Felix Auger-Aliassime avoided a fifth set but not another long evening on court on Thursday as he progressed to the third round of the Australian Open against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
The ninth-seeded Canadian had to dig deep to edge past the Spaniard 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in four hours, 19 minutes on Kia Arena.
Auger-Aliassime, who started his season by captaining Team Canada to ATP Cup glory in Sydney, had looked down and out in the first round before completing a five-set comeback win against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori. His clash with Davidovich Fokina also threatened to go the distance, but the World No. 9 held his nerve to win three out of four tie-breaks to advance.
It was his serve that came to the party against Davidovich Fokina. Auger-Aliassime hit 28 aces in a match that was as tight as the scoreboard suggested, with just two breaks of serve for both players.
Davidovich Fokina showed the sort of grit that earned him a first Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros last year (l. to Zverev), almost recovering from a 6/2 deficit in the third set tie-break.
Auger-Aliassime was able to see it out, however, and after an exchange of breaks in the fourth, he sealed victory with one of the best points of the match, stretching at the net to reach a Davidovich Fokina passing shot.
Inconsistencies remained in Auger-Aliassime’s throughout, and he will be looking to reduce his tally of 83 unforced errors in his third-round match against Daniel Evans. The British 24th seed, who defeated Auger-Aliassime in the 2021 Melbourne ATP 250 final in their only previous meeting, advanced to the third round on Thursday after France’s Arthur Rinderknech withdrew before their match due to a wrist injury.
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Five-time finalist Andy Murray was unable to summon more Melbourne magic as he was beaten by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel in a big upset on John Cain Arena on Thursday evening.
The Japanese World No. 120 maintained a high level throughout as he won 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 over the former World No. 1, who never found his rhythm.
Murray had shown good form coming into the match, reaching his first tour-level final in Sydney last week (l. to Karatsev) and ousting 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round in Melbourne. The five-time Australian Open finalist was never allowed to settle by Daniel, however, who won 79 per cent of points behind his first serve.
One to remember 🙌
🇯🇵 @tarodaniel93 defeats Andy Murray 6-4 6-4 6-4 to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2022
Murray and Daniel had only previously met in a Davis Cup tie in 2016, the Brit winning in straight sets for the loss of just five games. It couldn’t have been a more different story in Melbourne, with Daniel maintaining a high level throughout and also receiving some assistance in the form of 49 unforced errors off the Murray racquet.
The Japanese player, who won his only ATP Tour title in Istanbul in 2018, will next face either American Steve Johnson or 11th seed Jannik Sinner in his first Grand Slam third-round appearance.