AO 2024 – Day 5: Blinkova's steel, French heroics

Thursday will be hard to top at Melbourne Park following a feast of dramatic, world-class tennis troubling plenty of big names.

Anna Blinkova Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil/ FFT
 - Alex Sharp

There are plenty of days at Grand Slams where it's impossible to keep up with all the historic moments, all the drama, all the head-turning action. This was one of those days for sure.

Let's catch up on the key headlines from a compelling day Down Under…

Blinkova battles from the brink

Anna Blinkova scribbled onto the broadcast camera, 'Never give up,' having prevailed in an early 'match of the season' contender.

That succinct message perfectly summarised a magical contest to down 2023 finalist Elena Rybakina 6-4, 4-6, 7-6[22-20] on Rod Laver Arena.

“This day I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Especially on this court with this crowd," declared the 25-year-old. "I’ll never forget it. It’s the best day of my life so far.”

The world No.57 saved six match points and finally converted her 10th match point, claiming the longest tie-break in a singles match in Grand Slam history at 30 minutes long.

"It was my dream to play on the Rod Laver Arena," added Blinkova, reaching the third round in Melbourne for the first time.

"I was doing a lot of mental work, a lot of self-talk to just stay positive and telling myself that I still can win the match until the very end.

"If I have to say one word, I would say 'courage'. It took me a lot of courage."

You simply can't ever count out Daniil Medvedev.

For the third time in his trophy-laden career, the No.3 seed has clawed his way back from two sets down.

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

This time the 2021 and 2022 finalist erased world No.53 Emil Ruusuvuori's commanding lead to emerge 3-6, 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-0 as 4am approached on the clock on Rod Laver Arena. 

Medvedev will meet Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round, who he reeled in from two sets down at Australian Open 2022.

"There were only two matches I went from two sets to love down and one it was here, on this court" recalled the 27-year-old. 

"So that's a good memory for sure. And I remember my first five set victory was also in this court. So yeah, this one is gonna for sure stay in my memory."

Arthur Cazaux Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

French up for the fight

Orchestrating his raucous, ardent fans in the crowd, Arthur Cazaux was roaring in celebration, moments after powering into the Last 32 of a major for the first time.

The 21-year-old Frenchman conjured up a collection of spectacular points to blaze past No.8 seed Holger Rune 7-6(4), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

"I think I did my job, tennis it's a show. I gave all I have in me and I hope you enjoy the show," the wild card told the crowd.

"Holger is such a superstar, I know him since a long time and I knew it's gonna be a big fight. Now I'm so happy, the atmosphere was crazy."

Cazaux, the first French men's wild card since Nicolas Escude in 2004 to hit the third round in Melbourne, joined in a chorus of the French national anthem, soaking up the applause. It was a special moment after some serious graft.

"It's been a few months training very hard. My physical condition and my head and my tennis and all these things together," said Cazaux, who takes on No.28 seed Tallon Griekspoor next.

"I did some practice with Dimitrov and also Andy Murray. I saw I can be close of these guys, but I never proved during matches. I'm pretty happy I proved to everyone I can be this kind of player."

Fellow French youngster Clara Burel sent a top seed crashing out too.

The 22-year-old eliminated No.5 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-2 to post a maiden Top 10 victory and continue her finest showing at the Australian Open.

Jessica Pegula Clara Burel Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"It’s definitely my best win of my career,” said the world No.51. “I didn't let her come into this match."

It's the first time since 2009 that French tennis has three women in the third round at Melbourne Park. Joining Diane Parry, Burel takes on her compatriot Oceane Dodin next.

“That’s nice because one of us will be in the fourth round,” noted Burel. “That's really nice to see women and the boys playing really well,” 

Also boosted by a vocal contingent of French fans, Ugo Humbert edged China's Zhang Zhizhen 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(3).

Swiatek gains AO revenge

Iga Swiatek suffered semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Danielle Collins at the Australian Open back in 2022.

Two years on and the world No.1 narrowly avoided the same fate, rebounding from 1-4 down and then 0-40 on serve at 2-4 in a pulsating deciding set on Thursday.

Iga Swiatek Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"It's not over until it's over..." said the Pole on social media, reflecting on a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph.

"Honestly, I was in the airport already,” admitted Swiatek, who required three hours and 14 minutes to remain unbeaten in seven singles matches in 2024.

“I wanted to fight until the end. I knew that she played just perfectly, but it would be hard for anybody to keep that level. I wanted to be ready when more mistakes were going to come from the other side. I'm really proud of myself because it wasn't easy.”

Recent Brisbane semi-finalist Linda Noskova will provide Swiatek's next challenge.

Roland-Garros 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko had a typical undulating match to fend off Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. The No.11 seed moves onto a blockbuster bout with 2012-13 champion Victoria Azarenka.

No.12 seed Zheng Qinwen moved past Katie Boulter 6-3, 6-3, Sloane Stephens dismissed No.14 seed Daria Kasatkina in three sets, whist No.19 seed Elina Svitolina brushed past Viktoriya Tomova 6-1, 6-3.

Alcaraz rising through the gears

Deep in a thrilling fourth set with Lorenzo Sonego, world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz sprinted out to the left and lasered a backhand around the net post.

Sonego laughed and applauded Alcaraz, it was a point that encapsulates the 20-year-old's box office appeal - make sure you watch it below!

Alcaraz eventually powered his way into the third round 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(3), where he'll meet in-form wild card Shang Juncheng.

Brisbane champion Grigor Dimitrov enhanced his title credentials, requiring four sets to hurdle Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Marathon men on the charge

Three-time Grand Slam finalist Casper Ruud withstood 93 winners from Sydneysider Max Purcell to escape 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6[10-7]. The No.11 seed will meet Cameron Norrie in the Last 32. The Brit also went the distance with qualifier Giulio Zeppieri, securing his third career victory from two sets down.

Just like Ruud, No.6 seed Alexander Zverev came up clutch in a fifth set tie-break 10-7 to finally outmanoeuvre Slovakia's Lukas Klein and similarly Miomir Kecmanovic finished 11-9 in the fifth set closer to deny No.24 seed Jan-Lennard Struff.

On top of that, under the lights at Melbourne Park, No.9 seed Hubert Hurkacz nullified the threat of Czech teenager Jakub Mensik in a five-set tussle.