So to Arthur Cazeaux, remember him? It was at least three days ago now, but he’s that 21-year-old lad who just played the match of his life to beat Holder Rune, the number eight seed, and didn’t he enjoy it? Let’s check out what he had to say afterwards…
My fingers are shaking, but while all that was going on, Jelena Ostapenko bagelled Ajla Tomljanovic in their first set. It’s on next to me, but I’ve barely looked at it because of … events, but we’ll be there shortly.
Next on Laver: Emil Ruusuvuori v Daniil Medvedev (3). What a day!
Blinkova thanks the crowd for giving her energy and helping her fight to the end. She had so many match points, she says, to laughter, and tried to be aggressive on them but “my hands were shaking … and my legs too.” She was telling herself “go for it”, and will remember this da for the rest of her life – I’ll bet! – and it’s so moving to see a match like that, two unbelievable athletes unloading every aspect of themselves. The breaker is the longest ever played in a women’s Slam but it’s barely even about that, it’s the quality and intensity of the rallies – I can’t even begin to imagine the stuff we don’t see – the training it takes to be able to perform like that – but I’m so grateful to these players for putting it in, because we’ll remember what we’ve just seen for as long as we can remember.
Rybakina nets and mazal tov Anna Blinkova, but also mazal tov Elena Rybakina, because that was the greatest contest I’ve seen in I don’t know how long. I’m in complete and utter awe of their competitive ferocity, their skill under pressure, the love and dedication that oozed out of every point. Blinkova takes the match of her life while Rybakina knows it took that to beat her, though she’ll be hurting for a while. Blinkova meets Paolini next. Amazing, amazing, amazing.
And of course Blinkova saves it … then steps into an inside-out backhand winner! She leads 20-19, and can she take her ninth match point?! I’ve not a clue … but she can’t, netting. What I love so much about this match is how aggressive both players have been on the cusp of defeat, and their ability to chase down balls, again and again, then find the correct shot, played correctly, when they get there. And as I type, Blinkova plays another unbelievable point, eventually making 21-20 with a Michael Jorden overhead. Can she serve out? What’s 22 divided by 7?
KASFJBAJKSHEBFAKJH`BFDKJB`ADKB`ADSOADSB! I’m afraid that’s the best I can do, because Blinkova has just emptied her gas tank and her emotional reserves sticking in the rally, chasing and sending balls back before running in to somehow compose and hit a winner! This is one of the greatest tiebreaks in the history of tennis, and that is not (very) recency bias. I am in total awe of the mentality, physicality and skill of these two, but Rybakina now has her sixth match point at 19-18.
I’m running out of exclamations, people! Chalé! Again, Rybakina powers forehands, Blinkova feeding her to that wing, only for a cross-court animal to whizz past her and into the corner, who knows how close to the line! It’s 17-all, then Rybakina seizes a further mini-break and will again serve needing just this point for the match…
Oh man! Rybakina’s forehand hasn’t been good today, and she pats a dreadful shot long to give us 16-all, then nets another! Match point Blinkova, on serve; Rybakina has saved seven so far, and is now facing a second serve!
OH MY DAYS! Rybakina looks to have won the point with a forehand down the line but Blinkova chases it down … only for a murderous backhand cross-court to fly past her! Match point Rybakina, for the fourth time, on the number three seed’s serve. This is expletive incredible.
Yuh, Rybakina zetzes down an ace; 14-all. Incidentally, I’ve paused Cazaux’s interview and will bring that to you once this is over, Rybakina raising her third match point with a service winner down the T. In a sense, playing well below her level speaks even better of her than an easy win, because she’s still found a way to hang in there against someone playing the match if her life. I’m in awe of how they’re competing like this having gone for this long, and we’re now 15-all – in a breaker, now a game!
Shut up shut up shut up shut up! Blinkova come in, gets low and somehow locates a fantastic inside-out forehand on to the line for a wondrous winner! I’ve no idea how she got that up and over with that power, but she’s soon match point down on again, this time on her own serve, and Rybakina nets for 13-all! This is another fantastic contest, and Blinkova is now 14-13, seeking to convert match point number seven.
My screen crashes, but Blinkova burns another match point and now Rybakina has one on serve…
An astonishing performance and a magnificent match. Rune played OK today, but Cazaux was stupendous, his combination of confidence, touch and power too much. He is a potential superstar and I can’t wait to see him again. He plays Griekspoor next.
Rybakina sends a return deep and Blinkova can’t retort, 9-9, but on Court, Cazaux has match point!
YES ANNA BLINKOVA! She punishes a forehand return then, when Rybakina gets decent depth on her riposte, uncorks a devastating winner that gives her another match point – her fourth – at 9-8! Tybakina has defended these really well so far, and the first serve goes into the net…
But is going to even need one! A backhand cross, then a winner line give Cazaux 0-30, and he’s still noising up the crowd and why not? He’s worked his whole life for this moment, why not enjoy it? Well, because enjoying this kind of scrutiny and pressure is beyond the ability of most of us, but sportsfolk are a different breed.
