Day four of the Australian Open was a seeded player’s bloodbath as 11 seeds bowed out of the tournament.
Second seed Caspar Ruud, 8th seed Taylor Fritz, 12th seed Alexander Zverev, 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, 23rd seed Diego Schwartzman and 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina dropped from the men’s while women’s 2nd seed Ons Jabeur, 9th seed Veronika Kudermetova, 16th seed Anett Kontaveit, 18th seed Liudmila Samsonova, 27th seed Irina-Camelia Begu all lost on a wild day.
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Even men’s favourite Novak Djokovic had a slight scare when World No. 191 Enzo Couacaud took the second set of their match while the Serbian 4th seed appeared to battle his troublesome hamstring.
But it was all just an appetiser for one of the great Australian Open matches between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Murray pulled off a ridiculous comeback from two sets down to claim a 4-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 7-5 win in five hours and 45 minutes.
“Absolutely bonkers! Murray through to the third round of the #AusOpen after the longest match of his 18 year career…almost six hours v Kokkinakis. Insane,” tweeted one on-looker.
The five-time Australian Open finalist turned back the clock in one of the gutsiest performances the tennis world has seen in a long time.
It was the second-latest finishing match in history, finally coming to an end just after 4am.
Only the Lleyton Hewitt-Marcos Baghdatis round three clash in 2008 which finished at 4.34am had a later finishing time, while the 2012 final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had a longer run time at five hours and 53 minutes.
“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for. We come here (to a press conference) after the match, and that’s what the discussion is. Rather than it being like epic Murray-Kokkinakis match, it ends in a bit of a farce,” Murray said.
“Amazingly people stayed until the end. I really appreciate people doing that, creating an atmosphere for us at the end. I really appreciate that. Some people need to work the following day.”
“If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5am in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that,” Murray added.
“It’s not beneficial for them. It’s not beneficial for the umpires, the officials. I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans. It’s not good for the players.”
“We talk about it all the time. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”
He was backed by his seven-times doubles grand slam champion brother, Jamie.
“Time for tennis to move to only one match at the night sessions at grand slams,” Jamie tweeted. “This is the best outcome for ALL singles players. We can’t continue to have players compete into the wee hours of the morning. Rubbish for everyone involved – players/fans/event staff.”
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova joined the calls for change in the wake of the late finish.
“It is essential we create better rules in tennis regarding the weather (light and wind) and starting times or cutoff times for matches,” the 18-time grand slam champion tweeted. “Murray and Kokkinakis will finish around 4am. Crazy — no other sport does this.”
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley however shut down the noise by stating no changes to the late schedule would be forthcoming.
“At this point, there’s no need to alter the schedule,” he said on The Today Show.
“We will always look at it, when we do the (tournament) debrief – like we do every year.
“But at this point, at what it is, we’ve got to fit those matches in the 14 days, so you don’t have many options.”
After epic service holds in the fifth and final set, Murray finally broke at 5-all to claim the win.
Kokkinakis was clearly upset by the loss but a rowdy crowd who stayed showed the Aussie plenty of respect.
He took to Twitter soon after writing: “This f**king sport man.”
One of the commentators said: “They’ll both take away something so much more valuable than rankings points or prizemoney and that’s respect.
“Respect is always earned and never given and they have earned it from every single corner, not only of this stadium, but of the globe as well.”
Murray appeared just as stunned by what he had achieved as the rest of the world.
“Unbelievable that I managed to turn that around,” Murray said. “Thanasi was serving unbelievably well, hitting his forehand huge and I don’t know how I managed to get through it. I did start playing better as the match went on and … I have a big heart.”
John Fitzgerald replied “you have a big everything, I think” and, in a lighter moment, Murray responded, “my wife might disagree”.
Kokkinakis’ heartbreak came on an overall positive day for Australia.
Even though the host nation’s last female hope Kim Birrell was knocked out, Alexei Popyrin defeated World No. 9 Taylor Fritz, while Alex de Minaur overcame Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in four sets.
11.20pm – De Minaur battles through
Australia now has two men into the third round after Alex De Minaur survived an early onslaught against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Mannarino looked like he was going to push the Aussie all the way, taking de Minaur to a tiebreak in the first set before winning the second 6-4.
The Frenchman wasn’t giving an inch through the first three sets but when de Minaur claimed the third 6-4, it appeared to break Mannarino’s back.
The 22nd seed won the match 7-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 and will face Benjamin Bonzi in the next round, who knocked out 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set thriller, claiming the match in a 10-point tiebreaker.
10.50pm – Novak demands hecklers get booted
Far from the love-in he enjoyed at his first round match, Djokovic was battling hecklers throughout the evening, finally blowing up in the fourth set, demanding the group dressed like characters from Where’s Wally? be kicked out.
