It was a thriller for international and Aussie tennis fans alike on Day 3 at the Australian Open where world No. 3 Rafael Nadal and homecountry hope Bernard Tomic pulled out late five-set wins to move into the third round in Melbourne.
The No. 3-seeded Nadal suffered physically and mentally in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-5 marathon win over American Tim Smyczek. The Spaniard said that after losing the third set to go down two sets to one, he started feeling ill.
“I felt, I don’t know,” Nadal said. “At the end of the first set, I start to feel my body very bad, very tired…I was worrying crazy. Then when I was serving for the third, almost throw up…I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half. I was suffering a lot. Too much. You know, was not funny today the way that the match was. Obviously is a very positive thing that finally have the chance to win, but, yeah, I hope to recover myself.”
Nadal said he exited the match with a lot of respect for the young American, who he had not seen play in person.
“I saw him play [in] some videos,” Nadal said. “I checked some videos. I think he played well, but is true that what he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing. Congratulate…Very few players can do that after four hours, [coming back at] 5-All, Love-30. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did today.”
Smyczek lamented his chances against the suffering Nadal.
“It was pretty clear Rafa didn’t have his best stuff,” the American said. “But it just shows the kind of player, the kind of champion he is because he was sick and not playing well. That was his ‘C’ or ‘D’ game. He found a way to win. So hats off to him. That’s why he’s one of the best.”
Tomic a few minutes later kept Aussie hopes alive by completing a late-night 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) upset over No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“I feel much fitter, much better movement,” Tomic said of his 2015 campaign. “I move much better on court. For me it’s helped me a lot, the surgeries I had. People think I’ve gone down with my ability, but the surgeries I’ve had are probably only a few of the surgeries that help you move better. I couldn’t move before in my hips and my lower back. Now I’ve managed to get so much more range of movement and flexibility. For me it was a benefit for me for both hips. I’m happy I did it at the age of 21. I wasn’t going to do it at the age of 25 and take 10 months to recover.”
Tomic will next meet storied unseeded Aussie countryman Sam Groth, who on Wednesday won the all-Aussie battle with another rising countryman in Thanasi Kokkinakis, outlasting the youngster 6-1 in the fifth.
“Obviously for me, the journey I’ve taken the last two years, the last 10 years, the last 20 years, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” said the giant-serving Groth, who left tennis to pursue football, then considered becoming a fireman, then returned to the game at age 27. “I had a little lull at the start of the fourth set, I kept my emotions in check. I’m 27. I feel like I’ve matured over the last couple years…The old Sam probably would have lost the plot…I did a bit of racquet throwing. The old Sam probably would have lost that fourth set and gone home. Same thing. I fought back in the fifth set.”
Other Top 10 players joining Rafa in the third round were No. 2 Roger Federer who recovered from a first set loss and some hand issues to defeat Italian Simone Bolelli 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; No. 6 Andy Murray who eased past Aussie Marinko “Mad Dog” Matosevic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2; No. 7 Tomas Berdych with a straight-set win over Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-2; and No. 10 Grigor “Baby Fed” Dimitrov handling Slovak Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-7(10), 6-3, 6-3.
Federer summoned the trainer after the first set after apparently getting attacked by a bug. The end of a finger went numb and changed color, but the world No. 2 soldiered on.
“It’s the weirdest thing,” the Swiss said. “I don’t know. I feel it on the tip of my finger. Just felt really odd starting after the break, and for three, four games, it was the funniest feeling I have. I feel like it’s numb and swollen. So, I don’t know.”
Murray’s magic draw continues as the Brit will next meet Portugal’s Joao “Phillips” Sousa, who benefited when No. 32 Martin Klizan retired with injury in the fourth set of their match.
“I played him here a few years ago,” Murray sang of Sousa. “He’s obviously improved since then; he’s had some decent wins in Slams before. He fights hard. He has a great attitude. He doesn’t have one massive weapon, but he definitely gets the most out of his game. He’s physically in very good shape. He lasts the long matches well. He’ll make it tough for me.”
While there were no seeded upsets on the women’s side Wednesday, on the men’s side Melbourne was Upset City.
Joining Sousa and Tomic on the upset tip were Cyprus’ former Top 10er Marcos Baghdatis ousting No. 20 David Goffin 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0; young Aussie Nick Kyrgios tamed the serve of No. 23 “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4; Serb comeback player Viktor Troicki defeated No. 26 Leo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0; Israeli veteran Dudi “Where’s My Car?” Sela subduing No. 28 Lukas Rosol 7-6(2), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3; and Italian veteran Andreas Seppi grounding down No. 29 Jeremy Chardy 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“I’m just looking ahead one match,” said Troicki in attempting to regain his status among the Top 20. “Focusing for the next match. Playing [Tomas] Berdych I think, and he’s one of the top players. I played him a lot of times. So he’s definitely very strong. But, yeah, I will try to enjoy it. It’s another match, another opponent, and I’m going to try to give it my best and try to win.”
Kyrgios overcame his own niggling injuries in beating Dr. Ivo.
“Serving is the main thing that does trouble the back [problem],” Kyrgios said. “I knew it was going to be mentally tough as well. He has the best serve on tour I think. I think he hit 37 aces. I knew what I had to do out there to get the job done.”
Additional seeds into round three were No. 14 Kevin Anderson who subdued Lithuanian Lilliputian Ricardas Berankis in straights, and No. 24 Richard Gasquet who likewise straight-setted Aussie hope James Duckworth.
There are a number of matches to look for on Thursday in Oz in (1) Novak Djokovic vs. Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, American “The” Donald Young vs. (8) Milos Raonic, “I’m From” Jerzy Janowicz vs. (17) Gael “Force” Monfils, (19) John Isner vs. Andreas “Don’t Be a” Haider-Maurer, (9) David Ferrer vs. the sly Sergiy Stakhovsky, (30) Santiago Giraldo vs. American No. 2 Steve Johnson, and upset specialist Gilles Muller vs. (13) Roberto Bautista Agut.
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