Australian Open: Andreeva Wins Battle Of Youth Versus Experience

Mirra Andreeva (photo: Tennis Australia/Mark Peterson)

J MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 17, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 6 Ons Jabeur came into her Australian Open featured second-round match against 16-year-old Russian upstart and 2023 WTA Newcomer of the Year Mirra Andreeva on shuttered Rod Laver Arena Wednesday afternoon sporting a 53-26 win-loss record at Grand Slams – including back-to-back runner-up finishes at Wimbledon and finalist at Roland Garros – with her record in Melbourne being a respectable-albeit-not-great 8-6.

Across the net, Andreeva was making just her fourth Grand Slam appearance after debuting at last year’s Roland Garros. She had yet to win against a Top 10 opponent. A year ago, Andreeva was runner-up in the AO junior girls’ event to fellow Russian Alina Korneeva, losing in a three-set marathon that lasted three hours and 18 minutes.

All of that history changed in just 54 minutes as Mirra the Magnificent stunned her idol, Jabeur, 6-0, 6-2, to advance to the third round. She did it with a sense of overpowering fashion that even made Jabeur smile when they shared a hug at the net after it ended.

It was as much a comprehensive victory for Andreeva as it was a comprehensive defeat for the 29-year-old Jabeur, the second Top 10 seed to be shown the exit in the first week after No. 7 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic lost in the first round. The young Russian teenager won 85 percent of her first-serve points, hit 13 winners to just 10 unforced errors, converted five of seven break points against the Tunisian and outpointed her opponent 53-26. Jabeur was able to win only 16 points on her serve and her nine winners were overshadowed by 24 unforced errors.

Over the past three seasons, only World No. 1 Iga Swiatek (51) and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka (49) had won more Grand Slam matches than Jabeur (38). However, Andreeva proved she could hold her own against a quality Top 10 foe.

“I was really nervous before the match, because I’m really inspired by Ons, by the way she plays,” Andreeva said in her on-court interview afterwards. “In the first set, I showed amazing tennis. I honestly didn’t expect that from myself. I just wanted to go and play on this big court for the second time, just to enjoy tennis, just to enjoy the time, and I did.”

Andreeva was reminded that a year ago she was playing in the AO junior final and that her game has improved so much. Asked if she felt that way as well, Andreeva smiled and replied: “Um, no. I just feel like I’m a bit more mature.”

“You’re only 16!” on-court interviewer Laura Robson said. Andreeva quipped: “That’s true, but last year I was 15!”

The crowd responded with laughter at the light-hearted moment. It followed nearly an hour’s-worth of applause Andreeva earned for her outstanding and fearless play that advanced her to play No. 72 Diane Parry of France in the third round.

From her on-court banter, fans learned that Andreeva has a deep love for animals and she shared her Tuesday off-day experience of meeting a variety of Australian animals and reptiles, including a koala bear and a huge snake, on the player’s terrace.

“When I arrived here, I saw they would bring the animals on the 16th. I told myself I had to be here on that day to watch all the animals and hold the snake,” Andreeva said. “I did that with my agent; he was so scared, but I forced him to do it so we did it together. The animals are the only thing I’ve done so far in Melbourne.”

During her post-match news conference, Andreeva was still soaking in what she had accomplished in beating Jabeur on Rod Laver Arena.

“After the match, she came to me, she wished me luck,” Andreeva said. “I just know that she is who she is and she never change. That’s what I like about her.”

Casper Ruud reveals his interests beyond the tennis court

No. 11 seed Casper Ruud of Norway shared with reporters during his post-match news conference after his 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas Tuesday that he had a important Zoom call date that would keep him grounded later that evening. No, it had nothing to do with his fondness for golf. Instead, thanks to Ruud’s mother, he’s developed an interest in interior design — and he’s taking up renovations for his new home back in Norway.

“In the end we are humans as well, so we have things to deal with. Currently I got a new place last year and I have to do some renovating,” Ruud told reporters. “The only fitting time was tonight at 10 p.m., so there’s going to be a Zoom call that I have to get on to decide a few different materials and so on.

“But it’s actually something I enjoy. My mother is an interior designer, as well, so ever since I was young I was quite into it. I’ve done a few projects in the past back home in Norway. This is for my own personal use.”

Learning from the best, Evonne Goolagong

Australian Open First Nations ball kids, kids from the Evonne Goolagong Foundation, and winners of the Deadly Choices competition enjoyed a hit and hands-on instruction from 14-time Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley on MCA Wednesday morning as part of the Australian Open 2024’s First Nations Day.

Thanks for the memories, Naomi Osaka

Around Melbourne Park

Wednesday’s Australian Open results

Thursday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

The American seeds completed the first round undefeated. The men – No. 12 Taylor Fritz, No. 14 Tommy Paul, No. 16 Ben Shelton, No. 17 Frances Tiafoe, No. 29 Sebastian Korda – were 5-0. The women – No. 4 Coco Gauff, No. 5 Jessica Pegula, No. 27 Emma Navarro – went 3-0.

“Quotable … “

“Yeah, it definitely wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy at all. I felt like that was my moment to really dig in, take a deep breath, and start again. It took a lot of strength to come back from that.

“It’s not an easy position to be in anybody, but I feel like for me I feel like I relish in that situation because I know how tough I am and I know that I can get myself out of it.

“I think, again, I showed that. I managed to bring some of the better tennis that I played of the day out in the biggest moment. I think if I’ve learned anything over these years, that’s what the best players in the world do, they bring the best that they’ve got in the most important times. I did that well today.”

— No. 57 Katie Boulter of Great Britain, during her post-match news conference, on the difficulty of resetting after squandering two match points against China’s Yue Yuan in her 7-5, 7-6 (1) first-round victory on Tuesday.