Halep survives a classic
In the end, it was a minor miracle that Simona Halep could even celebrate.
After three hours and 44 minutes of thrilling play - and three rescued match points - the Romanian summoned the strength to raise a single arm, pointing to her box to mark the end of a modern classic.
4-6, 6-4, 15-13. It is a scoreline that demands a second glance, and was every bit as dramatic as it sounds.
With a narrative that twisted this way and that, no one could truly be sure which way this encounter would go until the final point had passed. On the one hand, there was Lauren Davis’ relentless, unstoppable attacking, with the majority of her 52 winners eliciting gasps from those packed into Rod Laver Arena.
On the other, there was Halep, refusing to buckle and displaying the kind of mental fortitude that has sometimes gone missing in her past.
To the crucial action, then. Davis struck first, breaking at 5-4 to claim the opening set. In the second, the world No.1 responded in kind, breaking early on before maintaining her advantage to force a decider that will live long in the memory.
After trading breaks, the pair arrived at 4-4 in the third set, and thus began the most extraordinary sequence of this or any other match so far in the tournament.
Three times Halep broke to serve for the match, and three times she was denied by her tenacious opponent. Three was the not-so magic number for Davis too: while returning at 11-10 up, the 24-year-old got to 40-0, but saw all three match points disappear.
Only adding to the drama was an medical timeout for the American, enforced by the loss of a toenail on her right foot.
Davis continued to generate half-chances to take the match, but in the end it was Halep who prevailed, granted passage into the fourth round as her opponent dragged a forehand just wide.
“Was very tough match. So long. I never played a third set so long,’’ said Halep.
“So I’m really happy that I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead.
“I have no idea how much I run, I just know that my muscles are gone. My ankle… I can’t feel it any more. But it was nice to win and to again be in the fourth round of this tournament is great.”
Given her travails here and against Destanee Aiava in the first round, this has been a trying week for Halep, who now must recover from the Australian Open’s joint-longest women’s singles match in terms of games.
And yet, she still remains in the competition. Still in with a chance.
Chung wins Next Generation game
Hyeon Chung triumphed in the battle of the Next Gen at the Australian Open, besting Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
Seeded fourth and aiming to finally realise his potential at a Grand Slam tournament, Zverev looked on course for the win after claiming a two sets to one lead.
But the young German’s struggles in best-of-five matches have been well documented, and he succumbed to Chung’s tenacious play in the fourth and fifth sets, winning just three of the final 15 games.
Indeed, the Korean’s skills were plain for all to see when he triumphed in a 41-shot rally during the opening exchanges, demonstrating defensive prowess and movement that Novak Djokovic would have been proud of.
And there was mental resilience on display too, with the youngster blowing his opponent away in the final two sets to claim the first top 10 victory of his career.
As for Zverev, this was yet another blow suffered on the Grand Slam stage, and he admitted that he was headed back to the drawing board after thet match.
"I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam," said Zverev.
"It happened at Wimbledon. It happened in New York. It happened here.
"I'm still young, so I got time. I definitely have some figuring out to do for myself."
Osaka ends Barty party
Naomi Osaka brought an abrupt end to Ashleigh Barty’s run at the Australian Open, recording a 6-4, 6-2 victory that implied there may be much more to come for the Japanese youngster this fortnight.
Having already faced Aryna Sabalenka and Camila Giorgi, Barty could perhaps count herself a little unlucky to face yet another big ball striker in Osaka.
But where Barty had been able to withstand the weapons of her previous opponents, here there was little she could do. Osaka was unrelenting throughout, clocking 24 winners and dominating across the court.
There was tangible disappointment on Margaret Court Arena as the home favourite bowed out, and Osaka sympathised.
“I feel really happy but kind of sorry,” she said after the match. “Because I know all of you wanted Ash to win!”
As far as Osaka is concerned, though, all in the game can feel very excited if this marks the beginning of her emergence. Touted as a future Grand Slam title contender, her time may well be arriving very soon.
Around the Grounds
No.17 seed Madison Keys continued her serene progress through the draw, beating Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-4. As did No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova, who downed her compatriot Lucie Safarova 7-6(6), 7-5. Elsewhere, Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets.
Dominic Thiem prevailed in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino and Fabio Fognini came through in five against Julien Benneteau.
Shot of the Day
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