Jason Kubler has electrified the home crowd at the Australian Open, stealing the second set against Karen Khachanov in their second round clash at Melbourne Park. Kubler had to battle back from a break down to win the set, triumphing in a 70-shot rally before eventually winning the set.
Khachanov had the run of play in the first set, claiming an early break and winning 6-4. Kubler though, didn't appear to take it lying down.
He lifted his intensity as the second set went on, getting the crowd involved before forcing his way to break point at 6-5. Kubler produced a number of electrifying plays to force a deuce, before his baseline game finally drew an error from Khachanov on break point.
It was the culmination of four straight games for Kubler, who has battled repeated knee issues throughout his career. He had earlier defeated Argentina's Sebastian Baez in straight sets to progress to the second round.
After a string start in the first round, rain delays have forced several other Aussie stars to have to wait to either start or finish matches. Thanasi Kokkinakis needed just six points to complete his first round match against Fabio Fognini, eventually prevailing 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Both Max Purcell and Aleksandar Vukic also had to endure delays, with Purcell's falling in four sets to Finaldn's Emil Ruusuvuori. Vukic meanwhile, forced a deciding fifth set in what has become a marathon first round clash.
Despite the delays and schedule chaos, fans were absolutely lapping up the monster effort from Kubler's 70-shot rally with Khachanov. The one point alone took nearly two minutes tow complete after the serve, ending in mildly anticlimactic fashion, with Kubler hitting the net cord for a fortunate break point.
Unfortunately for home fans, Kubler was unable to ride the wave of momentum from the second set as the class of his Russian opponent shone through. Khachanov upped his game in the third and fourth sets to eventually seal the 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win and book his spot in the third round.
Aussies hanging on in Open despite schedule chaos
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.
Purcell and Vukic both bowed out when their matches did finally resume on Wednesday night. Purcell fended off three match points in the fourth set tiebreak, then fashioned two set points of his own before finally succumbing 6-4 3-6 4-6 8-6 (13-11) on his fifth match point.
Vukic was locked at one set all with fellow qualifier American Brandon Holt when play was stopped for the night on Tuesday with the Australian trailing 4-2 in the third. After dropping the third set, Vukic fought back to force a decider, only to go out 6-4 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 in a tournament opener stretching five sets over two nights.
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.
There were further delays on the outdoor courts again on Wednesday due to rain, with play only resuming well into the afternoon once conditions had cleared. A total of 10 matches had been cancelled and another 12 postponed at varying stages.
Meanwhile, Canadian title hopeful Felix Auger-Aliassime has surged back from two sets down against Alex Molcan to book his spot in the third round of the Australian Open. The unheralded Slovakian made all of the early running under the closed roof at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.
But a costly double fault in the eighth game of the third set gifted the sixth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a crucial break and he never looked back The revitalised Canadian peeled off 15 of the last 19 games against an increasingly-frustrated Molcan to win 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 in a tick over three hours.
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