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Aussies at the Open: De Minaur, Hunter storm into third round

  • Leigh Rogers

With the heartbreak of last year’s Davis Cup final still fresh in his mind, Alex de Minaur vowed he wanted revenge ahead of his second-round clash with Italian Matteo Arnaldi at Australian Open 2024.

The determined De Minaur got his wish, producing a sublime performance to demolish the world No.41 in straight sets today at Rod Laver Arena.

Meanwhile, Storm Hunter is enjoying a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park.

After earning her place in the women’s singles draw through qualifying, the 29-year-old has charged into the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time.

Three more Aussies – Christopher O’Connell, Jordan Thompson and Alexei Popyrin – bowed out on Wednesday evening after pushing seeds to four sets.

After O'Connell fell to Ben Shelton, Thompson came incredibly close to extending Stefanos Tsitsipas to a fifth set before the No.7 seed prevailed. Popyrin held four set points to take a two-sets-to-one lead over Novak Djokovic, yet the 10-time AO champ rallied.

LIVE SCORES: Australian Open 2024

In November’s Davis Cup final, Arnaldi won a crucial singles rubber against Australia’s Popyrin to help his nation sweep the prestigious team title.

However, it was the 10th-seeded Aussie’s turn to play the hero this time, thrilling local fans with his commanding 6-3 6-0 6-3 triumph.

“It’s no secret it was heartbreaking at the end of last year, losing to Italy in the Davis Cup final,” De Minaur said.

“But I told the boys we’re going to be back there, we are going to get another chance. Today was a little bit of revenge for Australia and I’m happy to be in the next round.”

The 24-year-old took just two hours to record the most one-sided victory of his career at the Australian Open. His previous record for least games conceded in an AO win was seven.

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DRAW: Australian Open 2024 men's singles

“Matteo is a hell of a player, a very exciting player with a lot of firepower and a very, very high level,” De Minaur acknowledged.

“I thought I just had to be solid here, use the crowd and try to stay focused, so I’m very happy to get the win today.”

This effort propels De Minaur into the third round at his home Grand Slam for the fourth consecutive year. 

There he will face another Italian opponent, Flavio Cobolli, a 21-year-old qualifier ranked 100th and enjoying a career-best run at Grand Slam level.

Hunter enters the record books

Hunter’s performance has ensured this is the deepest an Aussie qualifier has progressed in an Australian Open women’s singles draw in 39 years.

“Being in the third round, it’s a dream come true,” she beamed after completing a hard-fought 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory against Germany’s Laura Siegemund at John Cain Arena.

“It’s honestly amazing.”

Storm Hunter celebrates at John Cain Arena after defeating Laura Siegemund in the second round of AO 2024. [Getty Images]

Hunter and Siegemund are two of the world’s top-ranked doubles players, however this marked their first singles showdown.

In a see-sawing battle that lasted two hours and 21 minutes, Hunter’s consistency ultimately proved the difference against the world No.78.

The 35-year-old Siegemund committed 52 unforced errors, almost doubling Hunter’s total of 29.

DRAW: Australian Open 2024 women's singles

Ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova now awaits 180th-ranked Hunter in the third round; the 28-year-old Czech is a former world No.2 and was an AO 2022 quarterfinalist.

“I’m just riding the high right now. I think you’ve got to enjoy it while you can,” Hunter said. 

“This doesn’t happen every day.”