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‘Still got plenty to show’: de Minaur, Hunter, last Australians standing in AO

Kokkinakis bows out in Melbourne

Source: Australian Open

Alex de Minaur says he’s got plenty left in the tank as he carries Australian hopes into the third round of the men’s draw, taking on Flavio Cobolli following the elimination of Thanasi Kokkinakis.

The world No.10 can match his previous best Open finish – making the fourth round in the past two years – with a win on Friday night over Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli.

Following the Thursday night exit of Kokkinakis, de Minaur is the last Australian man left in the singles, while Storm Hunter is the one local woman remaining following Ajla Tomljanovic’s defeat.

Kokkinakis was outplayed by Bulgarian 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4.

De Minaur’s clash is the final match on John Cain Arena on Friday, while 10-time Open champion Novak Djokovic opens the night proceedings on Rod Laver Arena against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina.

Australia’s world No.1 doubles star Hunter follows Djokovic on to court for her third-round clash with the Czech Republic’s former French Open champ Barbora Krejcikova.

De Minaur only had to play two full sets in his first round clash with Milos Raonic before the Canadian veteran retired hurt, and then dropped only six games in a straight sets win over Matteo Arnaldi – spending less than four hours on court in total.

The 24-year-old said he’d learned that preserving energy was a key in going deep in a grand slam.

“Over the years I’ve come to learn how important it is to, if possible, conserve the energy because it is a long two weeks if you want to get to the end of the tournament, and that’s ultimately the goal,” de Minaur said.

“The first week is all about finding ways to get through – it might not be your best tennis, but if you get through the first week, you give yourself a chance in the second week to show what you’re made of.”

Having claimed the scalps this summer of the world’s top two players in Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, de Minaur said he was bristling with self-belief.

A win over world No.100 Cobolli sets up a fourth-round meeting with either world No.5 Andrey Rublev or 29th seed Sebastian Korda.

De Minaur said he felt he could now win a match even if he wasn’t at his best.

“Nothing can give you more belief than winning matches, and especially good matches, and I think that’s what I’ve gotten this year,” he said.

“In saying that, I feel in a good position where if I don’t bring my A-game, I’ve still got plenty to show – I’ve won enough matches this year to know how to win certain types of matches.

“I’m feeling great mentally and physically.”

Australians in action on Friday (prefix denotes seeding):

Men’s singles, third round

10-Alex de Minaur v Flavio Cobolli (ITA)

Women’s singles, third round

Storm Hunter v 9-Barbora Krejcikova (CZE)

Alcaraz flexes muscles in bid to make mark

Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz has flexed his muscles at Melbourne Park with an entertaining four-set victory to equal an Australian Open personal best.

The two-time grand slam champion was challenged by Italian Lorenzo Sonego on Thursday, conceding the second set before moving on with a 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-3) victory.

Alcaraz’s brute strength and incredible shot-making were on full show to the Rod Laver Arena crowd, as the three-hour and 25-minute spectacle bled into the night session.

“I’m really happy with my performance today,” the 20-year-old said after making an outrageous round-the-net shot at 3-3 in the second set on his way to notching his 200th tour-level match.

“The match was a little bit tricky with the wind and the sun … it was tough to bring your best.”

The result equalled his best result at Melbourne Park, a third-round exit in 2022.

Alcaraz has reached at least the semi-finals in the other three majors, winning the US Open in 2022 and Wimbledon in 2023 as he became world No.1.

The second seed can recapture top spot from Djokovic with this year’s Australian Open crown, after missing the 2023 tournament through injury.

In another late night epic that stretched for nearly four-and-a-half hours until 3.40am, Daniil Medvedev, the No.3 seed, was left mightily relieved to come from two sets down against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori and progress with a 3-6 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 7-6 (7-1) 6-0 triumph.

Much, much earlier, Olympic champion Alexander Zverev had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a five-set marathon win over Lukas Klein.

In a see-sawing second-round encounter on John Cain Arena, Zverev was two points away from elimination when serving to stay in the match at 5-6 in the fifth set, but held his nerve to oust the Slovakian qualifier 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (10-7).

The pair traded blows for 4½ hours, before the German star won out in a nail-biting super tiebreak.

“To be honest, he probably deserved to win the match more than me today,” Zverev said of the world No.163.

The German let out a pressure-relieving scream after booking a third-round clash with American Alex Michelsen, a 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 winner over Czech No.32 seed Jiri Lehecka.

Zverev came under scrutiny this week when German news outlets reported he would stand trial in May, during the French Open, after he was ordered to pay fines of €450,000 ($750,000) over an alleged assault of a former partner.

The sixth seed has contested the fines, forcing the case to trial.

Zverev was bemused when the only English-language question in Thursday’s post-match press conference centred on whether he planned to attend the trial in person.

“Wow. That’s a question,” he said.

“I just played four hours, 40 minutes … I’ve got no idea.”

Seeds fall by wayside

In other men’s results, Danish eighth seed Holger Rune was shocked in his second round with French wildcard Arthur Cazaux, losing 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 4-6 6-3.

Spanish No.23 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was punted by Portugal’s Nuno Borges 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 6-3, who will next face Grigor Dimitrov with the Bulgarian 13th seed downing Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4..

Serb Miomir Kecmanovic sent big-serving German No.24 seed Jan-Lennard Struff packing 6-4 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (11-9).

Kecmanovic’s reward is a date with last year’s Open semi-finalist Tommy Paul after the American 14th seed beat Brit Jack Draper 6-2 3-6 6-3 7-5.

Elsewhere, Australian Max Purcell pushed No.11 seed Casper Ruud all the way in a gallant 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10-7) loss.

Ruud will next face top-ranked Brit Cameron Norrie, who turned the tables on Italian Giulio Zeppieri after falling two sets behind to win 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 6-4.

Dutch 28th seed Tallon Griekspoor was a 3-6 6-1 7-5 6-4 winner over Frenchman Arthur Fils, and French No.21 seed Ugo Humbert held off China’s Zhizhen Zhang 6-2 5-7 6-1 7-6 (7-3).

-AAP

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