victory for the Spaniard in Melbourne would see him steer clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer, who currently share the record with Nadal on 20 majors.
While the tennis community is obsessed with the GOAT debate and are curious to see who will end up with the most Grand Slams in their trophy cabinet, Nadal shared his own perspective and explained why eclipsing his rivals is not an all-consuming goal.
“I’ll tell you one thing, and I say it with my hand on my heart,” Nadal told Spanish media following his straight-sets win over Marcos Giron on Monday.
“I understand this whole GOAT ‘movie’ that has been built around all of this. I live in my day to day, and my day to day and my concerns are different to all this about being the best in history.
“I am being honest, this is not a show. In the end, we have coincided as three players who have obviously achieved special things in the history of our sport. No one had done them before. If someone ends up winning more, then fantastic; really. Somehow, the three of us have far exceeded any of our expectations from when we were young.
“We have all fulfilled our dream and we have surpassed it by quite a bit. And the reality is that I am very happy with everything that has happened until today. That doesn't mean that I don't want to continue enjoying what I do, but I don't live with the inner anguish or desperation of wanting to be the one with the most (Grand Slams).
“If it comes, it comes. I don't think my future happiness depends on whether I end up winning one more Grand Slam than Novak or Roger. I will continue doing what I do to continue enjoying my career to the fullest.”
‘I wish him all the best’ – Nadal on missing Djokovic in the Australian Open
Never has a post-match signature on a camera lens been more expressive, or iconic, than Matteo Berrettini’s following his four-set victory over Brandon Nakashima on Monday.
The Italian No.7 seed struggled through his opening round, required a visit from the doctor, and had to leave the court twice for toilet breaks.
When he scribbled, ‘Imodium, Grazie’, on the camera lens after the win, it was easy to figure out what had been ailing him.
“I don’t know if I can say this on TV but… I’ve been feeling sick with stomach, let’s say that,” confessed Berrettini, who is the only top-15 player alive in his quarter of the draw.
“It was really hard to play especially the third and fourth sets. We were playing great tennis, a great match against Brandon. I tried my best, I told myself to fight, to do my best and in the end I won and I’m really happy.”
Berrettini 1, diarrhea 0!
The 25-year-old struck 21 aces en route to the second round, where he takes on American wildcard Stefan Kozlov.
'Imodium! Grazie!' - Berrettini reveals stomach issues with camera lens joke
Osaka’s shout-out to boyfriend Cordae
While Berrettini gave a shout-out to the medicine that got him through his match, defending champion Naomi Osaka gave a shout-out to her boyfriend Cordae, whose album ‘From a Bird’s Eye View’ dropped on Friday.
Osaka wrote ‘FABEV’ and drew a heart next to it on the camera lens following her straight-sets win over Camila Osorio on Rod Laver Arena and later spoke in her press conference about whether she ever gets shy or worried about being mentioned in her boyfriend’s songs.
“It doesn't cross my mind that often because he always asks permission. I feel like that's the most amazing part about it. He actually writes his lyrics. He has to take the time to actually experience the things that he does. It's a really fascinating process. I don't really get too concerned about it, no,” said Osaka.
'You have to ask a men's draw player' - Osaka responds to Djokovic question
How Madi got her groove back (with a little help from TikTok)
Freshly-crowned Adelaide champion Madison Keys came through a tricky opener against 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin 7-6(2) 7-5 on Monday and showed the kind of ruthlessness that previously carried her to a US Open final and a career-high No.7 back in 2016.
Down to 51 in the world rankings, the power-hitting Keys admits she went through a serious rough patch last season, which she started by contracting Covid-19 that ruled her out of the trip to Australia, and evolved into an anxious stretch of sub-par results.
“Missing Australia was really tough,” the American said on Monday, after dismissing the 11th-seeded Kenin.
“And then I felt like I just had this pressure on me to almost catch up to everyone else because I felt like everyone else had had such a good year and I just kept comparing myself to everyone else and their success and all of that and it just felt like the deeper I got into the season, the more pressure I was putting on myself and started just getting way too focused on winning and losing and ranking and this and that and losing points and all of that.”
