Aussie wildcard Alexei Popyrin has claimed the biggest victory of his career, dumping eighth seed American Taylor Fritz out of the Australian Open in a five-set epic – his second in as many matches.
22nd-seed Australian Alex de Minaur is locked in a tough battle with Frenchman Adrian Mannarino as he attempts to join Popyrin in the third round.
Meanwhile, nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is suffering from a hamstring injury which has his hunt for a record-equalling 22nd grand slam title in doubt.
Thanasi Kokkinakis faces Andy Murray later in the evening.
Follow all the action in our live blog below!
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POPYRIN DOES IT AGAIN IN INCREDIBLE 18-YEAR FIRST
In the first round, Alexei Popyrin beat Taiwan’s Chun-Hsin ‘Jason’ Tseng 4-6 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-1 in a 4h26m war that finished at 2:02am AEDT Wednesday morning.
Less than 48 hours later, he emerged victorious in another staggering five-set clash, outlasting Fritz 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 on John Cain Arena in just over four hours.
The 23-year-old Australian – ranked a whopping 104 places below the world No.9 – missed a match point in the fourth-set tie-break, but recovered from the disappointment to break Fritz twice in the deciding set and seal victory.
It is the first time since 2005 an Aussie has beaten a top 10 player at the Australian Open (except through injury retirement, which Popyrin benefited from to oust Dominic Thiem in 2019).
Popyrin could hardly believe his stunning success, waving his arms to conduct the bouyant crowd as they chanted his name.
“Oh my god, this is crazy man,” he said. “This win means so much to me… This is a dream for me, I don’t want to wake up at all.”
After losing the first set tie-break 7-4, Popyrin turned the tables in the second set tiebreak, winning the first five points and sealing he the breaker 7-2.
The 23-year-old sealed the first break of the match in the third set, and a flawless serving performance saw him win the set 6-4 without dropping a single point on his serve.
Fritz received treatment on court for a foot and ankle issue following the third set, but did not appear greatly hampered by the niggle throughout the match.
In the fourth set, the American 25-year-old finally saw his first break point of the match and made it count, breaking the Australian to earn a 5-3 lead in in fourth set. Popyrin saved a set point as he broke back the following game. Popyrin spurned a match point in the tie-break as a series of errors handed Fritz the tie-break 8-6, sending the match to a fifth set.
Popyrin saved a break point in the opening game, before breaking his rival with a sensational drop shot.
He was nerveless from that point, breaking again to seal the match and oust the top-ranked American.
Popyrin will next face 20-year-old American Ben Shelton in the third round, but the draw has now opened up hugely for the local hope.
Should he beat Shelton, he would face the winner of American duo JJ Wolf and Michael Mmoh – neither of them seeded – for a place in the quarter finals.
It guarantees an unseeded quarterfinalist for the first time since 2018.
BIG DJOKOVIC INJURY FEARS AS UNDERDOG COPS INJURY BLOW
Novak Djokovic – the second-highest seed left in the men’s draw and the clear tournament favourite – probably didn’t need any more favours in his match with French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.
After all, 191-ranked Couacaud only won his first-round match on Wednesday evening, giving him a day’s less recovery time than the Serbian superstar.
But the Frenchman’s tough task got a lot harder four games in when he badly rolled his ankle.
He needed more than five minutes of treatment – and heavy strapping – to continue, and looked in clear pain as Djokovic secured the first set 6-1.
Djokovic then took a medical time-out at 4-5 in the second set, having pulled up – hopping – on the final point of the game in clear distress. He had grimaced at multiple points in the first set, and was competing from the start with his upper left leg heavily strapped.
Djokovic was off the court for around nine minutes before resuming, with the Serb continuing to show serious concern on his face. The 21-time grand slam champion had multiple break points at 5-5, but was held off by his French rival.
DEMON LEADS IN TOUGH BATTLE
De Minaur was broken in his very first service game, but immediately hit back. The Australian saw another break point opportunity at 4-4 but couldn’t make it count, with the set heading to a tiebreak. From 3-3 in the breaker, de Minaur roared clear with a clinical performance to seal the tie-break 7-3 with a booming 198 km/h serve.
