Marin Cilic cited his experience as the key to sealing a first ATP Tour title in three years against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Stuttgart Open on Sunday. 

The Croatian, who did not drop a set all week, hit seven aces on his way to a 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win in one hour and 50 minutes. 

At 32, Cilic is the third-oldest Stuttgart champion in the Open Era (since April 1968) behind Roger Federer, 36, and Barry Phillips-Moore, 33.

It brought up his 19th ATP Tour title and he believes the knowledge he has amassed in his career was crucial to overcoming an opponent 12 years his junior. 

"Experience plays a big part, especially on grass," he said in quotes reported on the ATP website. 

"The conditions can be difficult; the court plays quite quickly. I felt this was a good chance for me to give it my all, keep my intensity. 

"Even though some games were up and others down, that was a big part of my victory today.

"It was a very important win. I played two semi-finals and did not win a title since 2018, also on grass at Queen’s. 

"Winning here brings out joy for me, good confidence and a good feeling.

"I felt like I was playing good tennis these last few weeks. Winning here is a great way for me to continue my form and it gives me a good sign for Queen's and Wimbledon. 

"It is a joy to win my first title with my family here for the first time at any tournament."

Auger-Aliassime, who has now lost all eight ATP Tour finals he has contested, had no complaints with the result. 

"Today, I am not facing a final, I am facing Marin Cilic; it is two different things," he said. 

"There have been times when I have not played my best then I felt I was not playing well, but this time around, I felt like it was close. 

"Overall, though, I think he was the better player."

Marin Cilic is relishing the chance to win a 19th career title when he takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime in Sunday's Stuttgart Open final.

The world number 47 was 6-3 1-0 up against Jurij Rodionov in Saturday's semi-final when his opponent retired due to injury.

Cilic eliminated top seed Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals and now faces a tough test against world number 21 Auger-Aliassime, who beat Sam Querrey in the other semi.

"I'm feeling really good and very excited to be in the final after a period that I didn't reach a final," said Cilic, who lost to Roger Federer in the second round of the French Open.

"I think this has been a very positive week. I have played good tennis and served really well.

"Considering it is a shorter season, with one week less, for me, it was great to play this week. Losing in Paris to Roger Federer gave me more time to prepare for the grass."

The former Wimbledon runner-up and 2014 US Open champion added: "I haven't enjoyed being at a tournament this much in a long period of time, because it is the first time my son, wife and I are together at one tournament.

"The set-up in Stuttgart is really nice. There is a lot of grass and open space around the hotel for my son to play and it is so much fun having them around."

Auger-Aliassime did not face a single break point and hit seven aces in his 6-4 7-5 victory over Querrey, which lasted an hour and 19 minutes.

The Canadian third seed won 16 of his 18 first-service points in the second set and has yet to drop a set in this week's tournament.

It is the second time Auger-Aliassime has reached the Stuttgart final, having finished runner-up to Matteo Berrettini two years ago.

The 20-year-old has lost all seven of his ATP Tour singles finals to date so is longing to be a champion for the first time, even as he tries to stay cool about the prospect.

"You have to be focused all the time," Auger-Aliassime said. "Things can turn around quickly but I was able to do well today.

"There are no expectations. There will be the final tomorrow and other tournaments are coming up and I will try to keep my level as much as I can."

Top seed Denis Shapovalov failed to reach the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open as his busy Friday ended with defeat to Marin Cilic.

Shapovalov had earlier completed a rain-delayed match with Feliciano Lopez, winning in three sets.

However, the Canadian was beaten in two tight sets by former US Open champion Cilic, who prevailed 7-5 7-6 (7-3).

"I felt I was applying a little more pressure during that first set and I capitalised on the couple of break points, which was definitely big, just to give me a bit of extra momentum," Cilic said.

"I also had the two match points at the end of the second set, didn't convert them, but played a really good tie-break. You always have to expect tough battles against top guys like Denis and it was like that today."

