Australian Open Day 2: Thiem falls to Rublev and extreme heat brings play to a halt

Italian player Camila Giorgi denies allegations that she obtained a false Covid-19 vaccine certificate to allow her to travel to Melbourne

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays a forehand return to Andrey Rublev of Russia during their first round match at the Australian Open. AP Photo
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Former Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem fell at the first hurdle at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, crashing out to fifth seed Andrey Rublev in a setback on his return from injury.

While Russia's Rublev held a clear advantage in terms of current ranking, Thiem had a far greater Grand Slam pedigree as the US Open champion in 2020 having also reached that year's Australian Open final. He is also a two-time finalist at Roland Garros.

But the Austrian, ranked 98 having once been as high as No 3, was outplayed in 36º Celsius heat as he continued his return from a wrist injury which kept him off court for nine months across the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Rublev banked a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win on John Cain Arena – his first of the year after two defeats in warm-up events, with either Australia's Max Purcell or Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori his next opponent.

"First of all I'm happy that I was able to get through in straight sets. It was super hot today so happy I can save some energy for future matches," said Rublev, who reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne in 2021 and won four titles last year.

"When you play against Dominic, it's never easy.

"We are really good friends and I know he is going through not easy times, so I just want to wish him all the best to come back at the same level that he belongs as fast as possible."

Thiem has shown encouraging signs on his return to the tour, rising from outside the top 350 to breach the top 100 this year after semi-final runs last year at Gstaad, Gijon and Antwerp.

He said a rib problem hampered him against Rublev.

"It happened at one serve in the second set. The sun was – I was in a tough position to serve, so I completely changed the toss, and something happened after at the abs or at the ribs," he said.

Spectators try to beat the heat by staying in front of the mist fans. AFP

Heat brings play to a halt at Australian Open

Scorching heat halted outdoor matches and sent fans scurrying for shade at the Australian Open on Tuesday as players were given an early test of their endurance on a sweltering day two at Melbourne Park.

Organisers invoked their Extreme Heat Policy about three hours into the day session as temperatures nudged 36º Celsius and searing gusts of wind blew through the venue.

The tournament's Heat Stress Scale, which measures radiant heat, humidity and air temperature in the shade, crossed its highest threshold of 5.0, halting 10 outdoor matches at the Grand Slam.

Play continued under the roofs of the main showcourts, however, with former world No 1 Andy Murray sweating it out against Italian Matteo Berrettini at Rod Laver Arena.

Organisers said play on outdoor courts would not resume before 5pm local time (6am GMT).

The suspension of play was not welcomed by all players, with local man Jordan Thompson blowing his cool when his match on Court Three was halted when trailing American J.J Wolf 6-3, 1-3.

"When does that ever happen?" world No 88 Thompson barked at the chair umpire.

"I've been here when it's like 45 degrees."

The temperature was already nudging 30º Celsius when matches started in the morning, and Canada's Leylah Fernandez was glad to see off French veteran Alize Cornet in straight sets in the first match on Court 3.

"I think I did well to manage my emotions, and then especially manage the heat, try not to get too hot-headed," Fernandez told reporters.

"So I was very happy with that."

Extreme heat is a feature of the Australian Open, held in mid-summer in the country, with play occasionally suspended and leaving organisers with scheduling headaches.

Tennis Australia tweaked its extreme heat policy at the end of 2018 after a slew of players complained of health and safety risks under the previous system.

Italy's Camila Giorgi speaks to reporters. AP Photo

Giorgi denies using fake Covid-19 travel certificate

Italy's Camila Giorgi has denied allegations that she obtained a false Covid-19 vaccine certificate to allow her to travel.

A doctor is under investigation in Italy for supplying false certificates and fake vaccines and Giorgi’s name was revealed in a long list of people implicated by an Italian newspaper.

On Tuesday after her 6-0, 6-1 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Australian Open, Giorgi confirmed that she had visited the doctor but said she had done nothing wrong.

“I just did all my vaccination in different places, so the trouble is hers, not me,” she said. “So with that, I’m very calm. Of course, if not, I couldn’t come here and play this tennis, I think.”

Giorgi said she was vaccinated by the Italian doctor, and by medical officials in countries elsewhere.

“Once. The other vaccination, I did it in different kind of places, so it’s what I’m trying to explain," she said.

Her father, Sergio Giorgi, was sat at the back of the interview room on Tuesday at Melbourne Park and when the media conference ended, he said: “Unbelievable, no questions about tennis.”

Ahead of the tournament, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he was not fully aware of the fake certificate claims.

“I think there’s still a lot to be uncovered on that and I think that’s going to be ultimately up to their family and the relevant authorities including the tour,” he said. “I don’t really know any further detail.”

Caroline Garcia celebrates her win against Katherine Sebov. Getty Images

Garcia enjoying tennis again after Australian Open stroll

Caroline Garcia declared Tuesday she was enjoying tennis again after a tough couple of years where injuries caused her form to desert her.

The French fourth seed took just 65 minutes to overwhelm Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov 6-3, 6-0 and cement her status as a real contender for the first Grand Slam of the year.

Ranked No 4 in the world in September 2021, she lost in the first round at Melbourne Park a year ago to drop outside the top 70.

But she stormed back into form later in 2022, winning titles on all three surfaces, including the season-ending WTA Tour Finals in Fort Worth to soar up the rankings.

"We always say things can change very quickly," Garcia said after setting up a second-round clash against another Canadian, Leylah Fernandez.

"A couple of years were very tough and I had to deal with a lot of injuries."

She credited her backroom team for her stunning return to elite company.

"It's tough. But I got a good team behind me who really helped me to get healthy again and to enjoy what I was doing on court. The support was really important.

"I enjoyed playing tennis again. I was, like, I want to go forward, I want to make winners," said Garcia, who started her season by winning all three of her matches for France at the United Cup and then reached the quarter-finals in Adelaide.

"It's the best way to play tennis. So I'm trying to keep going that way."

Updated: January 17, 2023, 6:16 AM
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