Vukic sets up Alcaraz clash as Thompson and Saville win

Aleksandar Vukic has set up a dream showcourt date with champion Carlos Alcaraz on Wimbledon's opening day.

Marathon men Vukic and fellow Sydneysider Jordan Thompson delivered classic, battling five-set wins to advance to the second round, while Daria Saville made it a hat-trick of first-round triumphs for the Australian contingent.

Thompson set the tone on Monday when he became the first Aussie through to the second round after coming from two sets behind to beat Russian Pavel Kotov in four hours, six minutes.

Vukic then followed up with a rollercoaster victory over Austria's Sebastian Ofner in 11 minutes shy of four hours that earned him the reward of a match against the Spanish champion Alcaraz on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).

Daria Saville
Daria Saville has begun Wimbledon in confident mood, sweeping Peyton Stearns aside in 89 minutes. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Vukic has beaten Alcaraz - in French Open qualifying in 2020 when the latter was 17, but never on a grand slam show court.

"It'll mean a lot to me," he said. "It's the first, but hopefully not the last time I play on the biggest stage. It'll be new territory for me and I am very excited to experience it.

"(Playing Alcaraz) will be a great honour and a great challenge, but also another match that I get to test myself.

"I don't think he liked me beating me. I'm sure we'll both remember it. But he was just a kid then."

The Centre Court ovation for Alcaraz as he wrapped up a straightforward win over Mark Lajal could be heard on the nearby Court 7 as Vukic and Ofner contested a first-set tie-break. As an incentive, it could hardly be bettered, though Vukic later said he was so focused on the match he did not hear it.

Ofner won that tie-break, but three hours later Vukic won the one that mattered to wrap up victory 6-7 (9-11) 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-6 (10-8).

It was a topsy-turvy match with both players struggling to hold their serve in the final set as the prize loomed nearer, but in the decisive tie-break Vukic established a lead and held on to it

Having slipped to a two-set deficit against Russian debutant Kotov, Thompson had looked like extending his disappointing Wimbledon record.

The 30-year-old had come to SW19 fresh from reaching the Queen's Club semi-finals but he'd never made the second week of Wimbledon in his seven previous attempts.

Alex Bolt
Australia's Alex Bolt plays a forehand return to Casper Ruud during his first-round defeat. (AP PHOTO)

Kotov, the world No.53, is a powerful man but the Australian began to get the measure of his opponent and move him around the court.

Roared on by Aussie support packed around Court 10, Thompson dug in to win 5-7 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-4.

He now plays Brandon Nakashima, a repeat of last year's first round when Thompson again came back from two sets down to win in five.

The American will, however, be better rested having knocked out No.18 seed Sebastian Baez 6-2 6-3 6-4 in less than two hours.

Saville followed Thompson onto Court 10 and beat American Peyton Stearns 6-4 6-2.

That helped dispel the memory of her last match at Wimbledon in 2023 when she was disrupted and distracted by climate activists invading the arena and lost to Katie Boulter.

She now meets Ukrainian No.18 seed Marta Kostyuk, who had an even swifter victory over Rebecca Sramkova 6-3 6-2.

It wasn't all good news for the Australian challenge with qualifier Alex Bolt's adventure and Max Purcell's hopes both ending in the first round.

Bolt could be proud of his efforts against No.8 seed Casper Ruud, taking the three-time grand slam finalist to a first set tie-break before succumbing 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 -6-4 in two hours 13 minutes.

With his booming left-hand forehand much in evidence, Bolt never gave up, as might be expected given his mother Cathy and brother Nathan had flown over to London at the weekend to watch him.

It was the first time they had each left Australian shores, and they were rewarded for their journey as the world No.243 saved five match points before Ruud finally triumphed.

Purcell had arrived at Wimbledon buoyed by reaching the final of the Eastbourne International on Saturday, but perhaps the turnaround was too swift.

He went down tamely to Finland's Otto Virtanen, ranked 79 places lower, 6-3 6-2 6-2 in 89 minutes.