Melbourne Summer Series men’s wrap: Veterans shine, teens stun

  • Dan Imhoff

Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka took a set to hit his straps in his first outing of 2021, while there were wins on Wednesday for rising teenager Jannik Sinner, Nick Kyrgios, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov.

Great Ocean Road Open top seed David Goffin was not so fortunate, as 17-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz pulled off the biggest win of his burgeoning career. 

Match of the day

(1) Stan Wawrinka v Mikhail Kukushkin - Murray River Open

Three-time major winner Wawrinka had his work cut out on Wednesday as his bid for a first title since 2017 began.

The Swiss fended off Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6 6-3 6-1 to reach the third round, but on the comeback from a case of coronavirus late last year, the rust was evident from the outset as he struggled to find rhythm on his usual heavy strikes.

MORE: Murray River Open draw

The pair had split four prior meetings but had not played in more than six years.

The 35-year-old brought up three match points with an extraordinary angled drop shot winner and advanced in just under two hours.

“It felt OK. I'm happy to get the win and I'm ready to start a new tournament, a new year, especially after a few months out,” Wawrinka said. 

Carlos Alcaraz v (1) David Goffin - Great Ocean Road Open

Spain’s next great hope Alcaraz sprung the upset of the day with his straight-sets demolition of world No.14 Goffin on Wednesday night.

The teenager, who won through Australian Open qualifying in Doha, emerged from a 15-day hard lockdown to topple the No.1 seed 6-3 6-3.
 

It marked his first top-15 win and the first time he had strung together back-to-back tour-level main draw match wins.

“Well, it was a very good match.  I always want to play these kind of matches against great players like Goffin,” Alcaraz said. “Yeah, I'm very happy with this win today, and looking forward to the next round.”

MORE: Great Ocean Road Open draw

Goffin had nothing but praise for his opponent, 13 years his junior.

“I mean, the guy played unbelievable. He's such a young player, but super talented already,” Goffin said. “The most important is in a few days, and we try to stay positive, go back to practice, and prepare the next one.”

Alcaraz will face Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro for a place in his maiden tour quarterfinal. 

Seeds watch

Murray River Open

Back relishing playing before a home crowd in a night session again, Kyrgios overcame a heated exchange with the chair umpire and a spirited fight from a former training partner, Harry Bourchier, to advance to the third round.

Leading 6-2 and at 5-all, 40-30, Kyrgios was handed a time violation, which he took exception to and called the supervisor onto court.

Upon the resumption of play, his 303rd-ranked compatriot Bourchier steadied to save two match points and forced a tie-break.

Kyrgios saved three set points to advance 6-2 7-6(7).
 

Kyrgios eventually overcame his former training partner Bourchier

“Very relieved to finish in straight sets.,” Kyrgios said. “I thought the level that he brought in the second set was very high.  He was serving really, really well. And he started getting on to a couple of my serves and obviously had … set points in the second set, which I thought I played amazing on those set points that he had.”

Kyrgios next meets fourth-seeded Croat Borna Coric, a 7-5 6-4 winner over Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori.

Second seed Dimitrov had few worries taking down Australian Andrew Harris 6-3 6-3, while sixth-seeded American Taylor Fritz breezed past Argentine Federico Coria 6-2 6-1.

Canadian third seed Auger-Aliassime similarly glided into the third round with a 6-3 6-1 result over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita

Great Ocean Road Open

In his first match since capturing his maiden tour title in Sofia last November, highly touted 19-year-old Sinner comfortably accounted for Australian Aleksandar Vukic 6-2 6-4.

The fourth-seeded Italian – who defeated Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time at last year’s French Open – did not face a break point as he advanced to the round of 16 in 67 minutes.

The youngest player in the top 100 will meet 13th seed Aljaz Bedene for a quarterfinal berth.

Russian second seed Karen Khachanov saw off Australian Max Purcell 7-6(5) 6-3 to join third-seeded Hubert Hurkacz in the third round.

The Pole beat Denmark’s Mikael Torpegaard 6-4 6-3. 

Going the distance

Towering Czech lefty Jiri Vesely pulled off a rousing comeback in his first showdown with Norwegian fifth seed Casper Ruud on Wednesday.

The former world No.35 pegged back a 5-7 0-3 deficit and saved two match points serving to stay in the match at 5-6 in the second set to deny the 22-year-old 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3.

He will look to back up the two-hour 47-minute triumph when he meets unseeded Lithuanian Ricardis Berankis for a quarterfinal berth.