In one of the biggest days for locals at the Australian Open in recent memory, a whopping 11 Aussies got their tournament underway on day two at Melbourne Park.
It didn’t take long for a major breakthrough, with Storm Hunter finally making the second round of her home slam after losing her five previous first-round matches on home soil.
Hunter becomes the first Australian woman into the second round of this year’s tournament, before Alexei Popyrin set up a date with Novak Djokovic after beating countryman Marc Polmans.
But there was heartbreak elsewhere for the local hopes, not to mention the bizarre moment Aussie Jordan Thompson called the Aus Open the “wokest tournament ever” over a new rule.
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‘Doesn’t seem real!’ Aussie amped with W | 02:21
RINKY FALLS JUST SHORT OF BIG COMEBACK
The final Aussie in action on day two – and technically the first on day three – fell just short of upsetting a seeded rival, with No.24 Jan-Lennard Struff holding off Rinky Hijikata in five sets.
The reigning Australian Open doubles champion was threatening a big result early when he claimed the opening set out on Court 3.
But Struff’s serve got going from there, allowing him to save multiple set points at 5-6 in the fourth, before it was the Aussie’s serve who shone in the tiebreaker and as the clock struck 11:30pm they moved into a fifth set.
Hijikata then broke Struff to love to begin the decider, and held to love for a 2-0 lead.
Yet after the longest rally of the match Struff earned a crucial break point at 3-4, converting it thanks to a wild Hijikata return of a return, for 4-4 in the fifth.
Struff proved the aggressor from there, particularly in the match tiebreak. From 7-3, Hijikata got it back to 8-7, and on match point Struff stuffed up the serve and volley. But defending match point on his racquet Hijikata couldn’t get it done, allowing the German to prevail 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-7(2) 7-6(8).
AUSSIE WHACKS NEW RULES IN WEIRD RANT
Jordan Thompson has edged out fellow Aussie Aleksandar Vukic in a tense five-set clash, in a match full of drama.
Thompson prevailed in a match lasting more than four hours, sealing victory when Vukic netted a smash when trying to save the second of two match points.
While the battle was tense enough on its own, the often-animated Thompson created more drama when he stopped play to complain about crowd movement, before learning about a new rule introduced in the tournament.
Thompson was ready to serve at 3-1 up in the second set when fans continued to pour into Court 3.
Under a new rule this year, fans can enter stadiums between games, not just at the change of ends – but it has caused some problems given there is a shorter break between normal games than at a change of ends.
It meant that Thompson was left standing around waiting for fans to find their seats.
The Aussie asked the umpire to sort out the tardy fans, but was left in disbelief after hearing about the rule change.
“You’re kidding me, really? Oh my god,” he said. “This is the wokest tournament ever.”
“It’s just not smart,” Thompson added after that game concluded, as the umpire clarified the new rules for him.
Thompson overcame the issue to take a two sets to one lead, 3-6 7-6(3) 6-2.
He would ultimately win 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Day 2 wrap: Multiple Aussies progress! | 01:31
AUSSIE QUALIFIER FALLS SHORT OF UPSET
– Ed Bourke, Newswire
Resurgent Australian Omar Jasika has bowed out of his first Australian Open match in seven years in straight sets despite briefly threatening a boilover in his clash with ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz.
The former US Open junior champion pushed the big-hitting Hurkacz to a first set tie-break but was overpowered by the Polish star in a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2 defeat on John Cain Arena.
Jasika, 26, was playing in the main draw at Melbourne Park for the first time since he was handed a two-year ban for a positive test to cocaine in 2017.
He had won the singles and doubles junior boys’ titles at the US Open in 2014 before reaching the second round of the Australian Open in his senior grand slam debut in 2016.
The world No. 341 won through to the main draw via qualifying after a year spent in relative obscurity including low-tier tournaments in Burnie, Swan Hill and Cairns.
Jasika withstood early pressure from Hurkacz, who hit twice as many unforced errors but thumped 24 aces for the match, to force a tie-break but dropped two costly points to allow the 196cm Pole to skip away to a 7-4 victory.
The Australian was then the first of the pair to gain a break point early in the second set but squandered it before Hurkacz began to take control of the match.
The ninth seed will next face Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik after the 18-year-old upset Canadian former world No. 10 Denis Shapovalov in straight sets earlier on Monday.
