Top 10 seeds Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev got through in straight sets while Dominic Thiem had to take the scenic route through five sets as they advanced to the third round at the Australian Open on Thursday.
In the night session, top seed Rafael Nadal laboured past dogged fellow left-hander Federico Delbonis. The Spanish world number one created 20 break point chances but was constantly denied by the Argentine before he wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 win on Rod Laver Arena.
The victory set up a third round clash with countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, his doubles partner at this month’s ATP Cup.
Russian fourth seed Medvedev insisted a mid-match nosebleed was not a serious problem as he overcame an underarm serve and stiff resistance from Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez. He was pressed hard in a competitive first set before grinding down the 22-year-old Spaniard 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 with the roof closed on Margaret Court Arena. He plays Australia’s Alexei Popyrin next in Melbourne.
World No 5 Thiem survived a five-set scare after being pushed hard by gutsy home hope Alex Bolt. The Austrian, targeting a maiden Grand Slam crown, looked fragile as the crowd got behind the wildcard but ultimately prevailed 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2 in 3 hours and 22 minutes.
Former champion Stan Wawrinka, seeded 15th, battled back from a break down in the fifth set to overcome fellow veteran Andreas Seppi 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to set a meeting with American 19th seed John Isner
Germany’s Zverev won his second straight Grand Slam match in straight sets. The seventh seed beat Egor Gerasimov 7-6(5), 6-4, 7-5 to reach the third round. The 22-year-old has promised $10,000 to bushfire relief for every match he wins in Melbourne and with the crowd in his corner, he kept his focus up against the player from Belarus.
Showman Nick Kyrgios got the better of Frenchman Gilles Simon off court, with his raw talent shining through in front of an adoring home crowd.
The 24-year-old had the measure of the veteran early on then lost concentration and became agitated before refocusing to win 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 on his favoured Melbourne Arena.
It set up a third-round clash with either Russian 16th seed Karen Khachanov who overcame Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in the fifth set tiebreak.
Qualifier Ernests Gulbis, who had knocked out 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round, continued his good run beating Aljaz Bedene 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
A laboured win for Nadal
Nadal had dropped only 10 games in three previous emphatic wins over 76th-ranked Delbonis, and defeat was never on the cards at Melbourne Park.
“It was a tough match. I lost a lot of opportunities on break point but found a way to finally win the second set,” he said. “In the third I was more relaxed, more aggressive and found better play in that set.”
The Argentine, whose best Grand Slam result was the third round in Melbourne in 2016, made life hard for the 19-time Grand Slam winner, fending off 16 break point chances.
Nadal looked on track for another straightforward victory after racing through the opening set, sealing it with a trademark crosscourt forehand. But he found it tougher going in the second, which went with serve up to the tiebreaker.
Nadal, though, came through and Delbonis never recovered as the Spaniard asserted his authority to race home, but not before hitting a ballgirl on the head with a ball.
He rushed over to console her and gave her a kiss for good measure.
“For her it was not a good moment, I was so scared for her, the ball was quick and straight on her,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy she is good. She is brave. Well done.”
Nosebleed no problem for Medvedev
Medvedev was was up 5-0 in the second set when he required a medical timeout with blood dripping from his nose, something that also interrupted his Australian Open last year.
“Well, I was bleeding from the nose, which can happen to me sometimes. It doesn’t usually happen during the match so I had to stop it,” said the 23-year-old. “Usually takes like four minutes, three, four minutes. I called the physio so he could help me to stop it. But it’s nothing.”
The highest seed behind the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Medvedev struggled to get going against a tenacious player making his Australian Open debut.
But his strength and big serve (with 19 aces) ultimately made the difference.
The Spaniard even resorted to an underarm serve but nothing seemed to help.
The pair stayed on serve in the first set until the pressure exerted by the Russian paid dividends, getting break points in game four and getting the edge when Martinez, ranked 168, sent a backhand into the net.
But poor technique on a volley handed the Spaniard a break back for 3-4 and Martinez’s confidence grew.
They went game for game until Medvedev stepped up a gear to break again for the set when Martinez put a simple forehand into the net.
With the Spaniard sapped of energy, Medvedev twisted the knife, racing into a 5-0 second-set lead before his nosebleed.
Medvedev is aiming to better his best performance at Melbourne Park, which came last year when he made the round of 16 before falling to eventual champion Djokovic.
Thiem scrapes through
Thiem is among a clutch of players tipped to win a Major after reaching the last two Roland Garros finals, but he was exposed at times by a player ranked 140 who controlled much of the second and third sets.
“It was a tough match, Alex played great and he had the crowd support,” said Thiem, who has never gone past the fourth round in six previous attempts. “But I also love to play in such a great atmosphere.”
He faces another tricky clash in the third round, against either American 29th seed Taylor Fritz or big-serving South African Kevin Anderson.
Thiem looked comfortable after racing through the opening set and was serving at 5-4 to go two sets in front. But the crowd was roaring for Bolt and he remarkably broke, with the tide turning as he rallied to clinch the set 7-5.
The third set was a tight affair with neither player giving an inch. Thiem had an opportunity at 4-4 with two break points but he failed to convert.
The Austrian’s best efforts were being met with resistance, with Bolt saving another three break points on his next service game, leaving Thiem frustrated at his missed opportunities.
It went to a tiebreaker and Bolt raced into a 6-2 lead, but wobbled as Thiem won three points in a row before the Australian sent down a booming ace to got two sets to one in front.
However, Thiem recovered his composure and after a series of long baseline rallies broke twice to take the match into a deciding set. The Austrian’s focus and fitness proved decisive in the fifth, with a Bolt forehand into the net giving him a break and he raced to victory as his opponent flagged.
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Federico Del Bonis (ARG) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x27) bt Peter Gojowczyk (GER) 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4
Nick Kyrgios (AUS x23) bt Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5
Karen Khachanov (RUS x16) bt Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/8)
Gael Monfils (FRA x10) bt Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4, 7-5
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) bt Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 7-5, 6-3, 6-2
Taylor Fritz (USA x29) bt Kevin Anderson (RSA) 4-6, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-2
Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Alex Bolt (AUS) 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Pedro Martinez (ESP) 7-5, 6-1, 6-3
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2
John Isner (USA x19) bt Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) 6-4, 6-3, 6-3
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x15) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
David Goffin (BEL x11) bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-3
Andrey Rublev (RUS x17) bt Yuichi Sugita (JPN) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x26) 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4
Alexander Zverev (GER x7) bt Egor Gerasimov (BLR) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5
With AFP inputs