Injuries or poor form have reduced the number of players of Jewish or Israeli heritage in this year’s Australian Open at Melbourne Park to just two, compared to five last year.
Only Jewish Italian Camila Giorgi and Israeli-born Canadian Denis Shapovalov – who both made it to the third round in last year’s Australian Open singles competitions – saw first round action.
Russian-Israeli Aslan Karatsev, ranked 39th, suffered a round one mid-match injury at the ATP Brisbane International on January 2, so had to withdraw.
Jewish Argentinian Diego Schwartzman – whose ranking fell from the 30s to 107th in 2023 – had to enter the Australian Open qualifying rounds this year, and bowed out first-up with a 6-7 4-6 loss to American Denis Kudla.
And Jewish American Madison Brengle, currently ranked 144, did not come to Australia this summer.
Shapovalov, who was out of action from July to early January’s Auckland Classic due to a knee injury, returned to the Australian Open using his protected ranking, but lost his first-round match on Monday in straight sets to rising Czech teen Jakub Mensik, who made the third round of last year’s US Open.
While disappointed, Shapovalov said he felt grateful to be healthy again, and back on tour.
On Tuesday, 55th-ranked Giorgi lost her first-round match, but it was a real battle versus the 18th seed Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and 2023 semi-finalist.
Giorgi was outclassed 1-6 in the first set, but used her trademark grit and power game to get on top and win the second set 6-4, but Azarenka regained momentum to win the deciding set 6-3.
Azarenka praised Giorgi after the match, saying “We know how dangerous an opponent she is – she hits so hard, and she can come into the first round [of a major] and beat anybody.”