Australian Open 2023 Upsets From Week 1

With the first Grand Slam of the year now entering its second week we look back at the biggest upsets from the first 3 rounds.

Australian Open

Below are what we think the 3 biggest upsets in the men’s and women’s draw of the 2023 Australian Open’s first 3 rounds.

Men’s Upsets

Rafael Nadal (1) vs Mackenzie McDonald

2023 Australian Open 2nd Round – McDonald won 6-4, 6-4, 7-5

Hand and ball scaled

Defending champions and the number 1 seed Rafa Nadal suffered a painful exit from the 2023 Australian Open in round 2 against the aggressive American McDonald. The world number 65 showed no fear against a clearly out-of-form Nadal, the Spaniard had won just 2 of his previous 8 games before that one.

In a tight first set McDonald saved multiple breakpoints to eventually win 6-4. He kept Nadal running across the court in set 2, near the end of which the Spaniard hurt his hip and even had to leave the court for a medical timeout.

Nadal returned after that, but clearly wasn’t moving very well. Sensing that McDonald upped the tempo and started to take very little time between serves, which helped him to win 2 more sets and record undoubtedly the most famous win of his career.

Sadly for him after this effort McDonald was eliminated in round 3.

Taylor Fritz (8) vs Alexei Popyrin (WC)

2023 Australian Open 2nd Round – Popyrin won 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-2

The world number 113 Popyrin received wildcard for the tournament and the Aussie inspired his countrymen in the firsts week of the 2023 Australian Open. He not simply reached round 3, only the fifth wildcard player to do so in the history of this Slam, but on the way caused a major upset.

After Nadal’s early exit Fritz, seeded 8th, looked the favourite to come out of this bracket. However, nobody could predict what show the big underdog Popyrin would produce when they met in round 2. The Aussie played the game of his life against Fritz and despite losing 2 dramatic tiebreaks he still edged the match 3 sets to 2.

Popyrin simply blasted his opponent off the court with his 19 aces and 77 winners. Fritz didn’t play too bad actually, but he simply had no answer for Popyrin’s serve and this ended up being decisive. Many thought when Popyrin missed a match-point in set 4 and lost the tiebreak 6:8 that Fritz would win. Popyrin never stopped backing himself though and dominated in the final set to record the biggest win of his young career.

Popyrin clearly left too much on the court in this win as his fairytale ended 2 days later with defeat in round 3 against an unseeded opponent.

Jenson Brooksby vs Casper Ruud (2)

2023 Australian Open 2nd Round – Brooksby won 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2

The world number 3 and seeded 2nd for the tournament Ruud was another big gun that got knocked out in round 2. He lost 1:3 against the world’s number 39 Jenson Brooksby. The inexperienced American offered a great display and showed strength of character too to come out as winner.

Engaged from the start Brooksby made his move in an even first set at 3:3 when he won a decisive 30-shot rally to break Ruud’s serve and subsequently win the opening set. Brooksby then stormed to a 5:2 lead in the second set only to allow Ruud to fight back to 5:5. However, the American kept winning most of the long rallies and he ended up taking this strange set 7:5.

Brooksby then missed match-points in set 3 and after losing the tiebreak many thought that the world number 3 is about to make a famous comeback. Brookby was not to be shaken though and with decisive breaks early in the fourth set he was able to close the match and reach round 3.

However, just like the other 2 heroes above the energy he spent to beat Ruud proved costly and in round 3 he lost against a fellow unseeded American.

Women’s Upsets

Marketa Vondrousova vs Ons Jabeur (2)

2023 Australian Open 2nd Round – Vondrousova won 6-1, 5-7, 6-1

Ons Jabeur scaled

After reaching the final in the last 2 Grand Slams the world number 2 Jabeur entered the 2023 Australian Open as one of the top 5 favourties to win the title. Jabeur carried an injury into the tournament, but she never took any medical timeouts in her brief stay in Melbourne and simply played very poorly to lose against the world number 86 Marketa Vondrousova.

Vondrousova won the first and the third set of this match 6-1, while Jabeur showed some skill only in set 2. The Tunisian simply beat herself as she amassed 50 unforced errors in the match and also won just 35% of her points on second serve.

Vondrousova couldn’t backup this famous win with more and in round 3 she lost against another unseeded Czech player exceeding expectations Fruhvirtova.

Zhu Lin vs Maria Sakkari (6)

2023 Australian Open 3rd Round – Zhu won 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-4

The world number 6 Sakkari is so far the highest ranked player to exit the Women’s 2023 Australian Open. The Greek lost in round 3 against a spirited Chinese Zhu Lin, who is only number 87 in the world and has never been inside the top 50.

Already overachieving by making it to round 3 Zhu Lin started well and twice countered breaks of Sakkari to force a tiebreak in the first set. Inexplicably the far more experienced player Sakkari gifted the set to Zhu with a series of 4 consecutive unforced errors in the tiebreak.

The Greek then romped 6-1 through the second set and many expected to see a simialr outcome in the decider. Instead Sakkari began to commit unforced errors again, she ended up the match with 52 unforced errors. This kept Zhu in contention and the longer the game progressed the stronger was the belief of the Chinese. In the end she broke at the most decisive of moments to claim the biggest win of her career.

Zhu now anticipates her round 4 clash vs Azarenka with great excitement. This the first time ever the Chinese has made it into a second week of a Grand Slam.

Anhelina Kalinina vs Petra Kvitova (15)

2023 Australian Open 2nd Round – Kalinina won 7-5, 6-4

The world number 39 Kalinina is young rising player, but she has very limited Grand Slam experience. Prior the 2023 Australian Open she has never been past round 2, with her only appearance in Melbourne resulting in round 1 defeat.

Still Kalinina brought her improving form during 2022 with her Down Under and in round 2 managed to eliminate the 15th seed and multiple Grand Slam winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets. It wasn’t easy and both sets were close affairs, but Kalinina showed envying composure during key rallies and this is what brought her the win.

Kalinina had only 12 unforced errors in this match and this proved crucial for her to win. At the same time the 2 decisive breaks of serve Kvitova conceded to lose both sets were pretty much gifts from her as in both the Czech recorded 4 unforced errors.

Kalinina failed to continue in the tournament for much longer though and in round 3 she lost against the 20th seed Krejcikova.

About the author


Iskra had a promising, at least she believed so, tennis and volleyball careers as a junior but a series of injuries ended her hopes to become a professional athlete very early.

Instead, she focused all her energy on her other passion, writing. For over a decade, Iskra had been a freelance sports writer. Football, basketball and tennis are the main fields of her expertise.