Purcell loses battle as Kokkinakis prepares for tough test

Novak Djokovic chats with Nick Kyrgios

Source: Eurosport

While one Aussie heads home in the face of strong opposition and his own errors, fans are holding out hope for a strong performance from Thanasi Kokkinakis to propel him into the third round on day five of the Australian Open.

Gruelling battle

Crowd favourite Max Purcell faced Casper Ruud in an epic match that lasted nearly four hours on Thursday afternoon.

The Norwegian world No.11 made the better start after an early break in the first set had Purcell on the back foot.

Ruud’s pressure drove the Australian into multiple unforced errors to win the first set 6-3, despite Purcell’s run of break points in the final game.

Play was paused the rain lashed down in Melbourne between the first and second sets, meaning the roof on Margaret Court Arena had to be closed.

When it resumed, Purcell reversed his fortunes and set up three break points. His inability to close out games, however, continued to haunt him. He lost all three break points, allowing Ruud to control the game, limited only by Purcell’s strong serving.

After winning a lengthy rally at the end of the second set, Purcell set himself up with two more set points. But again he failed to capitalise.

After a tiebreaker win, Purcell grew in confidence. But more unforced errors when returning serve stifled his attempts to break away.

Ruud broke early in the third to keep the Australian on the back foot, despite a spirited fightback, taking control of the third set to win 6-3.

Purcell reversed his fortunes to take the fourth 6-3, but after a gruelling fifth set, the match went to a 10-point tiebreaker.

Ruud proved too good for the 25-year-old Australian, winning both the gruelling tiebreaker and match.

'Ruud is everywhere' against Max Purcell

Source: Australian Open

‘Sort him out’: Kyrgios offer to Djokovic

Sidelined Australian Nick Kygios has come to the aid of a former foe in Novak Djokovic after the champ confronted a heckler late on Wednesday.

The fan repeatedly heckled the world No.1 in his clash with Aussie Alexei Popyrin. Finally the Serb had had enough, challenging the noisy audience member to “come here and say it to my face.”

“There were a lot of things being told me on the court, particularly from that corner,” Djokovic said in the post-match press conference.

“I asked him whether he wanted to come down and tell it to my face. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the courage to come down.”

“If you’re such a tough man, tough guy, come down and tell it to my face and let’s have a discussion about it.”

On Thursday, Kyrgios, on commentary for Eurosport, came down on Djokovic’s side, labelling the fan “a jerk.”

“There’s always going to be people who don’t like your success, I guess,” he said.

“It’s a shame because all he (Djokovic) does every year is come down here to Australia and give us world-class tennis. Absurd, isn’t it?”

After Wednesday’s match, Djokovic told Kyrgios that he’d “invited the guy to come and say it to my face”.

“All of a sudden there’s an absence of courage when he needs to face me,” he said.

There was support from the sidelined Australian.

“When he was heckling you, Novak, I told everyone from the commentary box worldwide, ‘If you want me to jump into the crowd and sort him out, I’ve got your back 100 per cent, bro’,” Kyrgios said.

Djokovic, a 10-time Australian Open winner, said the fan had apologised from afar, but he remained upset with the behaviour and comments.

Zverev under scrutiny

There’s been more curly questions about the legal challenge facing sixth seed Alexander Zverev over assault accusations.

Now a member of the ATP Council after being elected for a two-year term in 2023 by his peers, Zverev was quizzed by the media after his first-round victory about whether he should be representing players while awaiting trial after being accused of assaulting a woman in Berlin in 2020.

Zverev accused journalists of being more interested “the clicks than the actual truth”.

German news outlets have reported the sixth seed will 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.

He has previously been accused of abusing his former girlfriend, ex-pro Olga Sharypova, but has denied any wrongdoing.

In Melbourne this week, women’s world No.1 Iga Swiatek and some of the men’s players have been asked about Zverev’s position on the ATP council.

“There’s no good answer to that,” Swiatek said on Tuesday, conceding she was in a tricky spot.

“I think it’s up to ATP what they decide.

“For sure, it’s not good when a player who’s facing charges like that is kind of being promoted.”

Kokkinakis hits the court

Fresh from a scintillating five-set first-round win, Thanasi Kokkinakis will be hoping to carry that momentum into his second-round game against 13th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov later on Thursday.

Dimitrov won his first round convincingly and should prove a massive test for fan-favourite Kokkinakis.

He is due to hit the court about 4pm.

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