Keys managed to reset her mentality ahead of 2022, and the transformation is already paying dividends.
Asked if it was a psychologist that helped her get her groove back, the 26-year-old gave an unexpected response.
“I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit it, but there were a few different things but one of the first things that really made me kind of snap out of it was, there's this girl on TikTok and her name is Tinx (@itsmetinx). She's constantly saying, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. And that really actually made me – I mean, I know she didn't come up with the quote, but that's who I heard it from first,” explained Keys.
“But it just really made me change my perspective of, why am I focused on comparing everything that I've done and I'm doing to everyone else around me when it's just making me miserable? Why would why am I going to keep doing that?
“And then I talked to my coach, who has been great. And the biggest thing that he's really of helped me with is before every match, he says, ‘There is no need to and there is no half to and it's just another match and we're gonna go out and it's a new day and we're just gonna go focus on this singular match’.”
Hey, whatever works, right?
‘She needs to be selfish!’ – Wilander tells Raducanu not to care what people think
Teen of the Day
The 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz kept up his undefeated run in Grand Slam first rounds as he eased past Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo 6-2 6-2 6-3 in under two hours.
The Spanish No.31 seed, donning a standout sleeveless kit this fortnight in Melbourne, is now 5-0 in Slam openers in his young career.
“I felt really good. I didn't expect that this first match is going to be really good for me. I played a great level the first match of the season, really good feelings. Hope the next matches are going to be the same,” said Alcaraz, who had an extended preseason training block after contracting Covid-19 end of last year, which forced him to miss representing Spain in the Davis Cup Finals.
Debutante of the Day
Over on Court 8, 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen enjoyed a winning Grand Slam debut as she squeezed past former top-30 player Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 1-6 7-6(10-5).
The Chinese teenager has picked up a ninth victory in Melbourne this month, having reached the semi-finals of the WTA 250 tournament, as a qualifier, less than two weeks ago, and having scooped three qualifying wins at the Australian Open before her triumph over Sasnovich on Monday.
Ranked a career-high No.108 this week, Zheng had a funny moment during her clash with Sasnovich when she began celebrating her win at 7-4 in the final-set tiebreak before realising the Australian Open had its own set of rules where the deciding breaker is won by the first player to reach 10 points.
It didn’t throw her off though as she wrapped up the victory moments later.
Marathon of the Day
Pedro Martinez and Federico Delbonis played a marathon opening set that lasted 98 minutes and saw the former save two set points and require nine of his own to take it 7-6(15) over the Argentine.
Martinez went on to win the match in four sets in just under four hours. The pair hit a combined 91 winners during the contest, with Delbonis committing 50 unforced errors.
Stats of the Day
The entire stats sheet from the match between Madison Brengle and Dayana Yastremska is something to behold. From the scoreline (Yastremska retired while trailing 1-6 6-0 0-5) to the winner count (Yastremska’s 30 to Brengle’s 1) to the unforced error tally (60 for Yastremska compared to Brengle’s 12)... let’s just say it wasn’t your average showdown.
Meanwhile, last year’s surprise semi-finalist, Russian No.18 seed Aslan Karatsev won a five-set affair against Jaume Munar despite committing a whopping 107 unforced errors. Granted he offset some of those mistakes by hitting 87 winners, but that’s still a -20 ratio deficit and an alarming number of errors.
Nadal’s straightforward 6-1 6-4 6-2 result over Giron was the Spaniard’s 70th career match-win at the Australian Open. The No.6 seed is third on the Open Era list of most men’s singles matches won at the tournament behind Federer, who has 102, and Djokovic, who has 82.
Ashleigh Barty won 61 percent of her receiving points in her 54-minute 6-0 6-1 rout of Lesia Tsurenko. The world No.1 has also posted 41 consecutive service holds and hasn’t been broken in any of her last four matches.
By stepping on court for his opening round against John Millman on Monday, the 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez extended his all-time record for the longest streak of singles main draw appearances at the majors by contesting his 79th consecutive Grand Slam singles event.
With her victory over Osorio, Osaka has now won 23 of her past 24 matches in the city of Melbourne.
Keys fired 15 aces in her 7-6(2) 7-5 win against fellow American Kenin.