Djoker taken to four by young gun | 01:19
DONE HER DASH
Aussie favourite Daria Saville narrowly missed a great escape against Poland’s Magdalena Frech in a wild match lasting over three hours.
The much-loved Dasha, who has made a fourth round at the Australian Open before, claimed the opening set in a tense tiebreak, before double faults contributed to some service problems allowing Frech back into the match.
Saville then had to fight from 2-5 down in the third set, saving a match point after a double fault and then breaking the Pole with the match on the line, eventually getting things back on serve at 5-5.
Saville was then down 15-40 serving at 5-6 before recovering, saving another three match points on the way, before a fifth proved too much as Frech prevailed 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5.
She will face either No.16 Caroline Garcia or Naomi Osaka in the second round.
Bizarre rule strikes in 5 set thriller | 00:45
POPYRIN SETS UP DJOKER DATE
Australian world No. 43 Alexei Popyrin will face Novak Djokovic in the second round at Melbourne Park after overcoming local boy Marc Polmans in straight sets on Monday.
Popyrin was tested early by the wildcard in a big-serving display but eventually broke his resistance to book a date with the world No. 1 with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 victory.
The 24-year-old, who reached the third round of the Australian Open last year with two marathon wins including the second-round upset of eighth seed Taylor Fritz, smashed 56 winners to Polmans’ 22 in a show of strong form ahead of his confrontation with Djokovic.
It comes as the Serbian superstar revealed he was battling illness leading into his clash against Croatian teen Dino Prizmic on Sunday night and said he felt “under the weather” following the four-set win.
Racket SMASHED – Cramp forces retirement | 00:54
Though he said the extra day’s rest before the second-round match on Wednesday would leave him in a good position to face his Australian opponent.
“Look, it is what it is. You just have to try to deal with it and get over it and accept the circumstances and try to make the most of it,” Djokovic said after the win.
“I will discuss with my team tomorrow, see if I maybe skip practice tomorrow, tennis practice. Maybe do some light work, gym, jog, some specific exercises just to keep my body in shape.
“I mean, last year I haven’t practised in between any match really. It was different circumstances because I was injured. I think now with two days, it’s quite useful after playing four-hour opening round.”
The pair’s only meeting was on a hard court at the 2019 Japan Open where Djokovic claimed a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
“I’m looking forward to playing him,” Popyrin said.
“I’ve watched (Novak) play since I was a kid … I last played him when I was 19. I’ve improved since then, so we’ll see what I can bring.”
Raonic retires in upsetting ending | 01:04
HUNTER STORMS INTO SECOND ROUND
Storm Hunter, the world number one in doubles but ranked just 180th in singles, overcame a mid-match wobble to seal an impressive win, beating Italy’s Sara Errani 6-4 6-3.
Hunter, who came through qualifying, raced to a 5-1 lead against the former world number five, while defending the only break point she faced along the way.
She quickly brought up three set points on Errani’s serve but burned through all three as Errani fought back well, breaking the Australian and fighting back to 4-5.
But Hunter, who earns a cool $180,000 for reaching the second round, got her wayward serve back on track at the crucial time and served out the set 6-4, before sealing the next 6-3 on the back of some stronger serving and a reduced number of unforced errors.
Last year, in an interview with NewsCorp, she opened up on her struggles and how being sidelined with a shoulder injury five years ago left her with just $1000 in the bank
Hunter’s singles record in the Grand Slams has been perennially frustrating, losing in the first round in nine of her ten prior main draw appearances. The only time she reached the second round was in the 2023 French Open, but she’s now finally broken her home-ground hoodoo with a milestone win.
Wearing the biggest smile you’ll see all tournament, 29-year-old Hunter said in her on-court interview: “Honestly that was perfect. I honestly couldn’t be happier!”
“It means everything. I grew up watching the Australian Open and I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I’m a little bit older and I’ve played a few main draws and never got through,” she added.
“To win my first round in singles is a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for it for a few years so (I’m) very happy to get it done here today.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of big matches in doubles and to finish number one in the world is insane. To come into my home slam, I am enjoying every moment out here.”
Hunter is also seeded third in the doubles draw, playing with a new partner in Czechia’s Katerina Siniakova, and is also set to compete in the mixed doubles.
GUTTING END IN FIVE-SET WAR
Australia’s James Duckworth has slumped to a five-set heartbreak on the Aus Open’s new ‘party court’, with Frenchman Lucas Van Assche winning 6-7(2) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-3.
