It’s a look at three key matches on Day 2 in Melbourne. Today’s Three Little Pigs focuses on Australian Legend Lleyton Hewitt in his final opening round match at the Australian Open, plus what to expect from Americans John Isner and Jack Sock on Tuesday.
(wc) Lleyton Hewitt vs (wc) James Duckworth
Two Australian wild cards will face off in round one, but the crowd support will be decidedly one sided with Lleyton Hewitt. As publicized, Hewitt is not just playing in his final Australian Open, it is his final tournament as a player. These two have never met, so there figures to be plenty of back and forth in this one. It’s difficult to know whose nerves will be tighter, Hewitt with the prospect of playing his final match of Duckworth with the prospect of being villafied for taking out a legend? Duckworth jokingly (maybe) told reporters that if he won, he would walk to the net and apologize to Hewitt afterwards. That shows you how much the younger players in Australia revere the country’s elder statesman.
One thing is likely in this one and that is a lengthy match. Duckworth has played a pair of five set matches in the opening round in two of the last three years in Melbourne. Hewitt’s last two losses at the Australian Open? You guessed it, five setters. Duckworth has the edge in serve, which has been Hewitt’s undoing in recent years. However, you cannot underestimate the fight that you get from Hewitt and he brings forth effort and defense still at his “advanced” age of 34. Win or lose, do yourself a favor and check this one out on Centre Court. Watching Hewitt even with a decline in skill level over the years is worth the price of admission. Few players work harder or give more on court than Rusty.
Hewitt wins in five sets
(10) John Isner vs Jerzy Janowicz
An interesting clash of what should be power vs power. Isner comes into this after dropping his last match in Auckland to eventual champion, Roberto Bautista Agut. It remains to be seen if he was simply checking out early or if Isner will have trouble. He was broken three times in that match, which is not a great sign. For Janowicz, he chose not to play in any of the tournaments prior to Melbourne. Instead, he’s been in Melbourne practicing for quite some time. The last and only meeting between these two came during Hopman Cup play last January with Isner winning 7-6 (10), 6-4.
Isner hasn’t made it past the third round since 2010, but also has only lost in the opening round once since 2010. That came in 2014 when he retired due to injury. Tuesday, he’ll have to dea with the heat and the equally big game of his Polish counterpart. Janowicz has a string of three straight third round appearances in Melbourne and you can expect to see lots of big serves and big forehands in this one. The area where Isner is better is the serve. His consistency is better than Janowicz’s, but the Pole can bring the heat. Against Isner. who doesn’t always do much in the return game, this has the feel of a tight four set match with tiebreaks coming into play. The Pig’s gut says upset.
Janowicz wins in four sets
(25) Jack Sock vs (q) Taylor Fritz
This match features two of the Americans who could lead the revival of U.S. tennis. Sock is the more accomplished player at 23 and comes off a solid week in Auckland, before he fell ill and had to withdraw during the final. That is a key point for this match as that just happened on Saturday. Any lingering effects could help Fritz level the playing field even more. Fritz made it through qualifying to get into his first Grand Slam main draw and pulled off a great Houdini act. He trailed Mischa Zverev 4-0 in the third set of the final round of qualifying before he reeled off the last six games to pull off a stunning result.
Sock is going to see somewhat of a mirror image across the net in Fritz. Fritz is 6’4″ and has a powerful serve along with quick strike ground strokes. What he does not have is Sock’s experience in main draws. Sock has 26 career Grand Slam matches with a 14-12 record. The interesting note is that only two of those have come in Melbourne, so some of that experience could be negated as Sock himself has only played the main draw once back in 2014.
Fritz carries an eight match win streak into this one with a Challenger title early this season and his run through qualifying. This will be the second time that he has played someone ranked inside the Top 30. Fritz lost to then-14th ranked Feliciano Lopez last year at the Aegon Open Nottingham on grass in straight sets. If health isn’t an issue, Sock should likely have a bit better consistency at this stage. If Sock is still less than 100 percent, Fritz has a realistic shot at pulling off a stunning upset.
Sock wins in four sets