Cilic will face Jurij Rodionov after the Austrian came from behind to stun fourth seed Alex de Minaur, a player ranked 120 places above him, 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Shapovalov's Canadian compatriot Felix Auger Aliassime remains in the draw, though, going through to the last four with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (10-8) win over Ugo Humbert in which he hit 17 aces.

Auger Aliassime, the lone seed left in the tournament, is hoping to repeat his run to the final in 2019. Standing in his way will be the sizeable figure of Sam Querrey, who ended wild card Dominic Stephan Stricker's superb tournament.

Teenager Stricker had match point at 5-4 in the second set but Querrey fought back to progress 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3. Querrey won all 14 of his first-serve points in the final set.

Rafael Nadal has tipped Alexei Popyrin for greatness after being tested by the youngster in the opening match of his latest French Open title defence.

World number three Nadal saved two set points in the third set on his way to a well-earned 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory in Tuesday's contest at Roland Garros.

It means that only three players have taken a set from the Spaniard at the grand slam event since 2016 – Diego Schwartzman, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem.

Nadal's victory over Popyrin was his 31st in a row in Paris since 2015 and keeps him on course for a record-extending 14th triumph in the French capital.

The third seed was impressed by what he saw from his 21-year-old opponent, who showed admirable resistance by saving four break points to force a tie-break in the third set.

"With this serve, with these kinds of shots from the baseline, he has everything to become a top player," Nadal said. "If he wants to do it, of course he is going to have his chances, because he has a lot of very difficult things in his game.

"He has everything to become a great, or at least a fantastic player. Let's see. Let's see what is going on in the next couple of months and years."

Asked about his impressive record of rarely dropping a set, Nadal said: "We are playing best-of-five. The other player needs to win two more sets to beat you.

"I know I'm going to be there fighting for every single point. Of course I don't want to lose the set at all, but that's part of the game.

"I'm happy to win that third set. I don't know how I won it, but I did, and I'm glad."

RUBLEV BEATEN BY BIG-SERVING STRUFF

Nadal's path to another French Open title is a little clearer following seventh seed Andrey Rublev's surprise first-round exit to world number 42 Jan-Lennard Struff.

Rublev had reached the quarter-final stage at his previous three majors and was much fancied to go far in Paris, but he fell 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 6-4 to the big-serving Struff.

The German hit 25 aces on his way to beating a top-10 opponent at a grand slam for the first time, setting up a second-round meeting with Facundo Bagnis.

"I was feeling fine," Rublev said after the defeat. "I practiced well. I don't know why I lost. I think we played a good level today. I played a solid two sets, third and fourth, and then the fifth set.

"I think I should have won the second set, but this is tennis. I was serving for the set and I didn't make it, then in the tie-break I was a bit unlucky and he played well."

MONFILS ENDS SLAM DROUGHT

Fan favourite Gael Monfils battled back from a set down to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-4 and earn his first grand slam win since the 2020 Australian Open.

Monfils has struggled since tennis resumed last year after the coronavirus-enforced break, with Tuesday's win on home soil just his second this season.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev kicked off his French Open campaign with victory over Jenson Brooksby in three sets.

Tenth seed Schwartzman, who reached the last four in Paris last year, saw off Lu Yen-hsun 6-2 6-2 6-3 in his opening match.

Matteo Berrettini was made to work a little harder for his victory against Taro Daniel, the ninth seed advancing through 6-0 6-4 4-6 6-4.

There was an upset later in the day, though, as number 20 seed Felix Auger Aliassime was beaten in four sets by world number 98 Andreas Seppi.

Novak Djokovic returned following a rain delay to beat Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia after Felix Auger-Aliassime dumped Diego Schwartzman out.

Djokovic, playing his first match since a shock loss to Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals of the Serbia Open on home soil, dispatched American Fritz 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Tuesday.

The world number one, who missed the Madrid Open, won the first three games of the match and saved both break points he faced in the opening set.

