News & Media

Day 3 preview: Murray, Svitolina, Kyrgios headline

1 January 2019, by Dan Imhoff

First-round wins for a three-time Grand Slam champion rarely evoke such emotions as Andy Murray’s did in his Brisbane International return on Tuesday.

But this was no run-of-the-mill comeback from injury.

At 31, and having struggled through his worst 18 months on tour amid hip surgery, Murray found enormous relief in his straight-sets result over Aussie wild card James Duckworth.

Relief he was back competing again and relief nerves had crept back in before the match, proof those competitive juices were flowing again.

“Nerves for me are good,” Murray said. “I know I was nervous today before the match. I think some of the matches when I was playing again last year, I didn’t actually feel that nervous because I didn’t really feel ready to compete or do well.”

Back competing in Wednesday night’s opening match, the Scot faces a tough ask taking on No.4 seed Daniil Medvedev for the first time.

The 22-year-old is among the next brigade touted to fight for the biggest prizes in the sport.

Perfectly at home on the Australian hard courts, the Russian denied Alex De Minaur to claim his first career title in Sydney last season. He won two further titles in 2018 to end the year at No.16.

Closing out Wednesday’s night session on Pat Rafter Arena, defending women’s champion and top seed Elina Svitolina begins her season in a rematch of last year’s final against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Despite a quarter-final showing at the Australian Open on the back of her Brisbane title, the Ukrainian largely struggled to bring her finest on the Grand Slam stages in 2018.

But she returns with momentum on her side. Svitolina still managed to capture four tour titles to end the season at world No.4, closing out the year with her biggest career title in Singapore at the WTA Finals.

“My goals are always to win a Grand Slam, to become No.1,” Svitolina said this week. “They are life-time goals, and I try to stay really focused each tournament, to win as many titles as I can. This is my ultimate goal each year, but I think the most important for me is to be healthy.”

Sasnovich went on a tear at BI2018, winning seven straight matches, having come through qualifying, before falling to Svitolina. She also beat Petra Kvitova in a first-round Wimbledon boilover to end the year at No.30.

No.8 seed Nick Kyrgios continues his bid to defend his title when he meets good friend, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, in the third match on Pat Rafter Arena on Wednesday.

Kyrgios edged through his first outing of 2019 on Tuesday, firing 45 aces to hold off Ryan Harrison in a re-match of the 2018 Brisbane final.

While conceding he was a tad rusty after letting set points slip in the second set, the Australian found comfort in his serve firing.

After posting contrasting opening-round victories, 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov faces Aussie John Millman in a rematch of their thriller at the same stage in 2018.

A year ago, it was the Bulgarian who emerged after saving two match points, but Millman has enjoyed his biggest year to date on tour, with a fourth-round US Open defeat of Roger Federer the highlight.

The 2011 women’s champion, Kvitova, was forced to draw on all her experience to deny Danielle Collins serving out a first-round upset on Tuesday. The dual Wimbledon winner prevailed in three hours to book her clash with Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit. Kvitova leads the pair’s head-to-head record 3-1.