Christopher O’Connell’s Australian Open campaign came to an end against explosive 16th seed Ben Shelton.
Trying to back up his taxing five-set victory three days ago, fitness and physicality were always going to be a key focus for the Aussie.
Signs of fatigue looked evident in the first two sets when Shelton looked in control with his natural power overwhelming O’Connell which moved the Australian around the court with ease.
In the third, a few costly unforced errors and impatience cost the American a comfortable straight sets outing, with O’Connell only needing one break of serve to peg one set back.
Adrenaline and a newfound sense of belief led to O’Connell up a break at 4-3, before being instantly broken back to force a tiebreak.
Despite the incredible support at John Cain Arena, Shelton’s booming serve and unstoppable forehand edged the 21-year-old to victory in a 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5) in under three hours.
On Margaret Court Arena, a fast start from Jordan Thompson was not enough to overcome 2023 Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Aussie came out of the gates firing, creating all six break point opportunities in the first set and taking one to claim it 6-4.
A second set tiebreak saw Thompson fend off three set points before finally succumbing 8-6 as the Greek began to lift his level into the third.
Playing more aggressively and forcing errors off the Thompson racquet, Tsitsipas took the third 6-2 and appeared in full control leading 5-3 in the fourth.
However, one final push from the Aussie brought the set back on serve and just one point from heading to a decider, before the 25-year-old closed off the encounter in another tiebreak to take it 4-6. 7-6(6),6-2, 7-6(4).
“[I] fought as hard as I could,” Thompson told the media.
“I just hung around as long as I could and just gave myself that chance…nearly sent it to a fifth, but he is a quality player, and he didn’t let it happen,” he added.
Not intimidated by the occasion on Centre Court, Alexei Popyrin put in the performance of his life which still wasn’t enough to overcome world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
After the Serbian claimed the opening set, a routine day at the office was inevitable until Popyrin had other ideas to rewrite the script.
The Australian world No. 44 began to hit freely as if there was no pressure at all, ultimately taking the set to consolidate the solitary break.
Things got crazier in the following set as Popyrin had four set points including 0-40 on the Djokovic serve, but that proved to be the turning point when Djokovic unsurprisingly found a way to escape and claim his 325th tiebreak win of his career.
A visibly frustrated Djokovic was heard telling a fan to ‘Come say it to my face,’ after constant heckling, but that only fired up the 10-time Australian Open champion, closing out the match in three hours and 11 minutes to win 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3.
After bowing out in the second round, all three Aussies are guaranteed $180,000 in prize money.