Duckworth sent down 21 aces but was burned by a whopping 70 unforced errors, while he simply couldn’t create enough opportunities on his opponent’s serve. Van Assche won 88 per cent of points on his first serve – at one point winning 17 points on his own serve in a row – with Duckworth only managing to break twice across the five sets.
Van Assche, meanwhile, broke the Australian five times across the match – including to seal victory on his second match point.
Van Assche was ranked 79th to the Australian’s 95th, with the Frenchman set to face 25th seed Lorenzo Musetti in the second round.
AUSSIES IN ACTION: DAY TWO
Kia Arena: Storm Hunter (AUS) def. Sara Errani (ITA) 6-4 6-3
1573 Arena: No. 19 Elina Svitolina (UKR) def. Taylah Preston (AUS) 6-2 6-2
John Cain Arena: Alexei Popyrin (AUS) def. Marc Polmans (AUS) 6-3 7-6(3) 6-2
Court 6: Luca Van Assche (FRA) def. James Duckworth (AUS) 6-7(2) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-3
John Cain Arena, Match 3: Magdalena Frech (POL) def Daria Saville (AUS) 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5
Court 3, Match 3: Jordan Thompson (AUS) def. Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 3-6 7-6(3) 6-2 3-6 6-4
STILL TO COME
Rod Laver Arena, from 7pm: No. 10 Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs Milos Raonic (CAN)
John Cain Arena, From 5pm: Omar Jasika (AUS) vs No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz (POL)
Court 3, Match 4: Rinky Hijikata (AUS) vs No. 24 Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
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DREAM START FOR TEEN GUN ENDS IN SWIFT DEFEAT
18-year-old Aussie Taylah Preston enjoyed a dream start when she broke 19th-seed Elina Svitolina to love in the opening game of their first-round match.
Svitolina, a former world number three and three-time Slam semi-finalist, is competing in her 40th Grand Slam main draw, while it’s a first Slam main draw for the Aussie young gun who was handed a wildcard.
But Preston was immediately broken back to love, before the pair traded two more breaks.
Any hope of a staggering upset – and a first-ever win for the teen Aussie over a top-50 player – quickly faded, as Svitolina raced away to a 6-2 6-2 win in just 59 minutes.
Ukrainian Svitolina is a popular figure on tour – alongside husband Gael Monfils – after an impressive 2023 campaign where she returned after giving birth to daughter Skai. She is one of eight mothers competing in the women’s singles main draw this tournament.
HEWITT’S SON TAKES HUGE STEP
Cruz Hewitt, the 15-year-old son of Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, will make his junior grand slam debut next week in the Australian Open boy’s singles.
The talented right-hander, who practised with Australia’s top-ranked man Alex de Minaur at Melbourne Park a week ago, is among the 16 wildcards announced on Monday.
It comes 27 years after his famous father made his debut in the main draw of the Australian Open just one month when the same age.
Hewitt, who is the world’s 199th ranked junior, has shown good promise when playing lower-tier professional tournaments over the past year.
The blond baseliner, who also travelled with the Australian team which reached the semi-finals of the recent United Cup, played in a high-tier junior event in Traralgon this week.
After a tough opening round win, he fell to Kazakhstan’s Danial Rakhmatullayev 6-3 7-5.
In an interview with foxsports.com.au prior to the Davis Cup Finals in Spain in November, Hewitt said that he was proud of his son’s progression but there was still work to be done.
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH
The only seeded local, world No. 10 Alex de Minaur, headlines the night session against the powerful former world No. 3 and semi-finalist Milos Raonic (from 7pm).
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And at least two Aussies are guaranteed to advance, because they’re playing a compatriot – with Alexei Popyrin battling Marc Polmans, plus Aleksandar Vukic facing Jordan Thompson, both in the afternoon.
It’s the first time in 29 years that the singles draw features two all-Aussie men’s match-ups.
“We’ve got so many Aussies now in the draw, at least some of us are bound to play each other,” Popyrin said.
Former world No. 20 Daria Saville and reigning Australian Open doubles champion Rinky Hijikata are also in action and considered strong chances to progress.
Chris O’Connell was the only Australian winner on Sunday, with Dane Sweeny, Adam Walton, and Jason Kubler all defeated on the opening day.