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Djokovic, Fritz survive on opening day with closer-than-expected matches

For the first time in tournament history, Australian Open organizers got things started on Sunday instead of Monday.

It’s safe to say that opening Sunday is not going anywhere.

Wasting no time diving into the season’s first Grand Slam, more than a few players who took the court on Day 1 delivered more than a normal helping of drama. On the women’s side, three seeds exited. Among them were No. 13 Liudmila Samsonova, who crashed out at the hands of a resurgent Amanda Anisimova. In the men’s draw, there were six five-set matches. Most notably, fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev outlasted Thiago Seyboth Wild in a decisive super-tiebreaker. Six other matches went four sets, including Novak Djokovic’s surprisingly competitive opener against 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic.

That result–Djokovic’s–was the most notable result on Sunday. The top-seeded Serb needed four hours and one minute to get past Prizmic 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.

“He deserves every applause and credit he got tonight,” Djokovic said of the world No. 178 from Croatia. “He’s an amazing player; so mature for his age. He handled himself on the court incredibly well. This is his moment and it could have easily been his match, as well. He was a break up in the third, he fought even though he was 4-0 down and a break point down [in the fourth]. He showed great mentality, resilience, and he made me really run for my money tonight.

“(It was) an amazing performance for someone who is 18 years old who doesn’t have the experience of playing on a big stage. We’re going to see a lot of him in the future.”

Whereas Prizmic was mostly unknown, Rublev would not have been taken by surprise with Seyboth Wild on the other side of the net. After all, Seyboth Wild upset Rublev’s compatriot and good friend Daniil Medvedev at the 2023 French Open. The 78th-ranked Brazilian almost did the same to Rublev on Sunday. Seyboth Wild led by a double mini-break in the fifth-set tiebreaker but lost eight of the last nine points as the fifth-ranked Russian triumphed 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(6).

“I was thinking in the fifth set when I had so many opportunities and I couldn’t make it, ‘for sure we are going to see the same story like Daniil at Roland Garros,’” Rublev said.

Taylor Fritz also went the distance, beating Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The 12th-seeded American broke at love in the final game to get across the finish line.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.