World No 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas was pushed to a marathon five sets by wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis Thursday before making the Australian Open third round while Andrey Rublev extended his unbeaten start to the year.
Later, birthday boy Daniil Medvedev added another win to his red-hot streak as the Russian fourth seed demolished Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 to ease into the third round and second seed Rafael Nadal wrapped up proceedings on the show courts with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Michael Mmoh.
Tsitsipas, the popular Greek star dropped only four games in his first-round match, but faced a far sterner challenge from the 267th-ranked Australian. He finally came through 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4
Kokkinakis, who has been plagued by injury and illness during his career, fought hard. With the home crowd becoming ever more vociferous in their support, he gave as good as he got in a close first set, with both players trading blows in long rallies and big serves.
The Australian saved two set points at 4-5 and took it to a tiebreaker, where he prevailed on the back of a Tsitsipas double fault. But the Greek’s superior firepower and fitness came to the fore in the second set and by the third Kokkinakis appeared to be running out of steam, unable to match Tsitsipas’ consistency.
He found a second wind, though, in the fourth set and after saving a match point at 4-5 took it to a fifth, buoyed by the energy of the crowd. However, Tsitsipas’ unrelenting return on serve wore him down and he got a decisive break in fifth game as Kokkinakis tired.
The 22-year-old next plays Swede Mikael Ymer, who beat promising Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz.
Medvedev, who turned 25 on Thursday, clocked his 16th straight win dating back to November. He will next play Serbian 28th seed Filip Krajinovic, who eased past Spain’s Pablo Andujar in four sets.
Medvedev’s sizzling form makes him a serious contender to claim a maiden Grand Slam title and he was in fine touch against Carballes Baena, ranked 99. He quickly took charge, returning well and dominating at the baseline and net to comfortably take he opening set.
The Russian was pressed harder in the second but that was as good as it got for Carballes Baena, who lost focus and was punished by a man at the top of his game.
Seventh seed Rublev has been in impressive form and battled past Brazilian left-hander Thiago Monteiro 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) in workmanlike fashion.
The former junior world No 1 broke Monteiro in the third game of the opening set with a baseline winner and again in the eighth game of the second when the Brazilian sent a forehand wide.
The 23-year-old was pushed harder in the third set, with his frustrations evident when he missed an easy volley at 4-4. His focus briefly wavered with Monteiro working three set points only for Rublev to save them all in holding serve for 5-5. It went to a tiebreaker and they went point-for-point before Rublev finally got over the line on his third match point.
Rublev reached two Slam quarter-finals last year at the US Open and Roland Garros in a breakthrough season that saw him win five ATP Tour titles, more than any other player. He was also joint top of the list for most matches won, on 41 alongside world number one Novak Djokovic, and has started 2021 on a six-match streak after helping Russia win the ATP Cup.
He will next play veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. The 39-year-old was taken five sets in his record-extending 75th consecutive Grand Slam before beating Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. No one has made more consecutive Grand Slam appearances than Lopez, who is playing his record-extending 75th in a row, having not missed one since the French Open in 2002.
Elsewhere, world number 192 Mackenzie McDonald beat Borna Coric 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to hand the Croatian 22nd seed the biggest upset of his career.
McDonald, 25, became the lowest-ranked tour-level winner against Coric, a US Open quarter-finalist last year, and reaches a Grand Slam third round for only the second time.
Italians Fabio Fognini and Salvatore Caruso had to be separated by an official during a furious argument after their five-set classic. Fognini, the 16th seed, prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (14/12) in nearly four hours after a fierce battle on John Cain Arena.
But rather than the traditional polite congratulations, the pair argued furiously in Italian for several minutes, gesturing and wagging their fingers. Translations of the spat suggested firebrand Fognini told Caruso – in colourful language – that he had been lucky with some close calls, which Caruso took exception to.
Eventually the court supervisor had to step between the pair and tell them to cool off, with Caruso walking away and bowing to the crowd as he exited.
Andrey Rublev (RUS x7) bt Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8)
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA x31) 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR x24) bt Tommy Paul (USA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5
Radu Albot (MDA) bt Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (10/8)
Lloyd Harris (RSA) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3
Mackenzie McDonald (USA) bt Borna Coric (CRO x22) 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Filip Krajinovic (SRB x28) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Roberto Carballes (ESP) 6-2, 7-5, 6-1
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x5) bt Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4
Mikael Ymer (SWE) bt Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
Karen Khachanov (RUS x19) bt Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-2, 6-4, 6-4
Matteo Berrettini (ITA x9) bt Tomas Machac (CZE) 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Fabio Fognini (ITA x16) bt Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (14/12)
Alex De Minaur (AUS x21) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3, 6-3, 7-5
Cameron Norrie (GBR) bt Roman Safiullin (RUS) 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
With AFP Inputs