Cheers of "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" were all over the courts on Day 4 of the Australian Open, as local favorites looked to find a dose of Melbourne magic. Here are a few of Thursday's notable results.
A year ago, at his home major, Alex Bolt put together a run to the third round when he toppled No. 29 seed Gilles Simon in five sets after saving four match points in the fourth set. A player who relishes the energy of a partisan crowd, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the 27-year-old maximizing his wild card opportunity once again after he rallied past Albert Ramos-Vinolas in five sets to win his first-round match.
The left-hander looked to take his biggest step forward in his bid to thwart No. 5 Dominic Thiem for the first Top 10 win of his career. Last season, Thiem demonstrated his hard-court prowess when he triumphed at Indian Wells, won the indoor title at his home event in Vienna and topped Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to finish runner-up at the ATP Finals. Despite putting grueling work during the off-season, results didn’t translate for the Austrian at the ATP Cup, where he went 1-2.
Bolt was once down 6-2, 5-3, as Thiem looked primed to open a two-set lead after an hour of play. The world No. 140 dug in, winning five successive games to level the contest and as his heart began to show, so did his ball-striking capabilities. An ace clinched the third set breaker, as the stands began rocking. The energy was soon contained when Thiem rolled to the fourth set and ran away with a composed finish for a 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-2 victory.
"He played a great tiebreaker. But also in the back of my head, he already had a five-setter in the first round, doubles yesterday. I knew that probably he cannot really hold that level," said Thiem. "So I just tried to stay in the match. That's what I did. That's what also paid off at the end."
Thiem's best result Down Under came two years ago, when he lost in five to Tennys Sandgren during the round of 16 stage. Kevin Anderson and 29th seed Taylor Fritz will play for the right to face the two-time French Open finalist.
Kyrgios builds off McEnroe's gesture by handcuffing Simon
Nick Kyrgios took another step toward a possible blockbuster with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, all while earning a $3,000 donation for bushfire relief efforts from John McEnroe. The Hall of Famer offered up an extra source of motivation when he interviewed Kyrgios on Tuesday, announcing he would donate $1,000 for every set the Canberra native won moving forward. McEnroe’s proclamation did its job Thursday evening.
Having gone out in the opening round last year, the No. 23 seed appears to be back in business at the Happy Slam. Kyrgios lit up Melbourne Arena with 28 aces (resulting in an $5,600 raised by Kyrgios with his contribution of $200/ace), and until a mini collapse in the third, kept Gilles Simon from developing a rhythm. Consecutive double faults saw Kyrgios drop serve at 4-3, and Simon capitalized on his opponent's break in concentration to force a fourth set. Kyrgios eventually bounced back with a stellar fourth set finish, which included three aces in the final game, to lock up a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory in two hours and 49 minutes. The 24-year-old improved to 2-0 in the pair’s head-to-head series and is into the third round for the fourth time—where he'll meet No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov.
"I was pretty happy. I knew that if it went five sets, it would have been very tough physically, especially going up against a guy like that, with the conditions being very slow," said Kyrgios. "But I thought I lifted in the fourth. I just put my head down... could have gone to a dark place and I brought it back. I somehow scraped the win. Maturity? I don't know. I'm just happy to get the win."
In the opening round, Alexei Popyrin led his idol Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by two sets when the Frenchman was forced to stop due to a back injury. Today, the 20-year-old successfully defended his Australian Open points from a year ago with a powerful display on court, anchored by 51 winners to 34 unforced errors. His opponent, Jaume Munar, could not manage to break down the big-serving Aussie on return and Popyrin in turn booked himself a showdown with US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev after completing a 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2 scoreline. Medvedev also ended a Spaniard’s campaign when he eliminated qualifier Pedro Martinez, 7-5, 6-1, 6-3. The world No. 4 beat Popyrin in the second round of Wimbledon last season to win the pair's first meeting.
"I think I'm a better player right now than I was in Wimbledon. I did a lot of work in [the] pre-season," said Popyrin. "I think hard is probably his favorite surface. He can stand where he stands on the baseline and just get every single ball back."
Tomljanovic falls in three to Muguruza
Garbine Muguruza returned to the third round but found herself grinding it out once again. The former two-time Slam champion dropped her opening set of the event, 6-0, to qualifier Shelby Rogers, before winning 12 of 13 games to rebound. This time, the Spaniard was forced to battle in a decider by Ajla Tomljanovic. The 32nd-ranked Muguruza held for 4-3, then wiped away a game point to break serve. Tomljanovic pressured the former No. 1 in the final game by erasing two match points to reach deuce, but her 37th unforced error ultimately sealed the Aussie's fate. After two hours and 21 minutes, Muguruza advanced, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and next faces either No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina or American Lauren Davis.
"She did push me and I pushed her. At the end on the third set, it was very close for both of us," said Muguruza. "Just happy [with] the way I played and how I managed to close it up in those final games."
In an added opportunity to see home favorite Ashleigh Barty at Melbourne Park, fans had a dilemma: cheer for the singles No. 1 and partner Julia Goerges, or pull for the all-Aussie tandem of Jessica Moore and Astra Sharma. Barty and Goerges are both experienced on the doubles court, and their expertise proved too much, breaking the wild card duo twice in each set for a 67-minute victory, 6-2, 6-3. In the second round, the Australian-German combination could find 2018 champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic across the net, should the No. 2 seeds defeat Dalila Jakupovic and Raluca Olaru.