After three long days of tennis at Melbourne Park round 1 singles action has concluded from an Australian perspective with eight locals having made their way into the second round.
With 21 main draw entrants featuring 15 men and 6 women, the juxtaposition is stark. For the men, this was the most entrants since 1998. For the women, only 2022 featured fewer Australians since the event moved from Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club to Melbourne Park in 1998.
Looking first at the women, Storm Hunter and Ajla Tomljanovic have survived.
While humbling to see only two names advancing, the reality is that only Ajla Tomljanovic was a direct entrant into the main draw via her protected ranking with four of the other five relying on the generosity of Tennis Australia to gift them entry into the main draw.
Storm Hunter, who will play German Laura Siegemund in the second round today was the only exception having successfully navigated qualifying before earning her first-ever singles main draw Australian Open win on her sixth attempt.
Ajla Tomljanovic late last night accounted for Croatia's Petra Martic in three sets coming from 4-1 down in the third set in front of the die hard Aussie tennis fans who stuck around.
Fan favourite Daria Saville was outlasted in three sets on John Cain Arena on Tuesday by 69th ranked Magdalena Frech in what was a missed opportunity for the fan favourite Australian.
Highly touted 19-year-old wildcard Taylah Preston made her grand slam main draw debut however was she unfortunate in drawing a rampant 19th seed Elina Svitolina who kept 201-ranked Preston at arm’s length from start to finish. Preston however will be better for the experience. Australian fans can expect to see her knocking on the door of the top 100 in the not-too-distant future.
Similarly, it was a disappointing display from the Ash Barty mentored Olivia Gadecki who fell to Sloane Stephens inside one hour on the first match on John Cain Arena yesterday going down 3-6, 1-6. Gadecki, also a wildcard recipient, was coming off a strong 2023 however never really found a rhythm on court once Stephens found her range in the third game of the first set.
Queenslander, fellow wild card recipient and second-ranked Australian Kim Birrell was also a first-round loser going down to the in-form eleventh-seeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko on Show Court 3. Birrell, who for most of 2023 was Australia’s highest-ranked Australian, had opportunities in the first set tiebreaker but was ground out by Ostapenko 6-7(5), 1-6.
Women’s second round matches
[Q] Storm Hunter v Laura Siegemund – second match on John Cain Arena today
Ajla Tomljanovic v  Jelena Ostapenko to play Thursday TBC
Led by Alex de Minaur who benefited from the mid-match retirement of Milos Raonic, compatriots Alexei Popyrin (def. Marc Polmans), Chris O’Connell (def. Cristian Garin), Jordan Thompson (def. Aleksander Vukic), Max Purcell (def. Mate Valkusz) and Thanasi Kokkinakis (def Sebastian Ofner) have all survived to make the second round.
Popyrin, who last year downed won back-to-back five-set matches including a second-round thriller over American Taylor Fritz to make the third round, now faces the unenviable task of playing Novak Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night.
Although it’s been 6 years since Djokovic last lost on Rod Laver Arena, Popyrin says coming up against Djokovic is “nothing different than going to play against anybody else
on tour” in that it simply requires the “same preparation” and “the same mentality”.
For de Minaur, the second round provides an opportunity to seek “revenge” against Italian Matteo Arnalidi who was a central figure in Italy’s defeat over Australia in the 2023 Davis Cup Final. Should he continue to succeed, de Minaur is predicted to face Russian 5th seed Andrey Rublev in the fourth round with Jannik Sinner likely awaiting the winner.
In his third visit to the second round at Melbourne Park, fellow New South Welshman Chris O’Connell will face 2023 Australian Open quarter-finalist Ben Shelton. O’Connell, who is currently ranked 68th, shared his excitement at the prospect of playing Shelton after his marathon win on Show Court 3.
“Ben is unbelievable” O’Connell declared. He's playing some scary tennis at times. Yeah, just a real live-wire type of arm. It's crazy. I haven't seen anything like it. So that would be pretty cool to play him.
In another battle between Australians, Jordan Thompson survived an enthralling contest against Aleksander Vukic, also on Show Court 3, to advance 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 3-6, 4-6 and defeat Vukic for the second time in three weeks. Thompson, who gained public attention for labelling the Australian Open “woke” following rule changes to crowd behaviour, will face Greek superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas on Margaret Court Arena today.
Partnering Thompson in the doubles this week is Max Purcell who also notched a win out at Kia Arena defeated 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-5 over qualifier Máté Valkusz. Purcell, who wanted a “big court in the middle of the day” to leverage the hot climate against the European, was challenged in the earlier parts of the match however rose to the fore when required. Facing Casper Ruud next whom he defeated in Cincinnati last year, Purcell says he “[doesn’t] see why [his tactics] can’t work again.”
Like Thompson, Thanasi Kokkinakis also escaped in a five-set thriller taking down Austrian Sebastian Ofner 7-6(8) in the deciding tiebreaker. While Kokkinakis lamented his mental focus and inability to finish his match quicker, his closing ability restored some equilibrium after his devastating loss to Andy Murray last year.
Kokkinakis will take on Grigor Dimitrov next.
Unfortunately, it was not to be for Dane Sweeney, who enjoyed his main draw debut on John Cain Arena, Jason Kubler, James Duckworth and Rinky Hijikata who all fell heartbreakingly in five-set marathons on the opening two days. Wildcards, James McCabe (loss to Alex Michelsen), Adam Walton (loss to Arnaldi) and qualifier Omar Jasika (loss to Hurkacz) were outclassed against much higher-ranked opponents while Aleksander Vukic and Marc Polmans fell to countrymen Thompson and Popyrin respectively.
With five of the remaining men’s players against top 16 seeds, it will be an uphill challenge to have multiple men advance to the round of 32.
Men’s second-round matches
 Alex de Minaur v Matteo Arnaldi – second match on Rod Laver Arena today.
Alexei Popyrin v  Novak Djokovic – second night match on Rod Laver Arena tonight.
Jordan Thompson v  Stefanos Tsitsipas – first night match on Margaret Court Arena tonight.
Chris O’Connell v  Ben Shelton, third match on John Cain Arena today.
Max Purcell v  Casper Ruud, to play Thursday TBC
Thanasi Kokkinakis v  Grigor Dimitrov to play Thursday TBC