The stage is set for another five-set thriller on Margaret Court Arena as Max Purcell stormed to a 6-3 win in the fourth set against Casper Ruud to bring it to a decider.
The Aussie spanked three aces at 5-3 to hold his serve and claim the quickest set so far as the rallies begin to shorten and the match opens up.
Purcell’s forehand has been his biggest weapon and consistently on song for the four sets so far, and he will like his chances after finally breaking Ruud’s serve early in the third set.
It was an important monkey to get off his back after 12 unsuccessful previous break points.
The pressure he has put on Ruud’s serve over the match has finally began to pay dividends.
2024 Australian Open
N. Melichar-Martinez (7)
E. Perez (7)
E. Hozumi (16)
M. Ninomiya (16)
H. Chan (10)
G. Olmos (10)
3.20PM: SWIATEK ONE GAME AWAY FROM THIRD ROUND
Iga Swiatek leads 5-4 in a stunning turnaround.
She has won 17 out of a possible 22 points since going 4-1 down.
Collins also led 0-40 when Swiatek has serving at 4-2.
3.18PM: SWIATEK BREAKS AGAIN
What a turnaround from the No.1 seed.
Less than 20 minutes after she was on the cusp of exiiting the Australian Open, Iga Swiatek is back on serve at 4-4 in the third set against Danielle Collins.
The American’s game has absolutely imploded in the last three games.
3.13PM: SWIATEK GRABS A BREAK BACK
The top seed isn’t going down without a fight.
Iga Swiatek gets a break back from Danielle Collins and now the pressure is back on the American to convert her serve at 4-3.
Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev has an early break in the fifth set against Lukas Klein as he looks to complete a huge comeback from two sets to one down.
3.03PM: SWIATEK ON VERGE OF EXIT
Danielle Collins is serving to go 5-1 up against Iga Swiatek after taking a double break in the third set.
2.55PM: ZVEREV, SWIATEK RESPOND TO PRESSURE
There isn’t a lot of tennis being played at Melbourne Park, but the level of tennis on the inside courts is high quality.
Alexander Zverev faced a fourth set tiebreak against Lukas Klein but has pushed his match into a fifth set as he tries to avoid a second-round boilover.
Zverev’s serve came up clutch when he needed it most late in the set and has been effectively what has kept him alive.
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek is down a break but fighting hard in her third set against Danielle Collins.
Could that be where the day five upset unfolds?
2.45PM: PURCELL BREAKS — YES, IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
This time he’s done it!
Max Purcell is up a break after Casper Ruud’s first serve went off the boil early in the fourth set.
The Aussie finally got a look at the Norwegian’s second serve on a break point at 30-40 but went for a big forehand winner and missed, but it was thirteenth-time lucky for the 25-year-old as he was again forcefully able to meet a Ruud second serve.
Purcell followed with a strong hold to lead 3-0 in the fourth after coming to the net successfully on back-to-back points.
The world No. 45 has ventured to the net 42 times for 29 points over the match, while Ruud has played a far more measured match from the baseline and hasn’t even come to the net once.
EARLIER: DJOKER CONFIRMS WILD AUS OPEN RUMOUR
Whispers of a special tree that may well be the source of Novak Djokovic’s powers.
Eagle-eyed Melbourne locals swear black and blue that each year in January, the Serbian makes his way to a particular place in the Royal Botanic Gardens for a rendezvous with a root or two.
Turns out, the rumours are true.
“It is true, it is true,” admitted Djokovic after his second round win over Aussie Alexei Popyrin.
“There’s one particular tree that I’ve been having (a) special relationship with, so to say, in the last 15 years.”
The 24-time grand slam champion has long marched to the beat of his own drum and tree hugging, it would seem, is one of his many eclectic interests.
Djokovic hinted as such prior to this year’s Australian Open, revealing he had visited the Royal Botanic Gardens for the past 15 years “just grounding, hugging trees, climbing trees and stuff”.
After his match against Popyrin, the 36-year-old let the tennis world in a little closer.
“I love every corner of (the) botanical gardens,” he said.
“I think it’s (an) incredible treasure for Melbourne to have such a park and nature in the middle of the city.”
