MELBOURNE (Agencies): Novak Djokovic survived a scare and Nick Kyrgios saved match points as day three at the Australian Open caught the attention of the crowds.
Defending champion and world number one Djokovic overcame Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3. Australian Kyrgios then produced a thrilling five-set win over Ugo Humbert in front of a rowdy John Cain Arena. Kyrgios showed his usual mix of fiery antics and exciting shots to beat the Frenchman 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.
He fell to his knees after winning the match before sitting in his chair and shaking his head in disbelief. Kyrgios has often said that the John Cain Arena, which is open to general ticket-holders, is his favourite to play on because of the atmosphere.
With numbers at Melbourne Park restricted to up to 30,000 per day because of coronavirus – and falling well short of that so far this week – this was the first time anything resembling a ‘normal’ tennis crowd noise had been heard for months.
Home fans did not let up as they cheered a Kyrgios fight back from 5-4 down in the fourth set, before seeing him through a tie-break and, somehow, a winning fifth set. “Honestly, if you were in my head, I was thinking about everything I was going to cop if I lost that match,” a disbelieving Kyrgios said. “I don’t know what to say. I am lost for words.” He will face last year’s finalist and US Open champion Dominic Thiem next, after the Austrian eased past Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4 6-0 6-2.
Simona Halep battles through; Petra Kvitova, Bianca Andreescu beaten
MELBOURNE: World number two Simona Halep clawed her way into the Australian Open third round after fighting back from the brink against Ajla Tomljanovic.
The Romanian, a finalist in 2018, trailed 5-2 in the deciding set before beating the Australian 4-6 6-4 7-5. A nervy Tomljanovic failed to serve out the match at 5-3 and Halep showed her experience to secure a remarkable win. “In the end I think mentally I was a little bit stronger, had the desire to win the match,” she said.
In front of a rowdy Margaret Court Arena, Halep cut a frustrated figure, frequently yelling and gesturing at her coach, Darren Cahill.
However, when Tomljanovic faltered at the key moment, the two-time Grand Slam champion forced her way through her opponent’s defences and shook her fists in celebration at the end. “I am really happy I can smile now,” Halep said in her on-court interview.
“I was not that positive when I was talking to myself, I was just blaming myself that I am not strong enough to play against her.” Halep will play Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova next. Serena Williams earlier breezed through after Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu became the biggest casualties on the third day at Melbourne Park.
American Williams, who has dropped just five games in her two matches so far, beat Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 6-3 6-0. Czech ninth seed Kvitova, who reached the final in 2019, was stunned 6-4 1-6 6-1 by Sorana Cirstea of Romania.
Andreescu, playing in her first major since winning the 2019 US Open, lost 6-3 6-3 to tricky Taiwanese Hsieh Su-wei. Naomi Osaka underlined why she is one of the favourites for the title with a swift 6-3 6-3 victory over Caroline Garcia of France despite fearing defeat after a bad dream. “Last night I had a dream that I lost this match, and I really didn’t feel good about it,” the Japanese three-time Grand Slam champion said.