“He’s been provoking all night, the entire night, the entire night — what are you going to do about it?” Djokovic complained to the umpire.
“What are you going to do about it? What?”
After giving him the umpire a chance to speak, Djokovic continued: “You’re kidding me, you know who it is. The guy’s drunk out of his mind. From the first point he’s been provoking. He’s not here to watch tennis. He just wants to get in my head. So I’m asking you, what are you going to do about it? You’ve heard him at least 10 times — I’ve heard him 50 times. What are you going to do about it?
“Why not? Why don’t you get security guards and get him out of the stadium?”
The cameras soon found the man who blew kisses to the Serbian star.
A security guard did intervene, sitting in front of the men.
However, after continued interruptions they were escorted from the stadium.
The question in the commentary box was whether they had said something over the top to provoke the response from Djokovic.
Speaking in his press conference about the incident, Djokovic said “the super majority of people are always respectful”.
“What I have a problem with is when somebody‘s crossing the line – numerous times. From the very beginning, guys that were under the influence of alcohol, it was obvious, and I was grabbing my towel very close to them, particularly one guy, you heard his voice various times tonight, was insulting me and provoking me and saying things that were not respectful at all.”
Djokovic added that the chair umpire should have done more to stamp out the bad behaviour from the fan.
“It‘s just unnecessary because why should we as players be put in a position where we have to always react when it‘s been two hours. It’s not been 10 minutes. This is what I mind, and this is why I felt the need to go out there because I had enough, you know?
“I can tolerate five, six times somebody telling me something, but there is a limit. That limit was crossed, and I stepped in and I asked the chair umpire, is he going to do something about it or not? He did, and I thanked him.”
Djokovic quickly finished the match, winning the match 6-1 6-7 6-2 6-0.
But he may have more to think about, revealing after the match his hamstring was troubling him.
“A little bit of everything tonight, just glad to get through this kind of match,” he said.
“To be honest, it (the hamstring) is not good at all to be honest. I’ll take it day to day, it was better feeling last match. That’s all I can say, now it’s really up to God to help me, and physio and everyone. Let’s take it day by day, hopefully I will be able to recover and be ready for a tough match up next match.”
10.09pm – Novak in trouble amid wild Open bloodbath
World No. 191 Enzo Couacaud has taken a set off tournament favourite Novak Djokovic after what has been a spectacularly brutal day for seeded players.
So far, 2nd seed Caspar Ruud, 8th seed Taylor Fritz, 12th seed Alexander Zverev, 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, 23rd seed Diego Schwartzman and 30th see Alejandro Davidovich Fokina have all been ousted from the tournament, while 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut went five sets.
But while Djokovic was expected to coast through against the man ranked nearly 200 places below him, the Frenchman has sent a shockwave through the tournament.
Djokovic won the first set 6-1 before Couacaud stunned the world, winning the second in a tiebreak.
Although Djokovic broke early in the third, he’s still not home and during the second he appeared to be struggling with his hamstring injury hurt during the Adelaide International.
Djokovic bounced back to win the third set and leads 6-1 6-7 6-2.
7.20pm – Popyrin wins in huge upset
He’s done it.
Aussie young gun Alexei Popyrin has pulled off one of the upsets of the Australian Open, defeating Taylor Fritz in a five-set thriller.
Popyrin played out of his skin to defeat the highly fancied eighth seed 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-2.
He took it right up to Fritz in a scintillating performance, including a brilliant third set in which he didn’t lose a single point on serve.
He raced through the final set to book his spot in the third round, equalling his best ever result at a grand slam.
The 23-year-old is the first Aussie man to beat a top 10 player at the Australian Open since 2005.
6.30pm – Popyrin on fire against Fritz
Another huge upset could be on the cards as Alexei Popyrin takes it right up to Taylor Fritz.
The American won the first set 7-6 but the Aussie youngster played a scintillating second set tiebreak to level the match at one set apiece.
Popryin carried on the momentum to win the third set 6-4 and remarkably didn’t lose a single point on serve during the set.
But Fritz survived a match point in the fourth set tiebreak to force a fifth and deciding set.
5.04pm – Major 29-year upset shocks the world
Is American men’s tennis back?
World No. 39 Jenson Brooksby has pulled off a giant upset, eliminating World No. 3 Casper Ruud as the top two seeds bowed out in back to back days to American youngsters.
Yesterday it was an injured Rafael Nadal bowing out to Mackenzie McDonald — today was Brooksby’s turn in a commanding 6-3 7-5 6-7 6-2 win.
It didn’t all go his way as Brooksby has erupted at the end of the third set after he missed a golden opportunity to finish off World No. 2 Casper Ruud, having lost three match points to go to a fourth set.
