MELBOURNE (AFP) – Top women’s seeds including Garbine Muguruza were sent packing on a day of shocks at the Australian Open on Thursday ahead of men’s title favorite Daniil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios squaring off in a blockbuster encounter.
Third seed Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit both suffered second-round upsets in straight sets, opening up the bottom half of the women’s draw.
WTA Finals winner Muguruza struggled with her serve against 61st-ranked veteran Alize Cornet, losing 6-3, 6-3 in 1hr 27min.
Kontaveit, seen by many as a serious title contender after a breakout 2021, committed 27 unforced errors as she was stunned 6-2, 6-4 by fast-rising Danish teenager Clara Tauson.
But second seed Aryna Sabalenka lives to fight another day, just, after coming from a set down for the second successive match to beat China’s world number 100 Wang Xinyu.
The Belarusian has struggled with her serve since arriving in Australia and served 19 double faults — six in the opening game alone — before managing to drag herself through 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
In the men’s draw, Australian wildcard Chris O’Connell continued the day of upsets with a straight-sets win over 13th seed Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-4.
World number 175 O’Connell, who has reached the third round of a Slam for the first time, faces America’s Maxime Cressy.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev calmly avoided the carnage with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 demolition of Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.
He will now face Marin Cilic, who lost the 2018 Australian Open final to Roger Federer. Croatia’s Cilic, seeded 27, beat Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Later, world number two Medvedev faces ultimate showman Kyrgios in a night match on Rod Laver Arena that could play a big part in shaping the destiny of this year’s Australian Open men’s title.