AO 2024 – Day 4: Andreeva dazzles, Djokovic escapes

Plenty of top seeds advanced as well as a series of shocks kept fans on the edge of their seats in Melbourne.

Mirra Andreeva / 1er tour Open d'Australie 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Wednesday was a whirlwind of action down at Melbourne Park.

Defending champions, teenage superstars, five-set marathons, you name it. Here are the key headlines from Day 4 at the Australian Open…

Andreeva accelerating to the top

At just 16-years-old, in just her fourth major main draw, Mirra Andreeva keeps posting career milestones at a rapid rate.

Heading onto Rod Laver Arena the world No.47 had previously lost all four Top 10 duels in her fledging career.

Far from intimidated from taking on one of her idols, Andreeva demonstrated variety and composure well beyond her years to dismantle No.6 seed Ons Jabeur 6-0, 6-2 in just 54 minutes.

"Probably it was the best match,” claimed the teenage sensation, assessing her finest performances on Tour.

"I'm happy I played with Ons. It was one of my dreams to play against her, because I really like the way she plays.

“Before I started to play on the WTA Tour, I always watched her matches and I was always so inspired."

“Honestly in the first set, I showed amazing tennis. I honestly didn’t expect that from myself. So, it means a lot.“

Rewind to January 2023 and Andreeva fell 7-5 in the decider of an epic girls' singles final at Melbourne Park.

Since then, she's qualified for both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, then heading into the third round in Paris and fourth in south-west London. 

Now it's time for Melbourne to witness this generational talent.

“I was really nervous before the match, but I saw that she was nervous too,” suggested the remarkably mature teenager.

“It kind of helped me, because I know I'm not the only one who is nervous before the match.

“I just decided to just enjoy, because it's Rod Laver Arena, I'm playing against the person that I like. I decided just to play, and I think I played okay.”

French finding a way

Andreeva awaits France's Diane Parry in the third round. The world No.72 defied Kamilla Rakhimova 7-5, 6-2 to continue her best run in Melbourne.

Parry and Andreeva have met once before, with the teenager dominating proceedings 6-1, 6-2 last summer at Roland-Garros.

Luca Van Assche and Adrian Mannarino have booked third round tickets with back-to-back battles going to five sets. On Wednesday, 19-year-old Van Assche outlasted No.25 seed Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0, whilst Mannarino went the distance to navigate past Spain's Jaume Munar.

Caroline Garcia's hopes were dashed 6-4, 7-6(2) by world No.69 Magdalena Frech. Meanwhile, Sebastian Korda ousted Quentin Halys in straight sets and No.30 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry took down Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Favourites plotting their path

Reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka blazed into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 scoreline over Czech youngster Brenda Fruhvirtova.

10-time champion Novak Djokovic, struggling with illness, was given a thorough examination by inspired Australian Alexei Popyrin.

The defiant Serbian eventually wrestled away the initiative 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 to hit the last 32, where he'll meet in-form No.30 seed Etcheverry.  

"I haven't been playing my best but still trying to find my form," admitted Djokovic.

"Particularly in the early rounds, you play players that have nothing to lose really, they come out on the centre court trying to play their best match, best tennis and I think both my first and second round opponents were really great, quality tennis players.

"I managed to find a way to win in four. That's what counts in the end. Hopefully I'll be able to build this as the tournament progresses."

Earlier on Wednesday, US Open winner Coco Gauff rebounded from a break down late in the first set to defeat fellow-American Caroline Dolehide 7-6(2), 6-2.

Top 10 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Beatriz Haddad Maia advanced with relative ease. On the flip side No.8 seed Maria Sakkari is out, succumbing to Australian Open debutant Elina Avanesyan 6-4, 6-4 for the biggest win of her career.

Ukrainian youngster Marta Kostyuk chalked up a fourth trip into the third round at Melbourne Park, erasing match point in a gruelling 5-7, 6-1. 7-6[10-6] encounter with No.25 seed Elise Mertens.

Back to the men's draw, six sets from six have fallen in the favour of 'the fox' as Jannik Sinner continued his perfect start in Melbourne. The world No.4 booked a third round with Sebastian Baez courtesy of a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 scoreboard with qualifier Jesper de Jong.

No.5 seed Andrey Rublev had too much firepower posting 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 facing Christopher Eubanks. 2023 breakout quarter-finalist Ben Shelton's booming serve enabled a four-set triumph over Christopher O'Connell. 

American No.1 Taylor Fritz sauntered past Hugo Gaston in straight sets, but No.17 seed Frances Tiafoe was stunned 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5) by Czech Tomas Machac.

Australia's leading light Alex de Minaur was ruthless, dropping just six games to swat aside Matteo Arnaldi and last year's semi-finalist Karen Khachanov advanced in fours sets with Aleksandar Kovacevic.

Qualifiers continue to shine

2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki's Melbourne return was cut short by world No.170 Maria Timofeeva. The qualifier, making her Grand Slam debut this week, reeled in the Dane 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 and has No.10 seed Haddad Maia at the next hurdle.

Italian NextGen prospect Flavio Cobolli enjoyed a four-set win over the net from Pavel Kotov. The 21-year-old will be a energetic test for de Minaur in the Last 32.

Local fans were buoyed by Storm Hunter edging a three-set clash with Laura Siegemund and Roland-Garros 2021 champion Krejcikova awaits in the third round.