Australia’s Nick Kyrgios thrilled the Melbourne Park crowd on Wednesday night with a stunning come from behind 6-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 6-4 win over Frenchman Ugo Humbert.
The 25-year-old looked set for a second-round departure when Humbert served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set but he peeled off three winners to level the fourth set and won the ensuing tiebreak and decider to set up a third-round encounter with last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.
Earlier, Bernard Tomic dismissed John Fitzgerald as the “worst commentator ever” after his former Davis Cup captain questioned whether the one-time world No.17 would be seen at the Australian Open again.
While opponent Denis Shapovalov was dismantling Tomic just as breezily in a 6-1 6-3 6-2 second-round defeat at Melbourne Park, Fitzgerald was offering up his thoughts on the former teenage prodigy.
A giveaway game to start the third set and some questionable subsequent efforts seemed to earn the ire of Fitzgerald in the commentary box.
“This is getting a bit cringeworthy here,” Fitzgerald said.
No one can tell me that he is trying here. I’m not sure we’ll see Bernard Tomic back at the Australian Open.”
A smiling Tomic was quick to retort when told of the latter remark in his post-match press conference.
“Of course it is (harsh),” Tomic said. “But he’s probably the worst commentator I’ve ever seen in my life as well.”
Shapovalov had far too many weapons for Tomic, who put in a spirited effort early in the second set but as the match progressed appeared sluggish and disinterested against the 11th-seeded left-hander.
Tomic piled on 40 unforced errors in what was largely a one-hour, 47-minute walk in the park for the Canadian sensation.
After a forgettable first set, Tomic found some rhythm in the second, holding serve after a gruelling 23-point game.
He then enjoyed two break points on Shapovalov’s next service game.
But after failing to convert either, things quickly went downhill for the 28-year-old.
The third set started disastrously for the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist, prompting former player Fitzgerald to question his motivation.
“That was very disappointing. Bernard is a talent and he’s not fulfilling his talent and he’s not even close,” Fitzgerald said.
“That’s a shame. It’s sad for me.”
Tomic will at least get a rankings boost after the season-opening grand slam.
He was the only Australian to win through an arduous qualifying campaign in Doha and then added first-round points at Melbourne Park will move him to the cusp of the world’s top 200.
But it remains a far cry from his career-high in 2016, the two-time junior grand slam champion now having to battle in the secondary tour to climb back up the rankings.
Tomic said he was far from disappointed after qualifying and then getting to the last 64 against one of the up and comers of the sport.
“Regardless of where I am, I know I’m pretty good, in a good state from taking off tennis for about eight months. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Tomic said.
“Winning four matches at a grand slam is almost too good to be true for me at this stage.”
A scare for Djokovic
Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic survived a second-round scare from American Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday to keep his Australian Open title defence alive.
The Serbian had to scramble to get past the talented world No.64 and secure a 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win.
Djokovic next faces another American Taylor Fritz, and says the court surface could favour the 27th seed, who is a noted big server
Gunning for his 18th grand slam win, Djokovic says the court surface on the main arena is quickest it’s ever been.
“It feels like my living room, to be honest – I feel comfortable playing here.
“But this is the fastest it has ever been – it’s not only my opinion, I’ve been talking to a lot of players,” Djokovic said.
Tomljanovic falls just short of upset
Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic has come achingly close to claiming the biggest scalp of her career, falling just short against world No.2 Simona Halep in their Australian Open second-round clash.
Tomljanovic took a 5-2 lead in the third and served for the match but the reigning Wimbledon champion steamed back to win five games in a row to secure a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory.
In a high-quality match that lasted two hours and 34 minutes, the pair went toe-to-toe.
The 72nd-ranked Tomljanovic used her big groundstrokes to pummel the Romanian, who was an Open semi-finalist last year and finalist in 2018, but fell agonisingly short.
Third-seed and favourite Naomi Osaka locked in a regulation straight-sets victory to cruise into the Australian Open third round.
Osaka, who took the title at Melbourne Park in 2019, was in full control of her 6-2 6-3 win over France’s Caroline Garcia.
The Japan star, who is also the reigning US Open champion, next faces world No.30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.
Taking just 61 minutes to secure the win, Osaka lived up to her tag as favourite.
She said she felt comfortable against the world No.43. who was ranked as high as No.4 in late 2018.
“It felt good,” Osaka said. “It’s really hard to play opponents like her because you never know what she’s going to do and how hard she’s going to hit.”
Asked on court on how she’d been spending her time in Melbourne since her arrival, Osaka said she felt guilty getting out and about while people in the USA, where she is based, were struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first day I got here I was really excited because you guys get to do stuff, unlike in America,” the 23-year-old said.
“So I walked around but then I felt guilty, I didn’t know if guys were staring at me so then I just stayed in my room and started watching Netflix.”