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In the opening match on Kia Arena, Australian wildcard recipient Adam Walton was impressive but ultimately outclassed in his grand slam debut against Italian Matteo Arnaldi who prevailed 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4.


The pair traded breaks of serve in the first set before both managed to settle into their service games.  With the Italian serving at 4-4, Walton, who brought the Kia Arena crowd along for the ride,  had three break point chances as Arnaldi’s forehand fluctuated between being world class and wobbly. Despite vocal pleas from his players box to “keep knocking on the door” Walton was unable to take his chances and Arnaldi survived although his respite did not last long. 


Under the watchful eye of Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, Walton then quickly held to level at 5-all before suffocating the Italian on return to finally get his second break of the match.  Leading 6-5, the 167th-ranked Australian was not however able to close it out on serve with two missed mid-court forehand opportunities and a backhand unforced error gifting Arnaldi a lifeline back into the set. 


Taking a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, nerves appeared to get the better of Walton who quickly surrendered a lead he would not later erode.  Untroubled from there on, Arnaldi took the set and with it, any momentum Walton and his partisan crowd had worked to develop in the first 65 minutes of play. 


Having dodged an early bullet, Arnaldi, who later confessed to some early nerves in that first set, settled into the blustery conditions, pinned his ears back, and raced away with the second set as he found his range both on serve and from the back of the court.   


Despite a spirited effort in the third set, Arnaldi was able to parry any thrust Walton made against his more accomplished rival who confidently served out the match after 2 hours and 36 minutes. 


Arnaldi will face the winner of Monday night’s feature match on Rod Laver Arena between Australian Alex de Minaur and Milos Raonic on Wednesday.  

Over at John Cain Arena, Aussie Dane Sweeny earned plenty of admirers but was gallant in defeat, going down in five tough sets to Argentinian, Francisco Cerundolo.

In a topsy-turvy match, full of momentum swings, Cerundolo was too strong for Sweeny, closing out the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, with Sweeny leaving nothing on the court.

The strong support for the likeable Aussie spurred Sweeny on to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set, with Cerdundolo looking rattled early.

Standing at only 5”7 and 63 kgs, Sweeny isn’t an imposing figure but he makes up for it with his work-rate and consistency. 

The 22 year old mixed up the play nicely with some big returns, deft slices and even a few sneak attacks to the net, not allowing Cerundolo to get into a rhythm.

Sweeny was able to serve out the set at 5-3 after an early break did all the damage, not facing a break point throughout. 

In contrast to the first set, the Argentinian steadied in the second, getting the early break and consolidating for a 3-0 lead.

Sweeny made a big push at 5-3 down but it was to no avail, with the Argentinian serving out the set.

The third set was a tussle. Both players traded breaks early with some gruelling rallies throughout the set.

A sloppy service game by Sweeny late in the 3rd was taken full advantage of by Cerundolo, as the 22nd set served out the set. 

Sweeny refused to drop his head, coming out hot in the 4th, breaking the Argentinian in the fourth game with a sloppy Cerundolo double fault. 

Consolidating to go up 4-1, Sweeny lifted, bringing the crowd to life again as Cerundolo was visibly irritated, gesturing to his box.

The Aussie continued to ride the wave of momentum, breaking the 22nd seed again to take the 4th set.

Cerundolo lifted his level in the 5th, breaking Sweeny early and keeping the pressure on the young Aussie, as he quickly raced to a 5-2 lead, eventually sealing it in style with a forehand winner down the line. 

Despite the loss, Sweeny was in good spirits, attributing his positive mindset to his recent good run of form.

“For me it’s all about consistent mental application. There’s gonna be a time where I do well at a big tournament. I’m just thrilled that it’s at the Aussie Open in front of a home crowd.”

The Aussie said he gained confidence playing another top 25 player, fellow Argentinian Sebastian Baez in Shanghai last year, coming into this match.

“Playing (Sebastian) Baez gave me a bit of belief that I could win today. I knew that the level was pretty similar. I knew that I could keep it with these guys that are around 20 in the world. While I didn’t get the job done today, I definitely took it to him.”

As for the rest of 2024, Sweeny has big goals, stating he wants to end the year “in double digits, 99”, showcasing a huge hunger and drive that belies his 5”7 frame.


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