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Australian Open wears skeletal look after big stars exit


Melbourne, Jan 22: As the Australian Open enters its second week, it is looking increasingly like an ATP tour event after the exit or absence of some of the top stars due to reasons on and off the field.

The defeat of the brightest young star in the circuit, 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev, ranked number 4, deprived the Australian Open of one of its greatest youngsters.

Nick Kyrgios, Australia's favourite star for his blasé attitude to life and the game, has to survive against third seed Grigos Dimitrov, otherwise the second week will be without its best local attraction.

Forty percent of the tournament's male players are above 30, showing that it is just not a walkover for brash young upstarts to strut their stuff at the big events.

The big three men's remaining stars, Roger Federer, Rafale Nadal and Novak Djokovic, — all above 30 — are looking good going into the fourth round. 

However, Djokovic coming into big time tennis after six months seems to be taking on new injuries after a hip problem forced him to take a medical time out in the third round match against 21st seeded Ramaos-Vinolas of Spain. 

Djokovic won the match in straight sets but he was showing some discomfort throughout.

Zverev was completely distraught and grumpy after his second career loss to the 58th ranked Hyeon Chung of South Korea 5-7, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Though he tried to shrug off the defeat the fact that he hasn't gone beyond the fourth round in any Grand Slam, must be a matter of complete mystery for the fourth ranked player. 

"Game wise it was not a bad match. He's 50 whatever in the world. But this was a top-10 level match from the start till the end of the fourth set and for him until the end. You know rankings sometimes lie. The way he was playing, it was definitely not whatever he is ranked," Zverev said after the match. 

Zverev said that he served 22 aces over four sets which is little consolation actually since he lost the fifth set at love, not something expected of a fourth seed. 

He had cracked his racquet in utter frustration, inviting a caution, and as he walked out with his head held low, he flung the cracked racquet to an admirer in the ring side seat.

This act itself was symbolic of the way he played, especially in the last set when his game was in a shambles.

The other exit in the third round was Juan Del Potro who was shaping up well but could not get past Tomas Berdych. 

The women's section looking equally deprived without the William sisters, almost lost its top seed Simona Halep who had to draw on the last speck of oxygen in her body to overcome the pint sized and defiant American Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 in what was the longest women's match in a Grand Slam lasting 48 games and three hours and 44 minutes. 

The marathon third set alone lasted two hours 22 minutes. Halep who has injured her ankle is unlikely to be in peak fitness for her next match. 

"I don't know how its going to be," Halep said when asked about her injury and her next match. 

Fifteenth seed Jo Wilfred Tsonga, who lost to Canadian upstart Denis Shapovalov wasn't looking too good at the beginning of the season.

It wasn't much of a surprise that he lost to the Shapovalov in the five setter. But the fact is that the tournament lost another well-known star could be an indication that outside of the ranking list are players like Chung, Rubalov and Shapovalov who are tearing apart the star line-up which is commercially important for any big tournament. 

As the second week starts it is almost evident that the oldies gang, the plus 30s, will have to keep the flag of tennis' big event flying.

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