Aussie Open preview: Gauff, Rybakina, Rublev

Grigor Dimitrov
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

There have been some upsets in last week’s tournaments.

Grigor Dimitrov won Brisbane, beating Holger Rune7-6(5), 6-4 in the final. He has come close over the years, but he had not won an event since 2017 at the ATP Finals. However, the Bulgarian can be so consistent, when he is feeling it, and he can also throw in some terrific shots. He is currently ranked No. 13,  so he can look very steady, but then, he can back up and chuck in some wild shots. But the very talkative person can discuss his life, on court, and even off court, he really does how he feels. He cried when he won another title.

“I think there’s a lot of emotions on so many different levels for me,” Dimitrov said. “I think clearly winning a title, it means a lot to me. It’s been a while. I think having that moment is in a way what I’m after.”

Dimitrov actually thinks that at the Australian Open, he can go far, again. In 2017, at Brisbane, he won it when he beat Kei Nishikori in the final. Then in Melbourne, he was flying high, knocking off Richard Gasquet in the quarters, and finally, at night, in the semis, Rafa Nadal beat him in five, fantastic sets.

Next week, in the Grand Slams, Dimitrov will be secure again, but in the past 11 majors, he hasn’t reached into the quarters, so it is time to swell again.

“It humbles me in the same time because I feel like I’ve been playing good tennis, and I also feel there’s a little bit more that I can get better at on a few more things,” he said. “Who knows, if those things go right, what else might be coming my way.”

The No. 5 Andrey Rublev also won, winning Hong Kong,  last week. He really needed that, as at the 2023 ATP Finals, he did not win a match. He looked pretty tired. However, in the fall, the important person looked very clean, when he reached the final in Shanghai, beating Dimitrov in the semis, and then finally, he lost versus Hubert Hurkacz. He was close enough, but week to week, he can be looked depressed, and angry , in the court. Still, the Russian can look classic, at times, so this year, he should reach into the semis at the Slams, for the first time, if he can, as last year, in January, he played against Novak Djokovic, and the Serbian crushed him in just seven games. He has to be much better, ASAP.

The No.3 Coco Gauff kicked off early, winning Auckland, edging  Elina Svitolina  6-7(4) 6-3, 6-3. It was pretty close, but her backhand, her first serve and at the net, she controlled it.

“It was not my best level of play, but sometimes, when you are not at your best and you win, it makes you more satisfied,” Gauff said.

“It gives me a lot of confidence beating Elina. It was cool seeing how I handled the pressure especially after losing the first set. I was proud of the mental fight I showed today.”

She is 19-years-old, and she is growing, gradually, or maybe she will be more quickly. Her forehand is now improved, and while at times it isn’t very deep enough, she seems to unavoidably to do. When they are teenages, they are so excited that she wants to play all the times, and sometimes it will do the same things, wherever you can, and other times, they don’t focus all the time, on the court. She may become  No. 1 eventually, but at the last two tournament, in October and November, she lost against the current top player, Iga Swiatek. The Poland person is still the most complete player week after week. Gauff

has to put together with her strokes, more often.  She has to, as last year at the 2023 Aussie Open, she lost in the fourth round against the huge hitter, Jelena Ostapenko. This time, the American has to be totally inhibited.

How about Elena Rybakina who also won, smashing over  Aryna Sabalenka 6-0, 6-3.  What a blow out. When she is so consistent, and caring, then she can stay in there, but last year, she looked very good, but then, she would explode, and then she made some many errors. The crazy thing is that the Russian reached into the final at the 2023 Aussie Open, and it looked like she could win her second Grand Slam, but   Sabalenka out hit her with her massive  forehand, to win it 6-4 in the third. They did that again, three more times, and they split, it. It will occur time and time again, as both of them will go dish deep at the majors. It is some  terrific matches.


Rafa Nadal pulled out of the Australian Open as once again, his legs are  beating down. He is 37-years old,  and pretty soon, he will retire.Maybe this year, or next, it is hard to say, but it is ticking, faster…

In Adelaide, Tommy Paul and  Sebastian Korda are playing this week, and in Auckland Ben Shelton is playing. A young Frenchman, Arthur Fils, who is winning a lot. If they have a great week, then at the Slams, they can leap so early…The same goes with the Aussie Alex de Minaur, when it took him a while to be more consistent, and now, finally, he cracks the Top 10 for the first time. The must have been huge.  He is coached by two players who went very deep at the Slams including Sergi Bruguera, and Sebastien Grosjean.