Fritz had broken for a second time in the second set to level at 5-5 when the rain came at the Foro Italico, but the top seed was able to come back out on court to finish off the job and will face Cameron Norrie or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round.

Auger-Aliassime secured the third victory over a top-10 opponent in his fledgling career, beating eighth seed Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 to move into round three.

The 20-year-old Canadian only needed 64 minutes to send the Argentine packing, converting five of the six break-point opportunities he earned.

Matteo Berrettini saw off Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the first round less than 48 hours after the Italian was beaten by Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open final.

Gael Monfils was unable to win his first match since the Australian Open, as Lorenzo Sonego got the better of the fit-again Frenchman, who had been sidelined with a calf injury, 6-4 5-7 6-4.

Reilly Opelka moved into the last 16 with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of Lorenzo Musetti, while Pablo Carreno Busta's withdrawal due to lower back pain handed Kei Nishikori a walkover.

Daniil Medvedev and David Goffin were unable to start their second-round matches due to the weather in Rome.

Dominic Thiem surged to an emphatic victory on his return to the ATP Tour at the Madrid Open.

US Open champion and two-time Madrid Open runner-up Thiem was playing his first match in nearly two months on Tuesday, having taken a break to recharge.

But it did not take him long to get back into the groove, the third seed easing through his second-round match with American qualifier Marcos Giron 6-1 6-3 at the ATP 1000 event.

"I was uncertain how things will be going. The game worked out very well in the past days of practice, but I was always practising on the outside courts which are faster, which are smaller, so I was just not sure how it was going to be in the match," Thiem said.

"But there were some things which I think made [the match] a little bit easier after such a long time, especially the conditions in Madrid, which are great for me.

"Then [I have] amazing memories on this court, where I already played probably some of the best matches of my career. I think that's why things worked out quite well tonight."

Next for Thiem in the last 16 is Alex de Minaur, who was leading 6-2 3-0 when Lloyd Harris retired from their match.

It was a largely strong day for the seeded players in the Spanish capital, home hope and ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut beating Marco Cecchinato 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 in a first-round clash.

Andrey Rublev – the sixth seed – came from a set down to beat Tommy Paul 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 and eighth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini joins him in the last 16 after defeating compatriot Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-4.

Jannik Sinner, who is seeded 14th, won in the first round after Guido Pella retired in the second set. However, four seeds did tumble out of the draw.

Felix Auger-Aliassime was thrashed 6-1 6-4 by Casper Ruud in the first round and his Canadian compatriot Denis Shapovalov was beaten 6-4 5-7 6-4 by Alexander Bublik in their second-round encounter.

Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz suffered a second successive second-round exit, the 12th seed defeated 5-7 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 by John Millman in a match that went the distance having lost at the same stage in Monte Carlo.

Rafael Nadal fended off Kei Nishikori to reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open along with the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday.

Top seed Nadal secured an opening-set bagel in just 30 minutes, but Nishikori hit back to force a decider before the 20-time grand slam champion prevailed 6-0 2-6 6-2.

Nishikori hit only three winners as he was blown away in the first set, but broke twice in the second to ensure Nadal was taken to three sets in back-to-back matches for the first time in this tournament – having overcome Ilya Ivashka in the second round.

The world number three saved three break points from 0-40 down in the final set and Nishikori saw another two come and go, with a more clinical Nadal breaking twice to advance.

Nadal will now face unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie, who also won the first set 6-0 and was 5-3 down to David Goffin in the second when the Belgian retired due to a leg injury.

Newly-crowned Monte Carlo Masters champion Tsitsipas defeated Alex de Minaur 7-5 6-3, stretching his straight-sets winning streak to seven matches.

Next up for the second seed is a meeting with Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2 6-3, while Jannik Sinner beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11-9) 6-2.

Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman and Pablo Carreno Busta also made it through.

Two seeds fell in the Serbia Open, with Federico Delbonis taking out Dusan Lajovic 6-3 2-6 6-4 and Taro Daniel defeating John Millman 3-6 6-2 6-3.

