Australian Open: Marin Cilic upsets No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev

Marin Cilic
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MELBOURNE — Former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic upset No. 5-seeded Andrey Rublev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The 33-year-old Cilic, who won the 2014 U.S. Open title and was a runner-up to Roger Federer in Australia in 2018, beat Rublev 7-5, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 in the last match completed on Day 6 of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

He went into the encounter with just one win in his previous 15 matches against Top 10 players and had lost his previous four head-to-heads against Rublev, but was dominant from the start.

Cilic will next play No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who won 14 of the last 16 games in his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 third-round win over No. 24 Dan Evans.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Daniil Medvedev, who lost last year’s Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic but avenged that with a victory over the Serb for the U.S. Open title, reached the fourth round for the fourth straight year at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Botic van de Zandschulp.

The 25-year-old Russian was a conspicuous fan favorite on Margaret Court Arena, too, two days after being unsettled by the boos and jeers of a parochial crowd on Rod Laver Arena when he ended the run of mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios.

He was critical of a lack of respect in that match — mostly about the noise between first and second serves — and this time offered some relationship advice to the crowd.

“Every good relationship must have its ups and downs,” he said in his on-court TV interview, explaining that he planned to be back on court quite often in the future. “I hope it’s going to be more good times than bad times, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

Medvedev later clarified he didn’t have a problem with the Australian crowds and had been fully expecting to have them against him when he played Kyrgios — just not while he was in his service motion.

“The other night I was playing against an Australian player, very electric Australian player,” he said. “After the match, I think it was, yeah, straightaway pretty actually fun for everybody.

“That’s how I felt, and I didn’t see actually a lot of let’s say negative reactions.”

Medvedev avoided a showdown with Djokovic after the world’s top-ranked player had his visa canceled and was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.

He also avoided another match against an Australian in the fourth round when wildcard entry Chris O’Connell lost to Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2.

Cressy’s win means there’s two 24-year-old Americans who’ll be in the fourth round of a major for their first time.

No. 70-ranked Cressy is in his fourth Grand Slam tournament. No. 20-ranked Taylor Fritz finally made it in his 22nd attempt, with a 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, and said it “means a ton.”

“I mean, it’s huge. Like after that match I was almost close to like tearing up a bit,” Fritz said. “It seems stupid, because so many people have made the second week of Slams but it’s just, like, eluded me for so long.

“I never doubted it would happen,” he added, “but I definitely, definitely was getting sick of playing, you know, Top 4 player for the opportunity every time.”

Fritz will next play fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a runner-up at the French Open and semifinalist in Australia last year, who fended off Benoit Paire 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

On the women’s side, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is into Week 2 at Melbourne Park for the fifth consecutive year after a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Danka Kovinic.

She’ll be joined by second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.

A contender for the No. 1 ranking — Sabalenka can potentially overtake Ash Barty depending on results here — the 23-year-old from Belarus admits her serve is still a work in progress.

The match started ominously, when Sabalenka had two double-faults and was broken in the first game.

But unlike the previous round, when she had nine double-faults in her first two service games and 19 in the match, the semifinalist last year at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open managed to almost halve that glaring statistic.

“I’m really happy right now,” Sabalenka said, laughing, in her on-court TV interview. “Mostly I’m happy I made only 10 double-faults.”

It’s something she’ll be working on ahead of her next match against No. 115-ranked Kaia Kanepi, who has reached the quarterfinals six times at Grand Slam events — but only once since 2013 and never in Australia.

In other third-round matches, 27th-seeded Danielle Collins of the U.S. rallied from a set and a break down to beat 19-year-old Clara Tauson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. She’ll next meet No. 19 Elise Mertens, who advanced 6-2, 6-2 over Zhang Shuai. No. 7 Iga Swaitek, the 2020 French Open champion, beat No. 25 Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-3.

None of the other players remaining the women’s draw has won as many tour-level titles as Halep’s 23.

Halep’s next opponent will be Alize Cornet, who celebrated her 32nd birthday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 29 Tamara Zidansek, a 2021 French Open semifinalist.

Cornet followed up her upset of No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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