Fognini Withstands 35 Opelka Aces In Comeback To Remember
No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini came from two sets down for the eighth time on Tuesday, battling past big-serving American Reilly Opelka 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(10/5) to reach the second round of the Australian Open for the fourth consecutive year. The Italian baseliner withstood 35 aces and 60 total winners off the 22-year-old’s racquet to advance after three hours and 38 minutes.
Rain came at the perfect time for Fognini on Monday, with Opelka up two sets to love. The nine-time ATP Tour titlist remained calm upon the resumption of play, making just 20 unforced errors in the final three sets to force Opelka into uncomfortable backcourt rallies.
“I was lucky that the rain came on the right time. Yesterday he was playing better than me. I only lost one break, and I was two sets down. These guys, they're always tough to play but we have to,” Fognini said.
Fognini is now 21-13 in five-setters, including a two-set comeback against Rafael Nadal at the 2015 US Open. The Italian won a higher rate of first-serve points than Opelka, 76 per cent to 75 per cent, avenging a loss against the American from last year’s US Open. Fognini will next play Aussie Jordan Thompson, who defeated Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 18 minutes.
“Fabio really stepped it up today, which I was expecting,” Opelka said. “I remember watching him beat Nadal at the US Open down two sets. By no means was I expecting [to be] one set and out today.”
Fognini wasn’t the only seeded player to come from two sets down on Tuesday, as No. 31 seed Hubert Hurkacz rallied past Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak 6-7(4), 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. This was his first five-set win.
Hurkacz, a 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor, is off to a quick start in 2020. He was unable to lead Poland to the Final Eight of the ATP Cup, but he showed excellent singles form in Sydney, defeating Diego Schwartzman, Borna Coric and Dominic Thiem before making the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The 22-year-old hit 51 winners, but perhaps more impressively withstood 64 winners from Novak, showing good counter-punching skills with his 6'5" frame. Hurkacz won his 23rd net point of the match on match point to triumph after three hours and five minutes, turning to his camp with his arms up in the air in celebration.
Former World No. 3 Milos Raonic did not spend nearly as long as the court, finishing off a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win against Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino in a match that took only one hour and 27 minutes. The Canadian, seeded 32nd in Melbourne, was within a game of victory on Monday when the rain began, suspending play. He will next face Chilean Cristian Garin, who beat Italian Stefano Travaglia 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and 11 minutes.
"I was in a very fortunate situation where I was one game away," Raonic said. "So coming out today [I knew] if I could do my things well, which I can normally take care of my serve, I didn't think it would be too long of a day for me."
Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic now knows his second-round opponent, as Japanese wild card Tatsuma Ito beat Indian lucky loser Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to earn his first Grand Slam main draw win since the 2014 US Open.