Unseeded & Unfazed, Melbourne Day 2: Gulbis outclasses Auger-Aliassime

Unseeded & Unfazed, Melbourne Day 2: Gulbis outclasses Auger-Aliassime

Down to No. 256 in the rankings, the Latvian demonstrated his game can still hang on the major stage Tuesday at the Australian Open.

These unseeded competitors came to play on Day 2 of the 2020 Australian Open.


Ernests Gulbis d. [20] Felix Auger-Aliassime

Gulbis hadn’t won a main draw match in Melbourne since 2014. That year, he briefly made an appearance inside the Top 10. Now 31, he entered with a ranking of No. 256 after going 6-17 in tour-level matches last season. On the flip side, Auger-Aliassime enjoyed a breakthrough 2019, recording 33 match wins in his first year on tour. He however, struggled to find his footing once the page turned to 2020, going 3-4 at the ATP Cup and Adelaide (No. 96 James Duckworth was the highest-ranked player he defeated).

The Latvian brought three qualifying wins to the clash and with Auger-Aliassime’s inexperience in navigating best-of-five matches, it provided a tremendous opportunity for Gulbis to demonstrate his game can still hang at the top level. The former French Open semifinalist was far more effective on second serve, with a 60% success rate compare to the Canadian’s 46%, and he held his nerve to close out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory in three hours and 35 minutes. It marked his first Top 25-win in more than a year.

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Ons Jabeur d. [12] Johanna Konta

It was known before the match that Konta wasn’t at full strength, as the former world No. 4 was working her way back from a chronic right knee issue. The tournament had lived up to its nickname, the Happy Slam, for Konta in the past, following semifinal (2016) and quarterfinal (2017) showings. Jabeur was winless in her previous three main draw matches, but on the day, executed an efficient game plan to ensure a different outcome. The Tunisian, who owns the distinction of being the first Arab woman to reach the third round at a Slam, finished with 19 winners to 12 unforced errors to move to 2-0 against the Brit.

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Ajla Tomljanovic d. [31] Anastasija Sevastova

Home court advantage? It certainly felt that way. Tomljanovic showed patches of promise in her first two events the new season, which included pushing eventual Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova to three sets. Sevastova was looking for her first win on the year, though had the mental edge of winning the pair’s two previous meetings—in consecutive years on grass at Mallorca in 2018-19. But Tuesday was a far cry from those encounters. Riding the energy of the crowd, Tomljanovic managed to wipe away all seven break points she faced and in doing so, deflated the 2018 US Open semifinalist in a 6-1, 6-1 rout.

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