After a long wait to get on to court 3 for their first round encounter, thanks to a three hour women’s match preceding them, Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic and Jordan Thompson weren’t in any mood to rush off the court.
In what was, at times, a tedious, and stop-start match, thanks in part to both players taking advantage of bathroom breaks at the end of sets 2, 3, and 4, it was Jordan Thompson who finally prevailed in a 4 hour 8 minute long 5 set thriller.
Vukic came into the match having lost in the first round in both lead-up events, losing once to his opponent Jordan Thompson in Brisbane. Meanwhile, Thompson was coming off one of the biggest wins of his career in Brisbane, against Rafael Nadal, and going on to reach the semi-finals.
The opening few games played out as expected with both men feeling each other out, before a poor service game from Thompson at 3-4, where he committed 4 unforced errors, gave the break, and thereby, the set to Vukic in under half an hour.
By contrast, the second set went the distance, but not before some controversy. Thompson was seemingly unhappy with the new rule allowing fans to come and go at the end of any game, complaining to the umpire that the Australian Open is ‘the wokest tournament ever’.
Asked to elaborate on this after the match, he wasn’t too keen on continuing that line…
“No, I'm good (smiling). Heat of the battle. Probably shouldn't have said it.”
Pushed further, he added, “How many years which have we been playing tennis, and then all of a sudden they spring on us that they can come in between not even a sitdown? So it just disrupts everyone's rhythm.I mean, if someone is walking at the back and you are throwing the ball toss up, it's impossible to see it because you have a moving person behind it. Yeah, it's, in my opinion, it's not good. I'm choosing my words carefully.”
Thompson jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Vukic broke back, before both players held serve all the way to the tie break. But it would be Thompson who was the more aggressive player, and used his net prowess to take out the breaker 7-3.
“I have had most of my success moving forward. Today maybe I didn't execute perfectly to get there, but when I did, I think I would have won the majority of points.
Yeah, that was a pleasing step for me. Yeah, any opportunity to get to the net, hopefully there is more to come.”
From there, it looked as though the higher ranked player would run away with the match, taking out the last 4 games of the third set, to cruise to a 6-2 win. Vukic would take another bathroom break, and you could almost sense the frustration of Thompson.
Whatever Aleksandar did during his break, seemed to work, and in the fourth game of the set, after an 11 minute battle, Vukic broke the Thompson serve, and would hold on for the rest of the set to take it to a deciding set, much to the joy of the Australian crowd who’d gathered in their thousands.
Neither player gave an inch, as the 5th set rolled on, but then, that was to be expected if you know anything about these two Aussies. They are both fighters, and while they may be friendly off the court, you could guarantee every point would have to be earned.
While Show Court 3 was jam-packed, as expected, they were somewhat subdued, with allegiances split between the two Aussies. Nevertheless, the tension was being felt by all in attendance, and at 4-5 with Vukic serving, the match was headed to a super tie-break.
However, in an ironic twist, the final game was almost over in a blink. A couple of unforced errors from Vukic, finished with an overhead into the net. And that was that. Thompson raised his arms in triumph, and the stats will show, that across 4 hours of tennis, he only won a single point more than his opponent.
“I think maybe just a little bit of luck with scoreboard pressure serving first in the fifth set. You know, always edging in front and just keeping my nose in front. Then, yeah, scoreboard pressure, anything can happen.”
But that scoreboard pressure was enough to book a place in round 2 against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Although Jordan knows he’ll have to lift his game to another level.
“Yeah, probably going to have to play a little bit better than I did today….Top-10 level is just something different, and he's had great success. He loves these courts. Going to have to come out of the blocks a bit better.”
Meanwhile, Daria Saville was in a fight of her own out at John Cain Arena, playing in the longest women’s match of the event so far, at 3 hours and 13 minutes. Unfortunately though, this time Daria was on the wrong end of the result, going down 7-6 3-6 5-7 to Poland’s, Magdalena Frech. Too many unforced errors eventually caught up with her, and there’s no doubt it will feel like the one that got away.