MELBOURNE/STARNBERG, February 10, 2021
No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem headlined Friday’s third-round action at the Australian Open securing a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 comeback victory over Australian Nick Kyrgios in three hours and three minutes.
After a scintillating second-round victory over Ugo Humbert on Wednesday, which saw him save two match points, Kyrgios made an impressive return to John Cain Arena. The 25-year-old from Canberra threw a barrage of aces, tweeners and underarm serves at the Austrian in front of a raucous crowd before the 11.30pm curfew hit Melbourne, but Thiem soaked it all up before rallying from two sets down to break Australian hearts.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 12, 2021
“It was an epic match, I think a huge effort from both players, actually. Honestly, I was almost on my way home when I faced two break points in the beginning of the third set,” said Thiem, who finished runner-up last year.
“I think it’s one of the tougher challenges out there in tennis to face Nick when he’s on fire on his favourite court with an unbelievable atmosphere and crowd behind him. So I’m super proud with how I got through it, and it definitely gives me a big boost for everything that is coming.”
Thiem will next face No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria, who benefited from the retirement of 15th favourite Pablo Carreno Busta, leading 6-0, 1-0 when the Spaniard was forced to retire due to illness.
“Clearly it’s very unfortunate for him,” Dimitrov said in his on-court post-match interview. “But I also want to give myself a little bit of the credit because I stayed in the match. I stayed focussed. The first sets of tournaments like this are so important, so I also wanted to save a lot of energy.”
Karatsev continues fine form
Earlier in the day on Johan Cain Arena, Aslan Karatsev caused another upset by knocking out No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The 27-year-old Russian qualifier, playing just his 16th tour-level match and maiden major championship, sent down nine aces and won 72 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after one hour and 52 minutes.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I qualified so I was already very happy,” said Karatsev. “I’ve had a lot of worries over the past few years, so I am relieved, overjoyed to be at this stage. I had a big knee injury a few years ago, so to be here and represent Russia at the ATP Cup last week really gave me confidence.”
Karatsev was outside of the Top 250 in March last year, but following the suspension of the ATP Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Moscow native won 18 of his final 20 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour. He captured back-to-back titles in the Czech Republic, winning the Prague Open as well as the Ostrava Open.
Karatsev will next take on Felix Auger-Aliassime, who emerged victorious from the all-Canadian clash with No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov, winning 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. The No. 20 seed struck 37 winners to finish the encounter after two hours and 28 minutes.
Djokovic survives Fritz
Novak Djokovic‘s hopes of winning an unprecedented ninth Australian Open title are hanging in the balance after suffering a torn stomach muscle during his hard-fought 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 win against US-American Taylor Fritz.
The World No. 1 from Serbia took the opening two sets and appeared on course for a comfortable win, but he took a tumble at the back of the blue court early in the third set and hurt his side. Djokovic took a medical timeout before being visited again by the trainer for more treatment later, but the eight-time champion somehow prevailed after three hours and 25 minutes.
“This is definitely one of the most special wins in my life,” said Djokovic, in an on-court interview. “It does not matter what round it is, against who it is. Under these kinds of circumstances, to pull this through is definitely something I will remember forever.”
The 33-year-old will meet Milos Raonic of Canada in the fourth round on Sunday.
”I know it is a tear of the muscle, so I don’t know if I will manage to recover from that in less than two days,” said Djokovic. “I don’t know if I am going to step out on the court or not. I am just very proud of this achievement tonight.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 12, 2021
Zverev prevails in three sets
In other action, Alexander Zverev eased past French veteran Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. The No. 6 seed from Germany fired 19 aces and won 88 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after one hour and 43 minutes.
“It was a good match,” said Zverev. “I thought I tried to play extremely aggressive, tried to use my chances, and I’m happy with the win. The past few times I played Adrian it was always a very long match, always a very tough match, and I am happy to get the straight-sets win today.”
Zverev will play No. 23 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, who equaled his best major championship result by beating Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 in three hours and 13 minutes.