Blinkova tries a body-serve but it’s too slow and sits up, so Rybakina takes control of the rally and her forehand does enough for 6-5; Cazaux slams down yet another ace, and leads Rune 5-3 in the fourth! He’s a hold away from a classic “Remember the name!” moment.
Oh yes! Blinkova sees Rybakina coming in and moving towards her forehand, so unleashes a winner down the backhand side, then poor footwork means the number three seed is stretching on another forehand … and it drops long! Naturally, Blinknova can’t then press home the advantage, and we’re back at 4-4, with 10 by two points the winning target. Meantime, Cazaux has just saved a break point at 4-3 in the fourth, but must still make his way through deuce.
Back on Court court, Cazaux isn’t playing as fluently as before but he’s done enough so far, up 4-3 … but down 0-30…
He meets Borges next, and will fancy his chances there.
Weak second serve, but Rybakina goes wide on the forehand, by a fraction of a fibre, and Blinkova has another match point … only to net. Rybakina then raises advantage … and a double fault means 6-6 and a 10-point breaker! The number-three seed has handled the huge points superbly, though she’s not playing well.
Rybakina nets a tame backhand for 15-all, but then lands an excellent forehand return on to the line; a big first serve follows, and she can only net. AND HAVE A LOOK! Blinkova goes for a second serve, and Rybakina mishits a loopy forehand which lands long! Match point Blinkova, and can she handle the moment of her life?! Well, sort of; she’s in the rally then, out of nowhere, Rybakina smites a marvellous oblique backhand winner cross-court, that breaks the sideline for deuce. This is so so good, and goodness me! Down advantage, Blinkova annihilates an ace down the middle, and back to deuce we go!
I’ve not a clue what’s going on Laver. Blinkova has two break points at 15-40, and Rybakina just can’t find her usual consistency. And when she sends a backhand down the line … and wide! … it means Blinkova will now serve for the match a second time! Has she learnt from her previous experience? She was passive last time, then tried to compensate and went for too much. Here we go at 6-5 in the third…
Now then! Rybakina isn’t having a tepid serve out wide, cleansing a backhand winner cross-court for 0-30 … then charging in to over-excitedly swipe a putaway wide. Her eyes lit up there, adrenaline took over, and she just went for too much when all she needed was for the ball to be good. Three break-back points, and Rybakina only needs one; Blinkova just can’t manage herself when it’s intense, and win or lose, she’ll learn a lot from this.
The quality of match we’ve had and are having is frankly off the scale … and we’ve still got Mevedev v Ruusuvuori, Tauson v Azarenka and Ostapenko v Tomljanovic to come! Rune holds, so Cazaux leads 2-1 and 2-1, with a break – or, to put it another way, he’s four holds away from a monstrous win. And Blinkova has broken Rybakina again for 5-4, so will now serve for the match! Can she land some first deliveries? Because if she can, she’s home, but if she can’t, no chance.
Rybakina earns advantage … and swings a lovely, leaping forehand from the baseline for a clean winner and the break back. I feel for Blinkova, who’s played brilliantly, but her serve has failed her because she’s got tight at tight moments, so we’re 4-4 in third and you expect the number three seed to close out from here. Meantime, Rune saves two points for the double-break, keeping himself in the match against Cazaux, who isn’t letting up through deuce, punishing a barely believable backhand winner down the line for advantage! Rune can only smile, because he knows he’s facing something special
Meantime, Blinkova is holding it down, up 4-3 against Rybakina in the third, while Cazaux has broken Rune again to lead 7-6 6-4 4-6 1-0. Considering he lost the third by losing his serve for the first time in the match, that’s a great show of stones and, as I type, he holds to 15 meaning Rune, who’s never won from two sets down, is in a world of trouble.
Raducanu showed loads on that match. Real talk, it’s almost impossible to see her winning another major, because there are too many players at least as talented, who hit it much harder. But she’s a load of fun to watch, and has bottle for d
A fantastic match. Raducanu could put her forehand anywhere on the court but for whatever reason decides to hit it through Wang, netting instead. Pressure does funny things, eh. Wang is into round three of a Slam for the first time in her career, and she meets Qinwen Zheng the number 12 seed, next.
Wang raises two match points, Raducanu lays a nice drop, and all she has to do is put away the response…
After taking control of the point, Cazaux doesn’t do enough with a volley and Rune runs in to pass him! This is on a rolling boil now, the wild card leading the number eight seed 7-6 6-4 4-6. If you’re near a telly or a phone, get it on.
Blinkova hangs on for her hold, and at 1-3 in the third, Rybakina is running out of time. Raducanu, meanwhile, holds to love forcing Wang to serve for the match at 6-4 in the third, while Rune finally digs into the Cazaux serve, raising two set points, the first saved with an ace out wide. There’s a lot going on, mates!
Blnkova has a second-serve situation. Her first is a helluva thump, but her second is the reason Rybakina is still in this match, and it lets her down again at 40-30, then on advantage she nets a forehand. This is getting tense! Elsewhere, Rune holds to love for a 5-4 lead, trailing Cazaux 2-0, and Wang is serving at 4-3 in the decider with Raducanu.