The gardens are a valued shared space of the Australian Open host city – the stage on which Djokovic has won a record 10 titles.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has confirmed the bizarre rumour doing the rounds at Melbourne Park. Picture: Getty
But he would prefer to keep the identity of his conifer companion a secret if possible.
“That particular tree, I cannot reveal which one. I’ll try to keep it discreet for myself when I’m there to have my own time,” smiled Djokovic.
“I like to ground myself and connect with that old friend.”
What is it about that particular tree?
“I got connected with that tree,” he said.
“I just liked it. I liked its roots and the trunks and branches and everything. So I started climbing it years ago. That’s it. I just have a connection.”
– Callum Dick
2.28PM: SEEDS FEEL THE HEAT
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek has a fight on her hands to stay in the Australian Open after dropping the second set against American Danielle Collins.
After Swiatek won the first set 6-4, world No.62 Collins had the upper hand over the top seed to take the second, 6-3.
Collins, a former Australian Open finalist, had held a 5-1 lead at one point in the set.
Four-time grand slam champion Swiatek has not been beaten in 17 matches dating back to last September.
The pair is playing under a closed roof on Rod Laver Arena after rain forced a delay mid-way through the opening set.
And it could be a day of drama in the men’s draw too, with Alexander Zverev under the pump against Lukas Klein.
The German sixth seed will need to go to five sets to reach the third round, trailing 7-5 3-6 4-6 against Klein, who achieved a career-high ranking of 133 last year.
Zverev leads 4-3 on serve in the fourth set.
Meanwhile, organisers have confirmed play will not resume on the outside courts until at least 3.15pm local time.
2.15PM: AUSSIE’S VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN DE MINAUR
Jordan Thompson has backed Alex de Minaur to charge deep into the Australian Open after his tournament was ended by Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday.
Thompson said the 10th seed had the resilience to extend his campaign into the second week.
“I haven’t seen his draw, but he’s a top-10er now, and he is going deep in a lot of Grand Slams,” Thompson said.
“I think he can keep going deeper and deeper if he keeps at it, and I know he will. He is a fighter. He always shows up.”
De Minaur next takes on Italy’s Flavio Cobolli in the third round.
1.55PM: PURCELL TAKES SECOND SET
Margaret Court Arena is at fever pitch after mulleted local hero Max Purcell smashed an ace to take the second set from 11th seed Casper Ruud in a tie-break.
Purcell gave away an early break in the first set but has settled into the match nicely and is earning glowing praise from Nine commentator Jim Courier on his forehand.
The 25-year-old Sydneysider missed out on two set points at 6-5 as Ruud served his way out of trouble once again to force a tie-break, but made the Norwegian star pay for a miscued volley by crashing a forehand winner which handed him the mini-break.
With two set points, Ruud produced yet another ace, but Purcell answered with his own to claim the tie-break 7-5 and carry significant momentum into the third set.
He still faces a difficult battle countering Ruud’s fresh legs, after the three-time grand slam finalist cruised through his first-round match 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 against Albert Ramos-Vinolas while the Aussie had to fight out a four-set battle with qualifier Mate Valkusz.
1.40PM: SWIATEK BLOWS AWAY FORMER FINALIST
– Rebecca Williams
World No.1 Iga Swiatek has fought off a tough first-set challenge from American Danielle Collins in their second-round clash on Rod Laver Arena.
After a 20-minute rain delay in the middle of the set which forced the centre court roof to be closed, Swiatek claimed the opening set 6-4 in 78 minutes.
Scores were locked at 3-3 when the rain hit and the unseeded Collins won the first game back on court on serve when play resumed.
Swiatek then clicked into gear to take the next three games.
The top seed is enjoying plenty of support from the Polish fans in the crowd.
Iga Swiatek on her way to the third round. Picture: Getty
1.30PM: PLAY RESUMES, ZVEREV HITS A HURDLE
Melbourne’s fickle weather has taken a break for a minute – with play resuming on all outside courts after the brief post-lunch downpour.
