Caroline Wozniacki produced one of the finest comebacks of her (or anyone else’s) career to squeak into the third round of the Australian Open, saving two match points at 1-5 down in the third set before sealing an improbable, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Jana Fett.
All Grand Slam champions are required to win ugly at times, and while testing her mettle like never before may serve Wozniacki well in future rounds, this wasn’t an experience she’ll want to repeat.
World No.119 Fett, who had never played a Grand Slam match before this week, caused the world No.2 all sorts of problems on serve in the first set, breaking at the first two times of asking before taking the opener.
Expected service resumed in the second as world No.2 Wozniacki regained control, and momentum appeared to be with the Dane in the decider.
But Fett went on the assault again, breaking twice more to take a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead in the decider. As she stepped up to serve for the biggest win of her career, Wozniacki looked to be on her way out, not least when the young Croatian engineered two match points at 40-15.
But just when she needed it most, the Dane’s consistency returned, drawing two errors from Fett after extended, nail biting rallies. Another error was followed by a Wozniacki winner, and the world No.2 had the break she so craved.
It was a blow from which Fett would never recover. Sensing that her opponent was wobbling, a fired up Wozniacki went on the attack, reeling off the next six games in a row to complete a miraculous escape.
"That was crazy," said Wozniacki post-match. "I don't know how I got into the match."
"I think she realised she was at 5-1 and let off the pace a bit. I've been out here so many times and I know how she would feel having the opportunity to win, and I took advantage of that today."
Jo on Tsong
How time flies. 10 years ago, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the exciting upstart at the Australian Open, knocking off higher ranked players as he tore through the draw.
Now, it was he assuming the role of experienced seed, attempting to fend off the precocious talents of Denis Shapovalov, 14 years his junior. And fend him off he did, although only just - having been 5-2 down in the fifth set, Tsonga recovered to record a 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 victory.
An encounter replete with thrilling shotmaking - the pair combined to produce 110 winners between them - Tsonga was chasing his opponent from the off, losing his serve at the first time of asking. Twice he pegged back Shapovalov’s one-set advantage, but the writing appeared to be on the wall when the Canadian broke early in the decider, and maintained his lead up until 5-2.
But Tsonga, channelling that 2008 run to the final, rallied impressively, breaking back twice as he won five games in a row to reach the third round. The Frenchman was ahead on the scoreboard for just two games in the entire match, but it was enough.
“It’s hard playing these young guns,” said the Frenchman afterwards. “They go for everything.”
His likely next opponent? Nick Kyrgios...
What were you doing at the age of 15? Chances are, it wasn’t reaching the third round of a Grand Slam.
But that is precisely where Ukrainian prodigy Marta Kostyuk finds herself after defeating Australian wild card Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 7-5. Kostyuk, who first picked up a racket to spend more time with her tennis coach mother, is the reigning junior singles champion here in Melbourne, and this year is giving at a go amongst the seniors.
And what a go it’s proving to be. Having won through qualifying, Kostyuk beat No.25 seed Shuai Peng in the first round to become the youngest player to win a main draw match at the Australian Open since Martina Hingis in 1996. Now, she’s the youngest player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam since 1997.
Next up? Her countrywoman and No.4 seed, Elina Svitolina…
Around the Grounds
World No.1 Rafael Nadal contained a dangerous opponent in Leonardo Mayer in three sets, further allaying conerns about his physical conditioning in the process.
No.4 seed Elina Svitolina survived a scare against the big-hitting Katerina Siniakova, righting the ship after losing the opening set to secure a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory. No.7 seed Jelena Ostapenko also avoided a potential upset, beating Duan of China 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Meanwhile, Belinda Bencic was a shadow of the player that beat Venus Williams in the first round, losing to an inspired Luksika Kumkhum 1-6, 3-6.
Marathon man and No.23 seed Gilles Muller won his 11th five-set match in 16 attempts, recovering from a break down in the fifth set before fending off Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 3-6, 6-2. Kyle Edmund saw off Denis Istomin in straight sets, with the Briton now the highest ranked man left in his quarter. 6ft 11in Ivo Karlovic won the battle of little v large against the 5ft 7in Yuichi Sugita, triumphing 12-10 in the fifth set after four hours and 33 minutes.
Shot of the Day
Pablo Carreno Busta came up with this scarcely believable lob during his second round win against Gilles Simon...