Former world No 1 Daniil Medvedev opened his 2023 singles campaign on Tuesday with a tough workout against Lorenzo Sonego, who pressed him hard before retiring hurt at the Adelaide International.
Medvedev began his season with a doubles defeat alongside fellow Russian Andrey Rublev on Monday, which gave him a chance to fine-tune after ending 2022 with four straight defeats.
But he was not given a free ride by world No 45 Sonego, saving an incredible nine set points before prevailing 7-6 (6), 2-1 when the Italian pulled the pin with a right arm issue.
“I didn’t know it was nine set points, that’s crazy and probably the first time in my life I’ve saved nine set points,” said the world No 7.
“What a match to start the year and definitely unfortunate for everybody that it finished early even though we played for 1hr 40mins.
“I’m happy to be through and to win the first set.”
Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion, is warming up for another tilt at the Australian Open after suffering a demoralising five-set loss from two sets up against Rafael Nadal in the final last year.
In their first-ever meeting, he and Sonego sized each other up in a nine-minute opening game with the Italian holding.
Medvedev’s relentless baseline play earned him two break points in game three, but he was unable to convert.
Sonego fended off another in the eighth game, but the tables were turned in game nine when the Russian had to dig deep to save six set points after a series of uncharacteristic unforced errors.
He saved another three set points in the next game before prevailing in the tiebreak after an 80-minute set.
They exchanged breaks in the second set before Sonego called for the trainer and after treatment on his right arm, retired.
Novak Djokovic will make his singles bow later on Tuesday after being given a hero’s welcome when he played a losing doubles clash on an outside court on Monday.
It was his first match on Australian soil since being deported before the 2022 Australian Open for not being vaccinated for Covid and subsequently barred from re-entering for three years.
But the ban was lifted in November and he took on Frenchman Constant Lestienne to begin preparations for a tilt at a 10th Australian Open title.
Prior to his haul of 21 major trophies, the then 19-year-old Djokovic beat Chris Guccione in the 2007 Adelaide final before his breakthrough triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open a year later.
Former Grand Slam champions Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka also play on Tuesday.