Chasing dawn, high-drama second round wraps at Australian Open

League: Tennis

Posted on: 18 Jan, 2024 at 05:01 PM

Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Dawn threatened at the end of Australian Open men's singles action Thursday, a marathon session traced with high drama and fifth-set tiebreakers as Day 5 jumped into Day 6 at Melbourne.

When play finally ended for the day at 3:39 a.m. local time Friday in the third-latest finish to a match in majors history, Russian third-seed Daniil Medvedev celebrated a five-set comeback from a 2-0 deficit to dispatch Finnish service machine Emil Ruusuvuori. They exited Rod Laver Arena only four hours before courts opened for 8 a.m. practice sessions.

"Tough, tough," Medvedev said after the four-hour, 23-minute match that went 3-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0. "This one is for sure going to stay in my memory. You never know when you have to eat, when you have to warmup. When I went on the court, I was a little bit exhausted in the beginning.

"It was not easy to start the match. First set, I was missing all over the place."

No. 11 Casper Ruud of Norway fought off Australia's Max Purcell, who had the partisan support of the crowd, to earn a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) victory.

Sixth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany needed tiebreaker wins in each of his final two sets to get past Slovakian qualifier Lukas Klein 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).

No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland rallied from a set down to upend 18-year-old Czech Jakub Mensik in another late match on Thursday, 6-7 (9), 6-1, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.

Hurkacz lost an epic five-set tiebreak in Melbourne in 2023 to Sebastian Korda. On Thursday, he claimed the match ending after midnight by converting seven of 21 break points to reach the third round for the second consecutive year.

On the verge of exasperation and after an emotional breakdown and racket toss to draw a warning, Medvedev seemed to gain strength as the marathon pushed into the fifth set in a match that began after 11:30 p.m. local time. In the midst of an 80-minute second set, Medvedev called trainers to tend to a blister but insisted on continuing after a seven-minute medical timeout.

Ruusuvuori, chasing a spot in the third round for the first time, came within two points of the win, but was denied again by the seven-time majors finalist.

Ruusuvuori double faulted in the third set as the courtside clock display clicked to 1:30 a.m., handing Medvedev a break and a 2-1 lead as he went on to win 6-4.

Medvedev said he sparked the rally in part by finding a racket that felt better in the third set.

"Hopefully (I'll be in bed) by 6, 6:30. It can be tough, I will give my everything," Medvedev said.

Far more rested and waiting is third-round opponent, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 27 seed who ousted Hugo Grenier of France 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 earlier in the day.

Ruud saved 12 of 13 break points to escape against Purcell, who saved eight of 10 break points. Both players won 79 percent of their first-serve points and 57 percent of their second-serve points.

"What can I say? It was an incredible match," Ruud said. "Happy with the way I was serving and happy with the way I was playing. ...

"Max is a tricky and good player. ... I grew up playing juniors with him, so I know him very well and I wish him the best of success in the years to come because if he keeps playing like this I think he will have good chances for good results."

Ruud reached major finals at the 2022 and 2023 French Open and the 2022 U.S. Open, but he is still looking for his first grand slam title.

Zverev, whose best finish in a major was as the runner-up at the 2020 U.S. Open, registered 21 aces to stay alive in a match that exceeded 4 1/2 hours.

Britian's Cameron Norrie, seeded 19th, rallied from two sets down to eliminate Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 3-6, 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, setting up a showdown with Ruud in the third round.

In another early Thursday match, 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen defeated No. 32 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

--Field Level Media