Twice runner-up Daniil Medvedev battled back from the brink of defeat to make the Australian Open third round on a day of close shaves but fellow third seed Elena Rybakina’s title bid was cut short after a 42-point super tiebreak.
An out-of-sorts Medvedev dropped the first two sets of his clash with Emil Ruusuvuori and had treatment for a foot blister before the Russian staged a great escape with a 3-6 6-7(1) 6-4 7-6(1) 6-0 victory to finish at 3:39 a.m.
“Honestly guys… I wouldn’t be here,” Medvedev said to the sparse crowd. “If I was a tennis fan I’d be at home. Thanks for being here. You’re strong.”
Iga Swiatek and Alexander Zverev also survived scares and Carlos Alcaraz was pushed hard before the 20-year-old matched his best run at the year’s opening Grand Slam by getting past Lorenzo Sonego without too much drama.
That was reserved for last year’s runner-up Rybakina’s clash with her former doubles partner Anna Blinkova, who showed steely resolve after the pair split the first two sets to prevail 22-20 in a tiebreak lasting over 30 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
“This day I’ll remember for the rest of my life, on this court with this crowd, it’s the best of my life so far,” said Blinkova as she received a standing ovation.
Top seed Swiatek showed plenty of fight as the four-times major champion rallied from two breaks down in the final set to beat Danielle Collins 6-4 3-6 6-4.
Swiatek knew she was in for a potentially tricky test in the main showcourt opener as Collins had beaten her in the Melbourne Park semi-finals in 2022.
The 30-year-old American, who said after the match that she would be retiring this season, came out firing after losing the opening set and Swiatek needed her best tennis to overhaul a 4-1 deficit by rattling off the last five games in the third set.
“Oh my god, honestly, I was already at the airport,” said Swiatek. “I didn’t feel like I had control over this match (but) I wanted to fight till the end.”
Men’s sixth seed Zverev admitted he was fortunate to prevail 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(7) over Slovakian world number 163 Lukas Klein, whose grip on their 4-1/2-hour contest had the German plotting his journey back to Monte Carlo.
“I was thinking there’s a Qantas flight at 11 p.m. tonight straight to Dubai and then one to home,” Zverev said. “A lot of the time I was a spectator.”
Rain hit play on the outer courts for a second straight day but it was the wind and sunshine that second seed Alcaraz felt had threatened the quality of his clash with Italian Sonego.
The Spaniard felt that both players managed to conquer the challenge as he gave up the second set but ran out a 6-4 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(3) winner.
But women’s fifth seed Jessica Pegula was unable to find a way past Frenchwoman Clara Burel and crashed out 6-4 6-2 while her fellow American Sloane Stephens accounted for 14th seed Daria Kasatkina 4-6 6-3 6-3.
Dane Holger Rune was another high-profile casualty as the eighth seed lost to French wildcard Arthur Cazaux 7-6(4) 6-4 4-6 6-3 while fellow Scandinavian and 11th seed Casper Ruud beat Australian Max Purcell 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 7-6(7).
The Norwegian next faces British 19th seed Cameron Norrie, who also needed five sets to beat qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 3-6 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Norrie’s compatriot Jack Draper was unable to replicate his win over Tommy Paul in Adelaide last week and the American 14th seed progressed 6-2 3-6 6-3 7-5.
Emma Raducanu’s Grand Slam return ended early as the former U.S. Open champion fell 6-4 4-6 6-4 to China’s Wang Yafan after looking ill late on and having her blood pressure checked.
Fellow Briton Katie Boulter fell to 12th seed Zheng Qinwen and it will be the Chinese duo that will face off next.
Their compatriot Juncheng Shang ended the fine run of Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal 2-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 and the 18-year-old booked an intriguing clash with Alcaraz.
After early defeats for Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka kept the flag flying for former Melbourne Park champions as the 18th seed beat Clara Tauson 6-4 3-6 6-2.
Her next opponent, former Grand Slam champion and 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko, downed Ajla Tomljanovic 6-0 3-6 6-4 while 19th seed Elina Svitolina beat Viktoriya Tomova 6-1 6-3.