The tennis world’s top stars continued to shine on Thursday, as players like Rafael Nadal, Karolina Pliskova, and Simona Halep faced little resistance in their second-round matches at the Australian Open.
The No. 1 seeded Nadal defeated Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in straight sets, picking up a relatively straightforward 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 win.
Nadal Accidentally Hits Ball Girl, Apologizes
Delbonis fought hard early, saving six break points in the second game of the match to hold serve. In fact, Nadal won only one of 18 break points in the first two sets combined, a testament to Delbonis’ resolve.
That all ended in the third set. Nadal quickly put away his opponent with two breaks to finish off the match in style.
The scariest moment in the match came when Nadal accidentally hit a young ball girl in the head with a mishit forehand.
A touch of class from Rafael Nadal 👏
He apologises to a ball girl after one of his shots hit her in the face 😳 pic.twitter.com/0JDDyvpQTJ
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 23, 2020
“One of the more scary moments I’ve had on the tennis court – the ball was quick, and straight on [her] head,” Nadal said afterwards. “I was so scared for her. Very happy that you’re good. You’re very brave, so well done.”
Meanwhile, women’s No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova didn’t play a pretty match on Thursday, but still beat Laura Siegemund 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open. Siegemund won the only previous encounter between the two, and Pliskova said the German presented a challenging matchup for her.
“I think she has a very ugly game for me, so I’m never going to feel amazing playing her,” Pliskova said after the match. “I’m just happy to be through because this was an ugly match for me … hopefully I can feel better in my next round.”
Halep, Medvedev Cruise, Thiem Wins in Five Sets
No. 4 seed Simona Halep also advanced to the third round, beating British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-4. Dart was the final British woman remaining in the field, and earned praise from Halep even if she wasn’t able to seriously challenge the two-time Grand Slam winner.
“She can play a very high level of tennis because she’s very smart,” Halep said of Dart. “She has a good feeling of the court, also good touch with the racket. I feel she can improve a lot very soon.”
Two other top-5 men were in action on Thursday. Daniil Medvedev beat qualifier Pedro Martinez 7-5, 6-1, 6-3, while Dominic Thiem had more trouble with Australian wild card, Alex Bolt, who took the Austrian to five sets before falling 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-2.
“It’s really nice to play in such an amazing atmosphere,” Thiem said in a post-match interview. “Of course, the crowd was for Alex. He’s Aussie, so that’s completely obvious. But it’s way nicer to play in front of a full crowd that’s against you than an empty stadium.”
Friday sees the start of third-round singles matches at the Australian Open, which means that seeded players will start running into each other.
Australian Open Odds (Friday Matches)
- Ashleigh Barty (-330) vs. Elena Rybakina (+260)
- Wang Qiang (+660) vs. Serena Williams (-1100)
- Naomi Osaka (-480) vs. Coco Gauff (+360)
- Yoshihito Nishioka (+4000) vs. Novak Djokovic (-8000)
- John Millman (+1160) vs. Roger Federer (-1700)
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
The premier matchup of the day pits American youngster Coco Gauff against No. 3 seed and defending Australian Open champion, Naomi Osaka. FanDuel Sportsbook has Osaka as a heavy -480 favorite over Gauff (+360), after Osaka dominated the 15-year-old in their meeting at the US Open last year. Unsurprisingly, the match was moved to prime time on Rod Laver Arena, meaning it will air in the early morning hours in the United States.
Also in action are Novak Djokovic (-8000), who faces unseeded Yoshihito Nishioka (+4000), and Roger Federer (-1700), who will take on Australia’s John Millman (+1160). Women’s top seed Ashleigh Barty is also in action, and has been booked as a -330 favorite over No. 29 seed, Elena Rybankina (+260).