But the 34-year-old French veteran hit back immediately, breaking de Minaur in the opening game of the second set. De Minaur was broken again at 1-3, but managed to break back the following game as the two went toe-to-toe.
Mannarino threatened yet another break with de Minaur serving at 3-5, but the Australian defended both break points to escape to 4-5 and force the Frenchman to serve for the set.
De Minaur defended one set point, but it wasn’t enough as Mannarino levelled the ledger at a set apiece.
ALL-TIME DAY OF MAYHEM AS SEEDS SCYTHED
With top seed Rafael Nadal already out, Thursday saw seeded players follow him out the door in quick succession. Casper Ruud (2) was stunned earlier in the day, before Fritz (8) joined him.
Lucky loser Michael Mmoh knocked out 12th seed Alexander Zverev 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, with the German still far from his best after suffering a serious ankle injury in June 2022.
He was broken eight times and hit 58 unforced errors.
“Wow, this is the biggest win of my career without a doubt,” said Mmoh. “Life is crazy, this is insane.”
Zverev admitted he had a ‘long way back’ to his best in his post-match press conference, which began in rather curt fashion.
Zverev was asked “How is it going?”
His reply was scathing.
“How is it going? I think you can answer that,” to which the reporter could only reply: “Yeah.”
With Andy Murray having beaten Matteo Berettini (13) in the opening round, it meant that a whopping five of the top 13 seeds didn’t even reach the third round!
Seven of the other seeded players were also dismissed before the third round – including Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (30) in a five-set loss to Tommy Paul on Thursday.
There were plenty of upsets on the women’s side as well.
On Thursday, ninth seed Veronika Kudermetova lost to American qualifier Katie Volynets (6-4 2-6 6-2). Anett Kontaveit (16) lost to Magda Linette of Poland 3-6 6-3 6-4, Liudmila Samsonova (18) exited in straight sets to Donna Vekic of Croatia (6-3 6-0), before Irina-Camelia Begu (27) lost to Laura Siegemund in three sets (5-7 7-5 6-3).
FINAL AUSSIE WOMAN DUMPED OUT
She pulled off a remarkable upset in the opening round, but Aussie gun Kimberly Birrell couldn’t repeat the feat today.
The wildcard stunned 31st seed Kaia Kanepi in a three-set comeback win on Tuesday, earning a shot against 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova of Czechia today. But Birrell fell 6-3 6-2 to the rising star, being broken four times and making 33 unforced errors to her rival’s 20 in a tough loss.
Birrell was the final Aussie woman left in the singles draw.
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DEMON AND KOKK READY FOR BIG BATTLES
De Minaur, the No. 22 seed, is favoured to reach the last 32 – which he’s done in his last three appearances at Melbourne Park – as he takes on France’s Adrian Mannarino.
The heat and rain-forced delays over the last three days actually help de Minaur, as he is fully rested following a simple first-round win. In contrast Mannarino only finished his first-up match against John Isner on Wednesday.
Kokkinakis also has a slight advantage over his opponent, ex-world No. 1 Andy Murray, when it comes to exhaustion.
The South Australian, who has never made it past the second round of his home slam, finished his match yesterday against Fabio Fognini – but only needed to play six points.
In contrast, while Murray finished his match on Tuesday, it was a five-set epic over Matteo Berrettini that lasted nearly five hours, pushing the man with the metal hip to his physical limit.
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TOP CONTENDERS IN ACTION ON CENTRE COURT
After Djokovic, world No. 2 Ons Jabeur will be on upset alert against Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who is more credentialed than her unseeded status would suggest.
Vondrousova reached the 2019 French Open final, becoming the first teenage slam finalist since Caroline Wozniacki, losing to Ash Barty. She is a former world No. 14.
Dark horse women’s contender Belinda Bencic is also in action against America’s Claire Liu.
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AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 4 ORDER OF PLAY (All times AEDT)
Night session from 7pm
Rod Laver Arena
Enzo Couacaud (FRA) v  Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) v  Ons Jabeur (TUN)
Margaret Court Arena
Claire Liu (USA) v  Belinda Bencic (SUI)
Andy Murray (GBR) v Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
John Cain Arena
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) v  Alex de Minaur (AUS)
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