Gianluca Mager moved into the quarter-finals at the expense of Alexei Popyrin and Aslan Karatsev battled past Aljaz Bedene 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-5) in Belgrade.

Russian star Daniil Medvedev overcame painful cramps and Alexei Popyrin to battle his way into the Miami Open round of 16.

Medvedev looked in all sorts of trouble against the Australian, but the world number two and top seed survived at the ATP 1000 tournament on Sunday.

Canadian sensation Felix Auger-Aliassime was sent packing by former champion John Isner in Miami.

 

MEDVEDEV ADVANCES… SOMEHOW

Australian Open and US Open runner-up Medvedev could barely walk during his gruelling three-set win against Popyrin.

Medvedev let three match points slip away in the second set, having led 5-2, before cramp set in.

In humid conditions, Medvedev was forced to rely on his serve as he limped around the court.

"Winning a Grand Slam final in straight sets doesn't feel the way I felt after the match point today," he said. "A match to remember for sure."

"I felt like my legs were not following me anymore," Medvedev said. "The only thing I was thinking about is not to fall down, because if you fall down, I don't think I would be able to get up. There were a few moments I just wanted to lay down and say, 'OK, it's over.' That's the thing I couldn't accept myself to do."

Awaiting Medvedev is Frances Tiafoe after he outlasted 16th seed Dusan Lajovic 1-6 7-5 6-3.

 

AUGER-ALIASSIME TOPPLED

A new year, but same result for 11th seed Auger-Aliassime, who was beaten 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) by Isner.

Isner defeated Auger-Aliassime en route to the championship match in Miami two years ago and the big-serving American repeated the feat.

The only former Miami champion in this year's field, Isner remains unbeaten in tie-breaks at Hard Rock Stadium, winning all 11 since the tournament relocated in 2019.

"It was a big test for me. There's probably not many places in the world where I like my chances against Felix," Isner said. "I'm kind of lucky to play him here in Miami, where I like it a lot. If I were to play him on clay somewhere in Europe, it'd probably be a different story."

Next up is seventh seed Roberto Bautista-Agut, who beat Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Elsewhere, Jannik Sinner, Taylor Fritz, Emil Ruusuvuori and Alexander Bublik also advanced.

Third seed Alexander Zverev was sensationally dumped out of the Miami Open second round as Finnish 21-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori claimed his second top 10 win of his career.

Russuvuori bounced back after losing the first set, changing his tactics and overwhelming the German on Friday to set up a third round meeting with Mikael Ymer.

Ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov also bowed out, going down to Briton Cameron Norrie, while eighth seed David Goffin lost to James Duckworth.

World number two and top seed Daniil Medvedev eased past Lu Yen-hsun, while 11th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, Karen Khachanov and John Isner all progressed.

 

TURNAROUND STUNS THIRD SEED

Zverev may have won last week's Mexican Open and the opening set 6-1 against Ruusuvuori but the tables turned quickly as the Finn produced one of the best displays of his career to date.

The 83rd ranked Finn moved regularly to the net and was aggressive in his approach, leaving Zverev rattled before winning 1-6 6-3 6-1 in a stunning momentum shift.

"I don't even know myself," Ruusuvuori said in his on-court interview when asked how he turned the match around.

"I wasn't feeling very comfortable in the first set and I was making a lot of unforced errors but slowly in the second I was starting to feel a bit better... Of course, it's one of the biggest wins in my career so it feels good."

He'll next face Ymer who knocked out 27th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

 

NINTH SEED BUNDLED OUT

Former world number three Dimitrov was ousted from the Miami Open on Friday, losing 7-5 7-5 to 56th ranked Norrie.

The Bulgarian took an early break and served for the first set at 5-3 but Norrie showed his mettle to break back twice to take the opener.

Norrie sent down 10 aces and was strong on serve throughout, claiming a significant win for his burgeoning career.

