Australian Open players caught off guard by 'rogue' distractions

Tennis players are famously fastidious, but the likes of Andrey Rublev, Rafa Nadal and Kaia Kanepi have been disrupted in a variety of ways.

Dominic Thiem is seen in the background as a feather floating onto the court circled in red, with a supplementary image of a ballgirl retrieving the feather.
Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev's Australian Open clash was amusingly delayed by a lone feather floating onto the court between points. Pictures: Channel 9

The searing heat at Melbourne Park wasn't the only thing to delay the action on day two of the Australian Open, with Andrey Rublev and Dominic Thiem having to wait for a lone feather to drift down to the court. It was a much more amusing interruption than the extreme heat, which saw play paused until 5pm.

The world's best tennis players are frequently known for their fastidiousness, with Rafael Nadal perhaps most well known for his precise pre-serve routine. However the feather provided a distraction for both players, forcing the entire arena to wait agonisingly for it to float to the floor.

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A ball-girl tracked the feather on its path downwards, with a cheer erupting from the crowd when the offending plumage was removed from the court. While the brief break in play would have been welcome respite for the players, it wasn't enough to help Thiem overcome the odds against Rublev, who claimed a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Players have occasionally been frustrated by disruptions already over the first two days of the Australian Open, with Kaia Kanepi fuming after a member of the crowd yelled out during a crucial second set tiebreak. Nadal as well, has had his famous routine disturbed in a more amusing fashion.

Things got off to a less than ideal start for Nadal in his clash with Jack Draper, when he realised that a ball-kid seemingly took his racquet by accident moments before the first set was due to get underway. The Spaniard had apparently left one racquet aside to be re-strung and could be heard remonstrating with the chair umpire about the mix-up.

"It's this one for the stringer, not that one," he attempted to explain to the official. "I need the racquet back! It is not this one. I need the dampener and everything. The ball boy took my racquet!"

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Eurosport commentator Guy McCrea summed up the thoughts of many viewers after trying to explain what was happening. "I'm not sure what is going on here. Something is missing," he said on the broadcast.

"They have taken the wrong racquet to the stringer - the wrong one has been taken to the stringer, the one he was playing with. He plays with a vibration dampener and that has been taken with the current racquet he was playing with. I don't think he has a spare one, so I think there is going to be a delay here!

"Let's see if he can fish out another dampener here. He must have a spare one, surely! I think he is just getting one out of the packet there, and we are good to go here because he was a spare one!"

Dominic Thiem's hopes of an Australian Open renaissance were dashed by a clinical performance from Andrey Rubley. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Dominic Thiem's hopes of an Australian Open renaissance were dashed by a clinical performance from Andrey Rubley. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Thiem is on the comeback trail after a long recovery from wrist surgery but Rublev was still relieved to progress on Tuesday. "I know that (Dominic's) not going through an easy time so I want to wish him all the best to come back on the level that he belongs," Rublev said.

A six-time grand slam quarter-finalist eager to take the next step at a major, 25-year-old Rublev will face either Australian qualifier Max Purcell or Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori on Thursday. In other early matches on Tuesday, 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov beat Aslan Karatsev 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 6-2 in a battle of two former Open semi-finalists.

Five-time finalist Andy Murray plays 2022 semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini in another feature match, while former world No.2 Alexander Zverev is also in action on day two. Nine-times champion Novak Djokovic plays Roberto Carballes Baena on Tuesday night before second seed Casper Ruud meets Czech Tomas Machac.

With AAP

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