MELBOURNE, Australia – On the first day of Australian Open qualifying, the American men represented strongly.
Sixteen of them were in action as the first round of the men’s event got under way Wednesday.
Three were guaranteed to go through, since three matches involved Americans playing each other: Bjorn Fratangelo vs. Mitchell Krueger, Christian Harrison vs. Reilly Opelka, and Mackenzie McDonald vs. Noah Rubin.
They did better than that.
There were some epic encounters.
Taylor Fritz put an end to Aussie Sam Groth’s singles career in a tight one, 6-4 3-6, 7-6 (3). (Next opponent is France’s Matthias Bourgue)
Stefan Kozlov squeezed past another Aussie, Brad Mousley, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (3) (Next opponent is Dustin Brown, who survived match points and won a tiebreak, 18-16 in the third set, in his first round)
Christian Harrison, giving up significant height and power to his younger countryman Reilly Opelka, prevailed in two tiebreaks when Opelka flinched in both. (Next opponent, good friend and practice partner Peter Polansky).
Here’s a photo gallery of some of the players in action.
Gum-chewing Paul pulls it off
Tommy Paul had the craziest match of all. He managed to defeated Slovenian lefty Blaz Rola 67 (3) 76 (2), 7-6 (5).
Nice handshake at the end, too. And Paul may well have gone through a king-sized pack of chewing gum. (Next opponent: the enigmatic Bernard Tomic).
Ernesto Escobedo, the No. 11 seed, welcomed back Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar to the tour after a long time out with injury with a 6-2, 6-2, win (Next opponent: Alessandro Gianessi).
Michael Mmoh, who won his first career ATP Tour match as 2018 began, surprisingly went down to Aussie journeyman Andrew Whittington in straight sets.
In a match that should have been far more competitive, Mackenzie McDonald crushed Noah Rubin in just 49 minutes. There didn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with Rubin, at least from an outside observer.
McDonald defeated Josef Kovalik 6-2, 6-2, in just 55 minutes in the second round Thursday. So he’s obviously in form. He’ll face 37-year-old Frenchman Stéphane Robert for a spot in the main draw.