“It’s huge,” Norrie said. “He’s had a good start to the year. It was such a physical match at the start. He came out really fast and he set the tone at the beginning of the match. Massive one for me and I take a lot of confidence from it.”

Norrie's win sets up a third round meeting with American Taylor Fritz who beat Marcos Giron 6-2 6-2.

 

DANIIL DOMINATES, GOFFIN SHOCK

Australian Open runner-up Medvedev made light work of Lu, winning 6-2 6-2 to book a third round match with Australian 21-year-old Alexei Popyrin.

Medvedev won in less than an hour, hitting 24 winners and nine aces and making few errors in a clinical display.

Canadian 11th seed Aliassime proved too good for Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 6-4, setting up a third round meeting with 18th seed John Isner who got past qualifier Mackenzie McDonald.

Seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut progressed by virtue of a walkover against Lloyd Harris who had a wrist issue.

Eighth seed Goffin lost to world number 104 Duckworth 6-3 6-1 in a boilover.

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was made to sweat but got past Felix Auger-Aliassime in three sets to reach the Mexican Open semi-finals on Thursday.

World number five Tsitsipas, who was a semi-finalist at last month's Australian Open, defeated seventh seed Auger-Aliassime 7-5 4-6 6-3 in Acapulco.

In a tight contest, back-to-back double faults from Canadian sensation Auger-Aliassime in the eighth game of the third set proved costly as Tsitsipas broke after the pair had held serve throughout the last.

"It got really tight," Tsitsipas said in his post-game interview. "I got a bit lucky with the double faults towards the end of the match.

"I was just persistent. Towards the end I had zoned in 100 per cent. Both of us brought an amazing energy out on the court. Felix is someone I've played a lot and I have huge respect for him."

Greek star Tsitsipas will next play emerging Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti for a spot in the ATP 500 tournament decider.

Qualifier Musetti, who upstaged third seed Diego Schwartzman in the first round, stunned fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 7-6 (7-3) in the final match of the day.

The 19-year-old Musetti will now contest his maiden ATP 500-level semi-final as he prepares to enter the top 100 on the men's tour after just his fourth main-draw appearance.

Alexander Zverev – the German second seed – progressed to the semi-finals with a walkover after eighth seed Casper Ruud withdrew due to a wrist injury sustained in practice.

Zverev will play countryman Dominik Koepfer in the final four after he defeated Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-4, maintaining his run of not dropping a set all tournament.

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and fellow star Alexander Zverev progressed to the Mexican Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, but Milos Raonic bowed out.

Tsitsipas was too good for big-serving American John Isner in a 6-3 6-2 victory in Acapulco midweek.

A two-time Australian Open finalist, having also reached the French Open final four last year, Tsitsipas excelled on serve against Isner.

Greek star Tsitsipas only dropped one point on his first serve – not facing a break point throughout the last-16 contest – while firing down eight aces.

Standing in the way of Tsitsipas and a semi-final spot at the ATP 500 tournament is Canadian sensation Felix Auger-Aliassime.

In a battle of the NextGen, seventh seed Auger-Aliassime saved four of five break points in a 6-3 6-4 win over wild card Sebastian Korda.

Zverev will feature in his third Mexican Open quarter-final in four years after the second seed took down Laslo Djere 6-4 6-3.

Runner-up in 2019, Zverev will next face eighth seed Casper Ruud – who topped Tallon Griekspoor 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in the quarters.

"I think today what showed the most is that I got better with the match," Zverev said. "I started off extremely sloppy, started off with a lot of unforced errors.

"The longer the match went on the better I started playing and this is something that is very important for me. When I get into a rhythm I feel very comfortable on court and that's how I felt today."

Elsewhere, Lorenzo Musetti's giant-slaying run continued following a 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-1) victory against Frances Tiafoe.

Musetti earned his first ATP 500 quarter-final as the Italian prepares to meet fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who eased past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 6-2.