But it’s getting a bit tense for Alexander Zverev, with the German sixth seed dropping the second set of his clash with Lukas Klein and giving up an early break in the third set.
1.15PM: PURCELL CRUELLED BY MISSED CHANCES
– Ed Bourke
Max Purcell will be kicking himself after missing out on three break points early in the second set when his clash with 11th seed Casper Ruud resumed quickly after a rain delay.
The Aussie world No. 45 said before the clash to meet Ruud outdoors in the heat of the day but the pair is now doing battle under the roof at Margaret Court Arena.
The change in conditions appears to have helped Ruud’s serving – down 0-40 after a blistering forehand return from Purcell, he delivered his first three aces of the match all in succession to hold serve.
Purcell has now squandered six break points for the match but is looking comfortable on his serve as he moved to a 2-1 lead in the second set.
After fiercely criticising a ballkid in his first-round match, he stayed on court during the brief rain delay to supervise as the ballkids and chair umpire took to the surface with towels and a mop, while Ruud went indoors for a break before re-emerging to begin the second set.
Max Purcell has had his opportunities in the second-round match. Picture: Mark Stewart
12.50PM: SWAITEK CHARGE HALTED BY RAIN
Play has been suspended on centre court for world No.1 Iga Swiatek’s second round match against American Danielle Collins due to a rain delay.
With the scores locked 3-3 in the first set, the players were forced to leave the court while the Rod Laver Arena roof was closed.
The players will resume at 15-15 when they return to the court.
Tournament staff are hard at work drying the court with towels
12.45PM: PURCELL DROPS FIRST SET AS RAIN HITS
Max Purcell had his chances to break back after dropping an early game to Casper Ruud – but conceded it 6-3 in 34 minutes.
Ruud secured the it just in time, as a very quick downpour hit Melbourne Park.
That’s halted play on all outside courts, as well as on Margaret Court Arena where Purcell is waiting for play to resume.
They’re closing the roof on MCA, and mopping up the court.
12.15PM: ZVEREV TAKES FIRST SET
Alexander Zverev has had an eventful week – punctuated by confirmation he’ll have to attend court on domestic violence charged.
But he’s not letting the distractions affect his tennis, with the world No.6 eyeing off a third-round berth this afternoon.
Zverev has taken the first set off Slovak tennis player Lukas Klein 7-5.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev looks in ominous form. Picture: Getty
11.55AM: STAR SLAMS FANS OVER ‘DISTURBING’ DRUNKEN HARRASSMENT
Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has slammed Australian Open fans after ‘disturbing’ harassment included the star being meowed at during her second-round loss.
Pavlyuchenkova was defeated in straight sets by Paula Badosa on Wednesday on the newly introduced ‘party court’ at Melbourne Park.
With a two-storey bar built into one of the grandstands of court six, fans have the opportunity to sink beers, with music blaring during play, without missing out on any of the tennis action.
The intention was to create a raucous party atmosphere, but the result – in Pavlyuchenkova’s case at least – has been much more sinister.
“It was super loud, like in the restaurant basically, people talking and eating and drinking. I don’t know if they even watched the match,” Pavlyuchenkova told English newspaper the Independent.
“There were a couple of guys, I think they got drunk and they started to scream and meow (at me), I think maybe because I have this tattoo on my leg (which reads meow) or just because of course they had some drinks and so it was really disturbing.
“It was not nice to be honest. I was really annoyed at the start of the match. I have no problem playing on the outside courts, but this one was special in terms of the noise and also the court.”
Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was unimpressed with the behaviour of the fans at the Party Court. Picture: Getty
11.30AM: DEMON FOE’S FATIGUE CONCERNS
A path to the Australian Open quarter-finals is now wide open for Alex de Minaur after the Aussie No.1 drew another unseeded opponent for his third round clash on Friday.
Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli is no easy beat, as evidenced by his upset five-set victory over No.18 seed Nicolas Jarry in the first round.
But de Minaur has already dispatched one Italian young gun and is feeling daisy fresh after breezing through his opening two rounds in a total time of just 3 hours 55 minutes.
The world No.10 has spent the least amount of time on-court of any male player into the third round – a disappointing statistic for Aussie fans but great news for the man who holds the hopes of a nation in his hands.
