Grigor Dimitrov survived an almighty scare from American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, ultimately prevailing 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 8-6 to keep his title hopes alive.
Off colour throughout, the No.3 seed was given an indication that this would be a harder night’s work than expected in the first set, with McDonald’s big serve and aggressive tactics guiding him to the opener.
Despite being short of his best form - and facing an opponent playing the match of his life - Dimitrov appeared to have wrestled back control after taking the second and third sets.
But world No.186 McDonald, who only won his first tour level match on Monday, rallied in extraordinary fashion, dishing out a bagel set to force a decider.
To Dimitrov’s credit, he fought for his life in the fifth set, eventually shaking off McDonald’s tenacious challenge in the 14th game to squeeze into the third round.
“He deserves a lot of credit. He played an unbelievable game," said Dimitrov.
"I had to fight so much and in the end I think my experience helped me.”
The world No.3, then, lives to fight another day, but in a mostly forgettable tournament for American players, McDonald provided his country with plenty to be proud of.
Kyrgios keeps calm
Prior to the Australian Open, Nick Kyrgios spoke of his desire to take the highs with the lows this year, and keep things “even-keeled” regardless of what was going on around him.
On Wednesday night against Viktor Troicki, the Australian’s new approach was severely tested by a series of bizarre off-court distractions.
Chiefly among them were a helicopter hovering above the Hisense Arena for an extended period of time, a heckling fan and the umpire’s microphone ceasing to work. In the past, such occurrences may have agitated Kyrgios, but he showcased a maturity to get on with the job at hand, which he did with aplomb.
Indeed, Kyrgios was always in control of proceedings on court, playing quick, fluid tennis and serving like a dream. Having seen a match point come and go at 5-3 in the third set, the No.17 looked set for victory when serving for it at 5-4, but Troicki conjured up a break out of nowhere.
Another irritant to test Kyrgios, then. But again he dealt with it, composing himself to reach a tie-break, where he accelerated away from his opponent and into the third round.
“There were a lot of things going on today, there was a lot of adversity, definitely didn’t feel like an Australian Open match. But it was a good win,” said Kyrgios post-match.
“I think last year, the year before, I probably would have been probably still out on the court right now, could be losing that match.”
As it is, this year’s Kyrgios is now set for a third round showdown against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Around the Grounds
Alize Cornet snapped Julia Goerges' 15-match winning streak with a straight-sets victory, while Australian Matthew Ebden bowed out in straight sets against Alexandr Dolgopolov.