Unseeded & Unfazed: Fucsovics, Zhang step up on Australian Open Day 1

Unseeded & Unfazed: Fucsovics, Zhang step up on Australian Open Day 1

The Hungarian upstaged No. 13 seed Denis Shapovalov in four sets, while the past quarterfinalist took down No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens on Monday in Melbourne.

These unseeded competitors found a way to step up their game on the opening day of the 2020 Australian Open.


Marton Fucsovics d. [13] Denis Shapovalov

The 13th-ranked Shapovalov was considered a dark horse at Melbourne Park and one of the notable names in Roger Federer’s section. He finished 2019 strongly and carried the form over to the ATP Cup, where he scored Top 10 wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev before pushing Novak Djokovic to a decisive tiebreaker. But the unforced errors that had shown marked improvement since bringing Mikhail Youzhny on in August returned, and he struggled to keep his emotions in check.

Doha quarterfinalist Fucsovics, on the other hand, played a steady match—and more importantly, protected his serve when under pressure. The Hungarian saved six of seven break points and dominated the short points, winning 18 more 0-to-4 shot rallies for a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory, surely one of his biggest wins to date. Two years ago, Fucsovics also took out a world No. 13, when he knocked off Sam Querrey en route to the fourth round.

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Zhang Shuai d. [24] Sloane Stephens

Stephens lost to two players ranked outside the Top 100 in her tune-up. And while the American had reached the semifinals once before, Zhang had plenty of her own Melbourne highs to take inspiration from—including a comeback win over Stephens in the 2018 first round. The 2017 US Open champion jumped out to a tremendous start, but Zhang slowly but surely found her range. By the time the third set arrived, the former quarterfinalist was firing on all cylinders. Zhang stepped up to hit 14 winners to zero unforced errors in the make-or-break set, rightfully earning her place in round two.

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Sam Querrey d. [25] Borna Coric

With his track record, former world No. 11 Querrey was always going to be a dangerous floater. The player who drew him, No. 25 seed Coric, was susceptible after finishing 2019 with six successive losses and going 1-2 at the ATP Cup. Last year in Melbourne, Coric was ranked No. 12 and put a 0-4 event record behind him when he advanced to the round of 16. Querrey, who entered with a modest 12-13 lifetime mark, came out ready to work, firing 18 aces and winning 11 of 13 points at net to dispatch the Croatian, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Querrey will now meet Ricardas Berankis in the second round.

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Sorana Cirstea d. [32] Barbora Strycova

Strycova enjoyed her best Slam showing in 2019 when she advanced to the final four at Wimbledon, but went out in the opening round at the other three majors. The Czech won her lone encounter over Cirstea last season on clay in Istanbul. Today, Cirstea ensured she controlled the rallies, and her aggressive approach paid off. Her winners to unforced errors ratio was even (32 apiece) and the Romanian enjoyed a better success rate coming forward than the WTA’s top-ranked doubles player (21/29 compared to 10/15) to advance, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

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