Third day at Melbourne Park was full of possibilities as several top players, including potential Grand Slam winners came close to making exits. The day also brought the cursing summer to the arena as air temperatures rose in the vicinity of 350 Celsius. First, it was the Russian Alexandra Panova, who almost ended the run of her more celebrated compatriot, Maria Sharapova. Maria stood at the brink, facing two match points against her. But she came through regardless. Then it was the great Roger Federer; 17 Grand Slam winner and no.2 in the world. He faced a first set scare against Italian Simone Bolelli. But the big Swiss survived his first set loss and moved to third round with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. Then it was the turn of Rafa Nadal, who lost the title match after an injury plagued him against Stan Wawrinka in 2014. On Wednesday, Nadal fought for over 4 hours against American qualifier Tim Smyczek and appeared sick. In the end, the Spaniard managed to beat Smyczek in five sets. Third day also saw dominating performances from Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios. While Murray didn’t have to work too hard, Kyrgios took four sets before ousting the big serving Ivo Karlovic.
At Rod Laver Arena, third day’s talk was focused mostly on how world no. 150 Alexandra Panova nearly beat world no.2 Maria Sharapova. No one thought of that when Sharapova won the first set 6-1 in 26 minutes. But the 25-year-old Panova came back strongly and took a 5-2 lead in the second set. Sharapova battled back and almost made it 5-5 on Panova’s serve in 11th game but the other Russian held her nerves to force a decider. In the third set, Panova went ahead 2-0 and despite Sharapova trying her best, Panova held two match points at 5-4. However, Sharapova held on grimly and produced powerful forehands winners to finally come through with the score of 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
There was also a bit of scare for second seed Roger Federer, when he lost the first set to Italian Simone Bolelli. But Federer raised his game later and advanced to the third round with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. The 29-year-old Italian, who played an energetic first set; had Federer in all sorts of trouble before easily taking the set 6-3. In the eighth game of the second set, however, Federer found his first break opportunity and converted it to swing the match in his favor. Afterwards, Bolelli began tiring and couldn’t keep pace with Federer.
After Sharapova and Federer survived, another drama unfolded at the Rod Laver Arena, when Rafa Nadal took on USA’s teenage qualifier Tim Smyczek. The 14-time Grand Slam champion had to fight tooth-and-nail against world no.112 Smyczek for four hours, during which the Spaniard also received medical attention. After Nadal won the first set, he lost the next two to the fighting American. The Spaniard, who lost in the first round at Qatar Open, had played just four tournaments since Wimbledon, where he suffered a wrist injury and later he had undergone an appendix surgery. In the third set against Smyczek, Nadal called for assistance and took some medication for stomach pain. Several times during the match, Nadal was seen clutching his stomach as he doubled over in pain. Somehow, the Spaniard equaled the set score to 2-2 by winning the fourth set. The final set went on serves until 5-5 and in the 11th game, Nadal earned the only break point of the set and entered the third round with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 win after 4¼ hours.
In sharp contrast to the matches featuring Sharapova, Federer and Nadal, Britain’s Andy Murray was merciless against Australian Marinko Matosevic. After taking the first set in 21 minutes, Murray finished the proceedings 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 despite being broken once in the second set. Australian Nick Kyrgios moved a step closer to the explosive fourth round clash with Roger Federer, after finishing off ace-king and no.23 seed Croat Ivo Karlovic. Kyrgios played a powerful game against Karlovic and won convincingly 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to set up a third-round clash with Tunisian world No.75 Malek Jaziri. Seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych had an easy passage to third round with a 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Austrian qualifier Jurgen Melzer. Tenth seed Grigor Dimitrov also moved to the third round with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over Slovak Lukas Lacko, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.
Among women, after Sharapova’s survival, Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard had easy passages into the third round. While the third-seeded Halep disposed off Australian Jarmila Gajdosova 6-2, 6-2; Bouchard powered her way past Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, 6-0, 6-3.
Wednesday was a bad day for Australia. After Murray accounted for Matosevic and Gajdosova was done in by Halep; Thanasi Kokkinakis lost a five-set battle with compatriot Sam Groth and James Duckworth fell to Richard Gasquet. However, Bernard Tomic sent Australian fans wild by defeating Germany’s Philip Kohlschreiber 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6. However, tournament draw will pit Tomic against Groth in the next round.