MELBOURNE, Australia — Stan Wawrinka has played plenty of memorable five-set matches at the Australian Open.
He’s won his fair share of them, too, including his epic quarterfinal match against Novak Djokovic en route to his title here in 2014, and two victories last year over Andreas Seppi and Daniil Medvedev in the second and fourth rounds, respectively.
Wawrinka nearly made it another in this year’s Australian Open, but he wasted a big lead in the fifth-set tiebreaker – and three match points – before falling to Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the second round, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (9).
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, Wawrinka, a three-time major winner, said.
“From 6-1 (in the tiebreaker), I start to hesitate a little bit the way I was playing. I wanted to put the ball maybe too much in and I’m not going completely for my shot and that’s when I start to miss,” he said. “He was fighting well, he’s a tough player … and he deserved to win.”
Five unforced errors in the last seven points of the tiebreaker cost Wawrinka the match. It was that kind of day for the three-time major winner: he had 73 unforced errors overall, including 43 on his normally reliable one-handed backhand.
Fucsovics has now survived two five-set matches in his first two rounds, spending more than eight hours on court. “I feel like I’m dying,” he said. “I’m really tired.”
NO PRACTICE, NO PROBLEM
Some of the top women’s players have struggled coming out of hard quarantine in Melbourne: Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens, Victoria Azarenka. All lost early at the Australian Open, their bodies not ready for competition after 14 days in their hotel rooms with no practice.
Not Ann Li. The 20-year-old American is thriving.
Li beat Alize Cornet of France 6-2, 7-6 (6) to advance to the third round of the Australian Open – her sixth straight victory to start the year. She won her semifinal at last week’s Grampians Trophy warm-up tournament, but the final was cancelled due to scheduling issues.
Li said she felt ready to play after the hard lockdown, largely because of her preseason preparations and “working out in the (hotel) room a ton.” She also realized how much she missed playing tennis.
“Sometimes we take it for granted,” she said. “And we need to go out there and have a purpose with every ball. Because we don’t know when we’re going to not play.”
Li has made incredible strides in the past few months, reaching the third round of the U.S. Open and coming into Melbourne Park ranked 69th.
She plays seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka next for a chance to go one better and reach the fourth round. But first, a day off.
“I might hit for 15 minutes,” she said. “I like coming here a lot, but I’ll try not to stay too long.”
SERENA AND IRON MAN
Famous and successful as she is, Serena Williams is friends with all manner of celebrities.
So after Williams won her second-round match at the Australian Open in straight sets, reporters wanted to know whether there’s someone she’s never met that she wants to.
“Jesus,” she said. “He would be, like, the ultimate.”
Asked for another response, Williams complied.
“I’ll go with living. I met Thor, so I can’t say that,” she said with a laugh, before offering up this: “Oh, I haven’t met Robert Downey Jr. And I love Marvel and Iron Man. I went shallow there, but it’s fine.”
It is a sure sign of just how far Rebecca Marino has traveled that when asked to select a particular moment that will stand out about her first Grand Slam tournament in eight years, the Canadian chose a double-fault that wasted a set point.
While Marino is out of the Australian Open after a 6-1, 7-5 loss in the second round to 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, the competitive juices were definitely back.
“I’m just so happy to be back in the main draw of a Slam,” said Marino, a 30-year-old who is ranked 317th and went through qualifying to earn a spot at Melbourne Park. “I think I should be really proud of myself with that.”
She is a former Top 40 player who left the tour because of depression, was away for nearly five years, then after returning was sidelined by a serious foot injury.
“It’s been quite the journey. It is quite rewarding to be back here,” she said. “I want to keep this going, though, so I’m not going to try and rest on my laurels.”
— to sports.nbcsports.com