2051 Australian Open
For a young player, a Slam tournament is often predetermined by the draw. The best you can hope for is a matchup that gives you a chance. Ritwik Dudwadkar at least got that, with American Harry Bayliss, a hardcourt specialist who hangs out around 50th in the rankings. Aside from the surface effect, he actually felt he had a slight edge in the matchup. Unfortunately, that and his inability to convert break points(2 of 11 on the day) led to a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 loss. It was pretty competitive, but disappointing that he couldn't take a set. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka had four seeded players along with Shyam Senepathy for what I think is a record six entries. Senepathy took down Frenchman Jonathan Ardant in another competitive straight-sets match to start things off, making it a good event for him. Aging Agustin Herrera(22nd) and hardcourt-ignoring #25 Rui Padilla(ESP) were the only casualty seeds in the first round.
Shreya Ujjaval nearly went out to Claudio Fandino, a rising Colombian, in the second. He won a long tiebreak, then dropped the next two sets before he found his rhythm. Could very easily have been out in straights, but instead he rallies for the five-set win. Argentina's Tristan Benitez(15) was the only significant upset of the day. He goes out to a veteran qualifier from India. Yikes. Senepathy did well, taking #10 Srbulovic to four sets. He can be decent when he's not overplayed to death ... which unfortunately is only the case at the start of the year.
There were quite a few longer matches in the next round as the tournament proceeded. The big news was world #3 Johnny Browne decided failing to back up his USO title. #21 Blagota Cojanovic knocks him off, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a long, back-and-forth affair. Zakirov was stretched to five but survived, as did Ujjaval for the second straight match. This time he needed to go to 9-7 in the final stanza against Davide Poilblan, once a strong foe but no longer. Martin Zarco survived a five-setter as he looks to build a hard-court resume. The matchup of the day was Juan de los Santos against Ariel Borja. A big win for the young American, twice behind a set but surviving in five, he shows his QF appearance at the USO last year wasn't a fluke and continues his rise. Anil Mehul had the misfortune of meeting Kaspar, and he exits three sets later as expected. Less expected was Girish Girsh going away in his first semblance of competition: top Swede Phillippe Besson(19) toppled him in four.
In the 4th round, Prakash Mooljee dispatched Ujjaval in an all-Sri Lanka matchup; they were the only two left. Mooljee hasn't been threatened yet, which is a very good thing. Luc Janin was stronger at the end in a five-set win over Khasan Zakirov. It's the Canadian's best win in quite some time. Most of the rest went according to form: Kaspar and Fangio have yet to lose a set after dropping the 10th and 11th ranked players, Srbulovic and Zopp.
The quarterfinals had four of the top five, but also Janin(9), Jake Jolland(13), Besson(19), and Borja(27). The only two players who aren't still on the upside of their career here are the top two in the world, Mooljee and Niklas. That left a very clear narrative of youth vs. experience. Both of the old hands found themselves wanting on this day. In the 10th meeting between Mooljee and Janin, Luc won for just the second time, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. It was another one of those where Prakash was the better player, but not by very much, and he failed in crunch time. He's usually good in BP situations, but when he isn't it often doesn't end well. 4 of 13 here, compared to 5 of 8 for the Canadian prodigy in the biggest win of his career. Fangio got by Jolland in a pretty close three, while Besson pulled off his third straight upset, sending Niklas packing in four sets. A career-best showing by him easily as well. Borja's run ran into a brick wall, as Kaspar stopped him in the most one-sided of the day's matchups.
Three of the four semifinalists had never been this far before; only Besson was even close to peaking. There could hardly be a clearer statement that things are going to be different; Mooljee's Moment is officially over I think. Gillo Fangio lost the first set in what was a dead-even matchup going in against Janin, but took the upperhand in a couple of close sets before handing out a third-set bagel. He reaches his second straight Slam final. Mateo Kaspar had more trouble with Besson than expected, losing his first set in a 7-5, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory. Going into the fourth, the Swiss looked like he had a good chance, but ran out of gas.
In the final, the guy who had never made it to the second week of a Slam before took another four-set win; Kaspar was seized control early and dominated Fangio except for a blip in the third. At just past 22 years of age, Mateo claims the first of what will assuredly be many Slam crowns; Fangio is runner-up again. It's not going to get any easier for him to break through. Shades of Mehul constantly butting his head up against the Iglar wall here.
The upheaval was such that the 3-9 positions in the rankings all changed. Kaspar is third, Fangio 4th, Browne down to 5th and Janin up three spots to #6. The order will change, but that Top 6 will likely stay for a while, probably until Zarco can bull his way onto the top page. Below them are Santos, Zakirov, Girsh, and Srbulovic. Maybe Santos can go on a big clay run, but that's about the only thing that could really change things much. And Janin/Fangio/Mooljee are all capable, if inexpert, performers on the dirt.