There was no lack of drama and startling developments when the second half of the men’s draw saw its first action in the Australian Open.
Sentimental favourite Lleyton Hewitt won his first round match against compatriot James Duckworth. At 34 years of age, Hewitt is playing his last Australian Open. The former world number one was pushed to a tiebreaker in the first set, but cruised from that point for a straight set victory. The match was a magnet for past Australian tennis greats, other significant athletes and more than one celebrity.
Bernard Tomic dropped the first set against Denis Istomin before taking the next three in a marathon three-hour affair that featured the match being stopped in the fourth set for 20 minutes due to a medical emergency experienced by a spectator.
Sam Groth of Narrandera, NSW, who looks as though he would be well at home in any of the footy codes, served up an upset victory over higher ranked Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. He holds the record for fastest serve in the Australian Open from 2009, when he delivered a 232 km/h bullet.
Novak Djokovic got a surprise gift that enhanced his already considerable prospects of advancing through his bracket when an unseeded Spaniard by the name of Fernando Verdasco sent the supposedly rejuvenated Rafael Nadal home in a five-set thriller.