There was an upset after fourth seed Raonic crashed out 6-4 6-2 at the hands of Dominik Koepfer, while sixth seed Fabio Fognini lost 6-4 6-3 against Cameron Norrie.

Alexander Zverev cruised into the second round of the Mexican Open as debutant Sebastian Korda enjoyed a memorable debut in Acapulco.

German star and second seed Zverev accounted for teenager Carlos Alcaraz, the 2019 runner-up winning the opening-round clash 6-3 6-1 on Monday.

Alcaraz – in his first showdown against a top-10 player – broke for a 2-0 lead and while he continued to go toe-to-toe with Zverev through six games, the 17-year-old was unable to maintain his charge.

Zverev broke for a 4-3 lead and the 2020 US Open finalist did not look back, winning nine of the last 10 games to advance in 84 minutes.

"He started off playing extremely well, he didn't miss a lot of balls. Then I felt more comfortable on court, this is the first round," Zverev said.

"It's not always easy to play a first round, especially against a player like this, who is very young, who is very motivated and who wants to compete. I'm actually quite happy with how the match went."

Next up for Zverev – who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in February – is Serbia's Laslo Djere.

Djere took down Steve Johnson 6-2 6-3 for a spot in the last 16.

Meanwhile, Korda capped his Acapulco bow with a shock 7-5 6-2 win against former world number three Marin Cilic.

Korda claimed his first ATP 500-level victory having saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced in the opening set against the 2014 US Open champion.

Canadian sensation and seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime awaits after the 20-year-old converted his sixth match point to see off Tennys Sandgren 6-3 7-6 (10-8).

Elsewhere, John Isner and Dominik Koepfer also advanced.

Novak Djokovic admitted there was plenty of room for improvement after coming through a "difficult spot" at the Australian Open, where Nick Kyrgios thrilled the crowd with an impressive comeback.

Top seed Djokovic was made to work for his 6-3 6-7 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 triumph against Frances Tiafoe as he reached the third round in Melbourne. 

Kyrgios is also through, albeit he even surprised himself by rallying from the brink of defeat to knock out 29th seed Ugo Humbert in the evening session. 

Stan Wawrinka was on the wrong of an upset on Wednesday, but there were no such problems for fellow seeds Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. 

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will have to put their friendship to one side when they face each other next, the former setting up the all-Canadian clash by beating Bernard Tomic in three sets.


'PASSIVE' DJOKOVIC STILL MAKING PROGRESS

In the first meeting between the pair, the impressive Tiafoe went toe-to-toe with Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena.  

The 23-year-old American's performance – coupled with the Melbourne heat – made the eight-time Australian Open champion sweat, albeit Djokovic felt he could have made life easier for himself.

"I was at times not feeling my timing as well as I normally am. Credit to him. I think he has managed to come out with a great performance and quality of tennis. He put me in a difficult spot," he said. 

"I had my chances early in the second set. If I broke him there, maybe the course of the match would be different.   

"But again, he was holding his serve very well. I was not really using my break-point chances very well. At times I was too passive. Just wasn't feeling the ball today as well as I normally do." 

Next up for Djokovic is another player from the United States in the form of Taylor Fritz, who ousted compatriot Reilly Opelka in a five-set battle.


IN THE NICK OF TIME

Kyrgios described his clash with Humbert as "one of the craziest matches I've ever played" after prevailing 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 - much to the delight of an enthralled audience who watched the drama unfold on John Cain Arena.

The Australian smashed a racket, lost his cool with umpire Marijana Veljovic over a faulty net cord sensor and had to save a pair of match points before eventually coming out on top in a see-saw battle.

"I just remember, down that end, when I was a couple of match points down, I don't know what was going on," Kyrgios - who dropped to his knees after sealing victory - said in his on-court interview.

"If you were inside my head, there were some dark thoughts in there. But I live to fight another day and hopefully I can continue to play good tennis in front of you guys."