Talking of love holds, Wang secures a rare one and leads 4-2 in the decider; they’ve been playing 50-odd minutes for their six games in this set, which is would even with the doctor stoppage. On Laver, meanwhile, Blinkova roars BECAUSE SHE’S BROKEN RYBAKINA! She leads 2-1, and the number three seed needs something, fast.
Cazaux strolls through a hold in … 54 seconds. But Rune quickly seizes one of his own, , a fifth love-hold of the set, to lead 4-3 but trial 2-0. He also gets another knee-rub, the last he’s allowed this set. “He’s just classic French,” returns Calv Betton on Cazaux. “They always have loads of lads who are good, and then about half of them turn out to be very good And you never know which they will be. It’s a conveyor belt.”
When I left Cain, Dimitrov was all over Kokkinakis and leading by two sets to love, but thew Aussie has taken the third set 6-4, so that match isn’t done or close to it. But has Wang broken the back of her match with Raducanu? After another brutal game, she holds for 3-1 in the third, and that’s got to sting, especially if you’re feeling ropey.
On Jerry Shang, Calv Betton, our resident coach, messages from Melbourne. “He plays a lot like Rios. I don’t think he’s got the weight of shot to be the very top but he’ll be good value to watch.”
The Miroslav Mecir of his era.
Yup, Blinkova couldn’t hit her first serves so Rybakina lopes in and puts away a forehand to earn a decider, while Wang has just saved another break-back point at 2-1. This has been a fantastic match, both players going for it and chasing like you can’t believe.
Rune has the trainer out, looking at his knee, while Rybakina holds, inviting Blinkova to serve to stay in set two at 4-5. Can she handle the pressure? Talking of which, both Raducanu and Wang have shown incredible ability to hit their best shots on the biggest points, and the former raises 15-40 with another booming forehand … so Wang unleashes one of her own, then an error gives her deuce. Raducanu, though finds another winner for advantage while, on Laver, Blinkova may indeed have … er … blinked. Rybakina has set point…
On 3, Felix Auger-Aliassime has taken the first set against Hugo Grenier 6-1 and they’re on serve in the second; Cazaux holds to love and Rune must now go again, while Raducanu secures her hold too, though with somewhat greater difficulty. She’s on the board in the decider, still a break down at 1-2, and sits with towel over head during change of ends.
We’re back away on 1573, Wang consolidating for 2-0 in the third, but Raducanu looks crook … then serves an ace, down break-point. She’s got some serious moxie and respect to it, but can she hold? A question we’re also asking of rune, who’s saved two break points … and secures the hold when Cazaux thrashes a forehand long and wide. This is a proper jazzer of a match – I don’t think Cazaux is just some bloke having a good day, he looks to me like someone who’ll be a factor and this is him announcing himself – and he leads 7-6 6-4 0-1.
I mentioned earlier that it’s windy, and it really is – you can see by watching – and it’s also a little nippy now, Raducanu wrapping herself in a towel as she waits for the doctor. Ah, and the aggro on Court that I mentioned: it’s a bloke clapping loudly between Rune’s first and second serves, on which point as in set two, he faces break point in the first game … saving it with a backhand volley when a lob doesn’t soar as planned. But he’s still to plough through deuce…
Of course, as I say that, Rybakina sends a pair of backhands down the line and breaks back for 2-2 in the second while, on 1573, Raducanu is struggling with something, sickness I think – what a nause, after all her struggles with injury. She’s still fighting hard, but after several more deuces, she nets a forehand and calls the trainer. Wang leads 6-4 4-6 2-0.
I’ve not seen as much of the Rybakina match as I’d have liked, but Blinkova is serving absolute heat. If she – and Cazaux for that matter – keep that up, their seeded opponents are done for.
Gosh, Wang breaks Raducanu for 1-0 in the decider, while Blinkova has broken Rybakina to lead 6-4 2-1! The number three seed is in a world of trouble because her opponent, who’s never gone beyond round three of a Slam, is playing the match of her life.
Again, Cazaux misses his first serve, but he finds a good volley when he needs it and Rune’s response is wide! Cazaux leads the number eight seed by two sets to love, and is playing brilliantly!
Rune goes to the backhand corner and comes in, so Cazaux nails a backhand riposte on to his tootsies then nails a serve for 30-0! This is great stuff, another one-sided point follows, secured with a deliberately violent smash … but two missed first serves help Rune save the first two set points…
Rune serves out, but Cazaux will shortly serve for a two-set lead. I thnik there’s also been some aggro in the crowd, someone trying to put Rune off between serves, but her comes Arthur, leading 7-6 5-4…
Lovely from Cazaux, a no-look volley that gives him 0-15, Rune serving trialing 6-7 3-5. He does, I’m told, have a lot of confidence – as does his opponent – and he’s shown no sign of faltering thus far.
Blinkova hollers and rightly so; she’s taken the first set off Rybakina 6-4, and does anyone has a spare set of eyes, because there’s too much going on here!
Wow, this is an intense match now, Raducanu marmalising a forehand return cross-court to raise her third set point. But again, Wang responds with forehands of her own – two if them in a row – to regain deuce. So Raducanu punishes a backhand on to the line, Wang sends a forehand wide, and we’ve got ourselves a decider!