The evening session in Melbourne saw three marathon matches with David Nalbandian’and Lleyton Hewitt echoing their 2005 quarter final with a five hour thriller with the Argentine claiming the match 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 9-7.
Hewitt started the match in great form and easily took the first set. In the second an early break of serve for Nalbandian proved decisive. With the Melbourne crowd spurring him on Hewitt took the third set after Nalbandian made a series of unforced errors. With the home crowd energised 27th seed Nalbandian fought back to win the tiebreaker and set up a fifth and final set.
The deciding set saw both players tire with Nalbandian hobbled by cramp in both legs. Fighting through the pain barrier Nalbandian managed to hold off a series of match points before taking the match 9-7 in the decider. He will be rewarded by facing Ricardas Berankis in the second round.
In the ladies competition former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic was knocked out by Ekaterina Makarova after more than two and a half hours on court.
Ivanovic came to Melbourne in high spirits after finding good form to end 2010 with two tournament victories. A stomach injury suffered recently in the Hopman Cup left serious question marks over her fitness.
Even though she was defeated this match could be a springboard for a strong year. With the Serbian moving well on court and playing with the dogged determination that saw her rise to world number one it was looking promising for her to win this match. Ultimately though it was the aggressiveness of Markova that stood out. The Russian never holstered her weaponry and consistently played brave, attacking tennis to prevail 10-8 in the deciding set.
“Just after the match I didn’t really realise I actually had won because it had been such a tough match. She had beaten me easily at the US Open, but today, I’m so happy to have given it all I had and to have won,” said the victorious Russian.
Markova’s reward for winning this match will be a second round clash with Lesya Tsurenko of the Ukraine.