Top seed Andy Murray came up against a determined Illya Marchenko on Monday at the Australian Open in Melbourne, but the Brit passed his first-round challenge with a solid 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-2 win.
“I don’t think it was the best match, to be honest,” said Murray. “The conditions there were pretty different to what we’ve been practising [in]. Last week’s been pretty cool… [I] didn’t serve that well either. So you end up having to work really hard on a lot of your service games when it’s like that. It just was tough.”
Murray was unable to serve out the first set at 5-3, but regrouped by breaking the Ukrainian at 6-5 to grab the early advantage. Marchenko continued to frustrate the top seed, racing out to a 4-2 lead in the second set, but Murray earned the break back to level the score at 4-4. He then stormed to a 4/1 lead in the tie-break and eventually converted on his third set point opportunity.
The third set was one-way traffic for the Brit. He cleaned up his baseline game considerably, hitting 11 winners to just five unforced errors and breaking Marchenko twice to wrap up the hard-fought win in two hours and 47 minutes.
Murray is seeking his first Australian Open title after finishing runner-up here five times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016). He also looks to keep his top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings after this fortnight. Should Novak Djokovic manage to defend his title here, Murray will need to reach at least the semi-finals to maintain his current position.
Next up for the World No. 1 is qualifier and #NextGenATP star Andrey Rublev, a four-set winner earlier in the day over Yen-Hsun Lu. “I know a little bit about him,” said Murray. “I never hit with him or played against him, but I’ve seen him play before and he goes for it. He doesn’t hold back. He hits a big ball.”
The breakthrough of the day went to 17-year-old wildcard Alex De Minaur, who thrilled the home crowd on Show Court 3 by saving a match point on the way to scoring his first Grand Slam win against Gerald Melzer, 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-1. The young Aussie saved the match point on his serve at 4-5 in the fourth set. He began to cramp in the deciding set, but hung tough to race to a 5-0 lead and eventually secure the victory. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now,” said de Minaur. “It’s definitely the happiest moment of my life.”
De Minaur opened 2017 by coming through qualifying at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, then won his first ATP World Tour main draw match last week at the Apia International Sydney. He has jumped nearly 250 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings over the past two months to his current standing at No. 301.
Next up for the young Aussie is No. 31 seed Sam Querrey, who rallied from a set down to defeat wildcard and #NextGenATP star Quentin Halys, 6-7(10), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4. The Frenchman erased three set points in the opening set tie-break, but Querrey saved a crucial set point on his serve down 4-5 in the second set. The American found the range on his serve in the next two sets, needing just a single break in each to secure the win.
One of the biggest upsets of the day came from teenage qualifier Alexander Bublik, who won his first Grand Slam main draw match by recording a stunning 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille. The Kazakhstan-based star fired 16 aces and won 86 per cent of his first serve points in the match. The 19-year-old reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final this past October at the VTB Kremlin Cup.
Next up for Bublik is Malek Jaziri, a straight-sets winner earlier in the day over Go Soeda.
John Isner, the No. 19 seed, fought off a late surge from Konstantin Kravchuk to record a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 victory. Isner didn’t drop serve in the match, hammering 33 aces and accumulating 10 break points throughout the contest (converting on four) to prevail in two hours and 23 minutes.
The American now plays Mischa Zverev, a winner earlier in the day over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Isner leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 2-0, including a win this past November at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.