But he made no mistake in the fourth dominating the Norwegian to book a place in the next round against fellow American Tommy Paul, who ousted 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five sets earlier in the day.
It’s the first time since the 1994 French Open that the top two seeds have been knocked out by Americans and shows the renewed depth of US tennis.
Currently 13 American men are in the top 100 players in the world — headlined by World No. 9 Taylor Fritz, world No. 17 Frances Tiafoe and World No. 31 Sebastian Korda.
For the record, Paul is ranked No. 35, setting up a mouthwatering clash between the young Americans for a place in the fourth round.
12.40pm – Stosur’s doubles career comes to an end
Sam Stosur’s doubles career has come to an end on Kia Arena following a straight sets loss in first round of the doubles tournament.
Stosur and teammate Alize Cornet fell to Chan Hao-ching and Yang Zhaoxuan 6-3 6-4.
She still has one more event scheduled at the Aussie grand slam, a mixed doubles campaign alongside fellow Aussie Matt Ebden.
Stosur, 38, announced this would be her final Australian Open campaign before the tournament got underway, saying she was excited to farewell the game at her 21st Australian Open.
“It’s incredible to play in a home tournament, and we’re very lucky to have a home Grand Slam. I’ve now been here 21 times, so I can’t complain,” she said.
“My family made lots of sacrifices when I was younger to allow me to follow my dreams, I couldn’t ask for anything more from my mum and dad.
“They’ve been my biggest supporters, and I thank them for everything that I’ve been able to do.”
11am – Kyrgios’ backstage grope caught on camera
Melbourne Park cameras don’t miss anything.
Nick Kyrgios should know that after his years on tour, but if he didn’t he sure does now.
Despite withdrawing from the Australian Open due to a knee injury, the Aussie continues to dominate social media.
Footage was uploaded to Twitter showing Kyrgios and girlfriend Costeen Hatzi walking around in the warm up area backstage when the Canberra native gets handsy with his partner.
The two are fooling around when the 27-year-old Kyrgios hugs her from behind before he fondles her chest.
Social media users were stunned by the footage.
“Why is he doing that in the middle of the hallway why is he even at the tournament?” one observer commented.
“Like the most annoying couple in a high school hallway,” another said. “Also get outta here. Why is he still here?”
7am – Fouled mouthed hecklers booted from Aus Open
A trio of British fans were sent packing from the Australian Open on Wednesday after unloading a barrage of taunts at French player Constant Lestienne.
Lestienne was taking on Britain’s Cameron Norrie in a second round clash when the unruly fans kicked off in the opening set.
The loudmouthed fans drew the attention of Melbourne Park security and were escorted out long before Norrie secured the 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory.
Chants rang out from the fans after Norrie took a 4-3 lead in the opening set as they started off with a loud “Enger-land” chant.
The Frenchman was visibly frustrated by the chants and after being handed a time violation, the fans started going after him directly.
Anger boiled over as Lestienne effectively threw points away and at the end of the opening set things got even worse.
The rowdy fans being chanting “Constant’s going home” as well as “You’re just a sh*t Andy Murray”. It was then that the chair umpire got out of his seat and walked over to security who promptly removed the fans.
The three men didn’t go quietly however as they sculled their beers and continued singing “he’s going home” on their way out.
The second round contest finally came to an end at 1:30am (AEDT) with Norrie booking his place in the third round.
6am – Day three wrapped up
Defending champion Rafael Nadal hobbled out of the second round in a huge upset at the Australian Open, as Coco Gauff beat Emma Raducanu in a battle of the rising stars.
The 36-year-old Nadal was clearly hindered by a hip issue that required a medical time-out, as he went down 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to the American.
The Italian 15th seed Jannik Sinner, 16th seed Frances Tiafoe and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime all won.
So too did Daniil Medvedev, the losing finalist at the past two Australian Opens, who overcame a partisan crowd to dismiss Australian wildcard John Millman 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas raced past Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata in 92 minutes.
The 18-year-old American Gauff, seen as the heir to now-retired Serena Williams, defeated former US Open champion Raducanu 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Earlier, world number one Iga Swiatek and dangerous American Jessica Pegula led the charge into the third round.
Polish title favourite Swiatek swept past Colombia’s Camila Osorio 6-2, 6-3 while third seed Pegula downed Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).
Greece’s Maria Sakkari also went through, but she looked anything but the sixth seed in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 struggle against Russian qualifier and college student Diana Shnaider.
Sakkari was irked by Shnaider’s fist pumps and celebratory screams, before finding her composure.
In the last match of the day, last year’s beaten finalist Danielle Collins had an almighty scare before defeating Karolina Muchova 6-7 (1/7), 6-2, 7-6 (10/6).