His opponent Cobolli, meanwhile, has spent almost as much time in the heat of battle as anyone, putting in a cumulative 7 hours 16 minutes through two gruelling wins.
“I need to rest,” declared Cobolli after his win over Kotov.
“Now I have a big match against Alex … I have to stay (at) 100 per cent, so now I need to rest.
“He (de Minaur) is top 10 now. I know he is a big talent.
“I have to also talk to my team because I need some advice. I know it’s tough, but I can do it.”
Italy’s Flavio Cobolli has battled through some tough matches so far.
11.00AM: FIESTY TENNIS FEUD SET TO REIGNITE
Ajla Tomljanovic has been warned to expect ‘a bit of biff’ when she resumes her spicy rivalry with Jelena Ostapenko this evening.
The pair have history, dating back to a spiteful 2021 clash at Wimbledon, and will be doing battle for a spot in this year’s Australian Open third round.
And Todd Woodbridge gave a hint at what the Australian star might be expecting later today.
“Ajla is one of the nicest people (and) I’m not saying Jelena is not but that’s the type of thing that Jelena will create,” Woodbridge said on Channel 9 after vision of their 2021 blow-up was shown.
“She likes a bit of biff on courts, win at all costs.”
Ostapenko infamously labelled Tomljanovic the “worst player on tour” as part of a heated exchange following the Aussie’s 2021 third round victory at the All England Club.
On that day, Tomljanovic led Ostapenko 4-0 in the deciding third set when the Latvian star called for a medical time-out.
Jelena Ostapenko (R) and Tomljanovic clash at Wimbledon in 2021.
Tomljanovic felt her opponent was faking the injury to stop the Aussie’s momentum after she had won seven games on the bounce, but her protest to the umpire went unheard.
She would go on to win the final set 6-2 but when the two approached the net to shake hands, Ostapenko took aim.
“If you think I am faking, you can talk to the physio,” she said.
Tomljanovic replied: “I hope you feel better”, to which Ostapenko responded: “Your behavior is terrible. You have zero respect.”
The Aussie later labelled Ostapenko’s behavior “disgraceful”.
Tomljanovic says there is no bad blood between the pair as the two prepare to reignite their fiery rivalry in the second round of the Australian Open.
“No, I really don’t think so. What happened happened,” Tomljanovic said
“I have respect for her as a player. What happened, that was just in that moment. I just reacted. We never spoke about it.
“Yeah, we’re both going to be competitive. That’s for sure. I do think at least from my side I respect her as a tennis player, yeah. In that moment, I wasn’t happy.”
Ostapenko (L) and Tomljanovic will resume their hostilities later today.
10.30AM: KYRGIOS OFFERS TO ‘SORT OUT’ NOVAK HECKLER
The Nick Kyrgios-Novak Djokovic bromance continues to blossom, with the Australian star offering to defend the world No.1’s honour after a nasty clash with a member of the Melbourne crowd.
The pair have both have their battles with crowds over the years, and Kyrgios jokingly offered to take up the fight for his friend after Wednesday night’s ugly scenes.
Djokovic, after being baited throughout the match by hecklers who he said were shouting between serves, snapped in the fourth set and told a fan to ‘come and say that to my face’.
In a light-hearted post-match interview with broadcaster EuroSport, who Kyrgios has joined for commentary during the tournament, Djokovic reiterated his displeasure with the crowd interaction before Kyrgios offered to sort it out for him.
8.20AM: AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY TWO
Alex de Minaur and Storm Hunter are already through to the third round after dominant victories on Wednesday.
Who could join them today? There’s a trio of Aussies in action on court throughout the day with an eye on the $255,000 payday that a second-round victory brings.
First up will be Max Purcell as he faces a difficult challenge in the form of Norwegian 11th seed Casper Ruud, while later in the afternoon Thanasi Kokkinakis will look to ride a wave of home support at John Cain Arena against Bulgarian 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov.
That match precedes the jewel in the night slot,with Ajla Tomljanovic resuming her feud with fiery Latvian star Jelena Ostapenko.