Fan favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis has prevailed in an enthralling five-set first round encounter, setting up a blockbuster clash in the process, while compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic also won in a marathon match that finished in the early hours of the morning.
Kokkinakis recovered from a two-sets-to-one deficit to get to a decider, before winning in a thrilling fifth-set tiebreak, helping ease the heartbreak of last year when he lost to Andy Murray from two-sets-to-love up.
“(I was) battling serious demons, that’s for sure,” he explained post-match.
“Last year, that one hurt. I had a couple of junkies come up to me at Crown Casino ripping into me for that loss against Murray. Didn’t enjoy that. But that I could make amends and win a five-setter here, I can’t thank you enough.”
The Australian will take on an in-form Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, with the Bulgarian in career-best form and coming off a title win in Brisbane.
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Draper throws up after gruelling battle | 00:49
DAY 1 RECAP: Traffic chaos and Aussies in action
Tomljanovic faced Croatian Petra Martic on ‘the people’s court’ and was locked in an enthralling battle that lasted two hours and 53 minutes, with Tomljanovic recovering from a double break down to win in the final set.
Martic is a grand slam quarterfinalist in her own right, but Tomljanovic had won the pair’s most recent encounter, which came at the 2021 US Open.
It took 73 minutes for Tomljanovic to win the first set despite holding set points in the opening half hour, but she recovered in thrilling fashion in the final set to win just after midnight.
it sets up a second round clash with Jelena Ostapenko.
Last year’s Australian Open finalist Elena Rybakina kicked off action on Rod Laver Arena, taking out dual grand slam finalist Karolina Pliskova.
That match was followed by the return of Carlos Alcaraz, who missed last year’s event due to injury but won the Wimbledon final in an absorbing clash with Novak Djokovic.
He prevailed in a tight first set tiebreak before cruising to victory in the final two sets.
TOMLJANOVIC vs MARTIC
Tomljanovic and Martic traded blows early, but it was the Australian who captured the break early.
Both had passages of dominance on serve, but Tomljanovic proved slightly more consistent.
Tomljanovic had a couple of set points when serving at 5-4, but was broken following a near nine minute game, serving a double fault to hand the break back to her opponent.
It was dwarfed by a marathon, 10-deuce game, with Tomljanovic eventually converting a break point opportunity.
The game lasted more than 18 minutes.
In yet another swing, Tomljanovic’s serve was broken, but she dominated the tiebreak to take it 7-5 in a set that lasted 73 minutes.
Martic would break early in the second set and race ahead before serving it out 6-4 to send the match to a decider.
Despite being a double break down in the final set, Tomljanovic recovered and capitalised at 30-40 on Martic’s serve to seal the match just after midnight.
KOKKINAKIS vs OFNER RECAP
It was a solid start for Kokkinakis, who held to love to open the match and immediately began to apply pressure to the Ofner serve.
He brought up a couple of break points in the second game of the match, but an incredible reflex volley helped the Austrian save them.
Both players were solid on serve from that point on, with the set getting to a tiebreak with little trouble on either side.
Some sloppy errors from Ofner handed Kokkinakis a huge leg up, with the Australian winning the breaker 7-1 to take the first set in 59 minutes.
Ofner failed to make a first serve in the whole tiebreak, which was a marked departure from the rest of the set.
Kokkinakis was relatively calm for the first set, barring a moment in which he complained about there being a lack of ice to put in towels on changeovers.
“I’m sure there’s no ice shortage,” he mused to the chair umpire.
The match progressed on serve until 2-3, when Ofner made the most of one break point opportunity and went ahead 4-2.
Ofner faced a break point in the following game but saved it and held to take control of the set.
He again applied pressure to the Kokkinakis serve, playing some blistering shots including a 177km/h winner that left his Australian opponent smirking in disbelief.
False double bounce call stuns Aussie | 00:42
One shot was hit on the run and sailed past Kokkinakis, with one commentator dubbing it “the shot of the tournament so far.”
Ofner eventually converted to level the match at one set apiece.
Kokkinakis called for the trainer at the first change of ends of the third set but didn’t require a medical timeout, although he did express concern about his hip.
It once again sparked injury fears for the injury-prone Aussie.
Still, he looked in good touch as he and Ofner traded holds of serve.
Kokkinakis had 0-30 on Ofner’s serve at 5-all, but the latter recovered admirably to go ahead 6-5.
The set would go to a tiebreak, but this time it was an error from Kokkinakis that blew it open, with the Aussie missing a putaway volley to hand his opponent a minibreak.
Ofner hit some incredible winners off the forehand wing to go even further ahead and took the breaker 7-4, to lead two sets to one.
“You have to also recognise Ofner is doing something that you do not see in men’s tennis. Even Djokovic the best at returning hard serves on court,” Jim Courier said on Nine.
“He doesn’t go for winners, he goes for deep position and goes to work. Ofner has hit seven or eight clean winners off a first serve. That is incredible.”
Kokkinakis managed to break early in the fourth set with his tournament on the line and came through to take it 6-1, sending the match to a fifth.
The set progressed on serve and resulted in a match tiebreak.
Kokkinakis went ahead a mini-break on multiple occasions but was pegged back by Ofner, before Kokkinakis broke through for a third and final time to seal the match.
SEEDS PUSHED IN FIRST-ROUND CLASHES
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev has dropped the first set against fellow German Dominik Koepfer, but bounced back to take the second.
Koepfer – who has lost both of the pair’s two encounters so far – took the first set 6-4 against Zverev, despite the 56 ranking spots between the two in Zverev’s favour.
Zverev helped lead his team to a win in the United Cup earlier this month and recovered to take the second set 6-3 and level the match.
The third set went to a tiebreak, with Zverev taking it 7-3 to reassert his control over the contest.
Meanwhile, Elena Rybakina saved three set points in a tight first set against Karolina Pliskova, but ultimately won in a tiebreaker.
She pulled away via a break in the second set and it proved enough to seal the match.
Recap the Australian Open in our blog below! Can’t see the blog? Tap here
NIGHT 3 ORDER OF PLAY (Show courts & Aussies in action)
ROD LAVER ARENA
No.3 Elena Rybakina (KAZ) def. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-6(6) 6-4
No.2 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) def. Richard Gasquet (FRA) 7-6(2) 6-2
MARGARET COURT ARENA
No.6 Alexander Zverev (GER) def. Dominik Koepfer (GER) 4-6 6-3 7-6(3) 6-3
No.5 Jessica Pegula (USA) def. Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-2 6-4
JOHN CAIN ARENA
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) def Sebastian Ofner (AUT) 7-6(1) 2-6 6-7(4) 6-1 7-6(8)
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) def. Petra Martic (CRO) 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4
AUSSIES IN ACTION
Court 3, Match 3: No.11 Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) def. Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 7-6(5) 6-1