His reward is a clash with Thiem, the third seed having dismissed the challenge of German Dominik Koepfer in straight sets as he dropped just six games.


STAN-D AND DELIVER

Wawrinka appeared on course to survive a serious scare when he rallied from two sets down against Marton Fucsovics, but the Swiss was unable to seize on the chances that came his way in a tense tie-break. 

Fucsovics had needed over four hours to overcome wild card Marc Polmans in the previous round and, once again, found a way to get over the finishing line at the end of a Melbourne marathon. 

The Hungarian trailed 6-1 during the decisive breaker, yet hit back to stun the 17th seed 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9). For Wawrinka, there was frustration at the missed opportunities, albeit he also praised his conqueror. 
  
"From 6-1 up, I started to hesitate a little bit in the way I was playing," he said. "I wanted to put the ball maybe too much in and I [was] not going completely for my shots and that's when I started to miss a little bit and it helped him to come back in the match.  

"He was fighting well, he's a tough player, he's a good player and he deserved to win." 

The war of words between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios continued on day one of the Australian Open, while Gael Monfils was reduced to tears after a first-round exit.

Reigning champion Djokovic cruised past Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-1 6-2 in just over an hour and a half but was unwilling to be drawn on comments made by Kyrgios following the home favourite's 6-4 6-4 6-4 success against Frederico Ferreira Silva.

Djokovic, who has now won 15 straight Australian Open matches, will take on Frances Tiafoe next and Kyrgios has a meeting with Ugo Humbert. A potential crossing of their paths on court could not happen until the semi-finals.

Monfils, seeded 10th at Melbourne Park, could not hide his emotions after succumbing to a 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 defeat in a five-set thriller against Emil Ruusuvuori.

Benoit Paire was the only other seed to go out on day one, with Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and Stan Wawrinka picking up victories.

 

"HE'S A STRANGE CAT"

On the eve of the first grand slam of the year Djokovic said he had "no respect" for Kyrgios off the court, which the Australian was confused by as he pointed out the charitable work he has done during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyrgios was previously critical of the Adria Tour organised by Djokovic last year, which ended with multiple players testing positive for COVID-19.

Asked about the Serbian's pre-tournament comment, Kyrgios said: "It actually would make complete sense to me if he was like, 'Look, I don't respect the guy on the court.' Because I understand if he doesn't agree with some of my antics on the court that I have done in the past.

"He's a very strange cat, Novak is. Heck of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone that's partying with his shirt off during a global pandemic, I don't know if I can take any slack from that man. That's as bad as it gets for me."

When a reporter asked if they could read those comments out to Djokovic in his post-match news conference, the 17-time major champion replied: "You can read it, but I'm not gonna answer to anything."

Upon hearing the remarks and being asked if he had a reply, Djokovic simply said: "No."

 

ANOTHER LOSS FOR MONFILS

Having lost his first-round match to Ruusuvuori, who incredibly saved 17 break points, Monfils remained without a win on the ATP Tour since February 2020.

The Frenchman was eliminated in the first round at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2006 and admitted he had lost all his self-belief and was finding it extremely difficult to get himself back on track.

"I don't have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can't," said Monfils.

"I don’t know when it's going to end. It's hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I've lost again. I can't serve, I'm playing badly. I'm being honest and it's going to take time."

 

BEST OF THE REST

Thiem made light work of Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Dominik Koepfer, but Zverev had to come from a set down to beat Marcos Giron 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-2. He will face Maxime Cressy next.

Denis Shapovalov also had to fight back to defeat Jannik Sinner, who reached the French Open quarter-finals last year, in an entertaining five-setter on Margaret Court Arena.

Marin Cilic, the runner-up at Melbourne Park in 2018, went down 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-5) to Grigor Dimitrov, while Pablo Carreno Busta overcame Kei Nishikori 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

There were straight-set wins for Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime against Paulo Sousa, Federico Coria and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe respectively, and Schwartzman defeated Elias Ymer 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 2-6 6-2.

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