Aussie young gun Alexei Popyrin has surged into the second round of the Australian Open after a wild day at Melbourne Park that finished after 2am. Popyrin came back from the brink to beat Taiwanese player Chun-Hsin Tseng 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.
The 23-year-old's match finished at 2.02am on Wednesday morning after a number of delays wreaked havoc on the event. Popyrin battled back from two sets to one down and played through several interruptions before finally winning after nearly four and a half hours.
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“I’m exhausted. That was a physical battle and a mental battle too,” Popyrin said afterwards. “I’ve never played a match this late. I’ve never played a match this long.”
The match was bushed back by a number of delays on Tuesday and started after 9.30pm. Officials were forced to cancel or suspend 22 matches due to extreme heat in the day session and a number of downpours at night.
Australian players Thanasi Kokkinakis, Max Purcell and Aleksandar Vukic are among the many who will have to finish their matches on Wednesday after rain saw play suspended late on Tuesday night. Kokkinakis was just five points away from victory over Fabio Fognini when his match was called off for the night.
As of Tuesday night, 10 matches had been cancelled and another 12 postponed at varying stages throughout the day. They will all need to recommence or start on Wednesday, giving organisers a huge fixture headache with the other side of the draw starting the second round.
Kokkinakis was on the verge of a stunning straight-sets win over Fognini, leading 6-1 6-2 4-2. Vukic was trailing American qualifier Brandon Holt 6-4 1-6 4-2, while Purcell was about to enter a potentially decisive fourth-set tiebreak with Emil Ruusuvuori - down 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-6.
Play was initially suspended on outside courts on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm as the mercury hit 37 degrees. It didn't start again until 5pm, but the rain hit about three hours later.
Channel 9 host James Bracey described it as a 'mini-hurricane' at one stage as spectators were forced to run for cover. Ball kids and players helped out to dry courts in order to get play back underway, before more rain hit.
Alex de Minaur scores brilliant victory
Meanwhile, Aussie No.1 Alex de Minaur delivered an impressive start to his sixth Australian Open campaign, making short work of Taiwanese qualifier Hsu Yu Hsiou 6-2 6-2 6-3. Playing inside John Cain Arena, de Minaur avoided the rain delays to prevail in straight sets.
The 23-year-old, who is the only seeded Aussie player following Nick Kyrgios' withdrawal, was ruthless in dispatching Hsiou. The the only major delay came while the roof was being closed due to the rain.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match but I'm just happy to be here in Australia, playing in front of you guys," de Minaur said in his on-court interview. "It doesn't matter who I play, I'm going to be up for it - you guys just bring the energy, I'll be ready.
"I've got a lot of confidence - I knew I had that level for a while ... now I know I can do it every week."
Fellow Aussie Christopher O'Connell resumed from a rain delay to lose 3-6 6-2 6-3 6-2 to American Jenson Brooksby, while Jordan Thompson lost 3-6 6-3 4-6 5-7 to JJ Wolf. Aussie wildcard Kimberly Birrell earlier scored a huge upset over 31th seed Kaia Kanepi 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.
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