Young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime survived a five-set scare as world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, fifth seed Andrey Rublev and former finalist Marin Cilic all enjoyed routine first-round wins on day two at the Australian Open.
Auger-Aliassime arrived as a sneaky title contender after inspiring Canada to ATP Cup glory in Sydney but looked to be heading for the exit gates after falling two sets to one behind against Emil Ruusuvuori on Tuesday.
The two-time grand slam semi-finalist eventually prevailed 6-4 0-6 3-6 6-3 6-4 over Finland’s world No.90 in a marathon stretching almost four hours.
Auger-Aliassime’s reward is Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round after Spain’s world No.51 ousted Australian wildcard Alex Bolt 6-3 6-3 6-4.
Medvedev needed half as long to see off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Rod Laver Arena in his first grand slam outing since toppling Novak Djokovic in last year’s US Open final to snare his maiden major.
The world No.2 will face a stern test of his new-found title favouritism when he confronts enigmatic Australian Nick Kyrgios on Thursday.
Despite not playing a match in four months and being bedridden last week with COVID-19, Kyrgios crushed British qualifier Liam Broady 6-4 6-4 6-3 in his opener.
Tsitsipas was rarely troubled by Swede Mikael Ymer in his 6-2 6-4 6-3 win, booking a second-round encounter with Argentina’s Sebastian Baez.
Rublev cruised past Italian Gianluca Mager 6-3 6-2 6-2 in just 84 minutes while Cilic disposed of Ecuadorian qualifier Emilio Gomez 6-3 6-1 6-2 in similarly quick fashion.
A winner of four hardcourt titles last year, Rublev would have replaced Djokovic at the top of the men’s draw had the deported defending champion been ruled out before Sunday night.
Instead, Djokovic’s 11th-hour expulsion forced Open officials to fill his top slot with a “lucky loser” from qualifying, leaving Rublev where he is in the seventh quarter on the bottom side of the draw.
The tough break means the world No.6 may meet Medevdev, the highest-ranked player in the draw, in the quarter-finals.
If he does, Rublev – who plays Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis next – can at least take heart from finally beating Medvedev in Cincinnati in August following defeats in all four of their previous encounters.
Runner-up to Roger Federer in the 2018 Open final and to Thanasi Kokkinakis in Sunday’s Adelaide International 2 title match, Cilic moved to within a win of a potential heavyweight third-round clash with Rublev with his one-sided victory.
First, though, Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos stands in the Croat’s path on Thursday.
Other winners on Tuesday included 13th seed Diego Schwartzman, who beat Serb Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-4 7-5 to book a second-round clash with Australian wildcard Chris O’Connell.
O’Connell progressed with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 4-6 6-1 win over Frenchman Hugo Gaston.
Daring American serve-volleyer Maxime Cressy, runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the Adelaide International, continued his dream summer with a five-set defeat of seeded compatriot John Isner.
Image credit: ATP Tour