Two sets into his delayed second-round singles match on Monday night, social media was abuzz with tennis upset alerts.
It appeared, after uninspired 6-3, 6-3 setbacks, that sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was going to become the first major upset of the 2023 Australian Open.
But Alex Molcan, the 25-year-old Slovakian singles star, sputtered and then collapsed, as Auger-Aliassime stormed back with spirited 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victories to avoid an early exit at Melbourne Park.
Auger-Aliassime, who struggled out of the gates in the first round before bouncing Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver in four sets, started even slower versus Molcan, but appeared by the fourth set to have run his rival out of gas.
“I had belief in myself after winning the third set. I had come back before and I felt I could do it again. But boy, it was a difficult day,” said Auger-Aliassime, who finished with 23 aces in the match that took three hours and three minutes to complete.
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., was not as fortunate as her fellow Canadian.
Cristina Bucsa of Spain eliminated Andreescu with a 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory after a lengthy delay due to rain. The Moldovan-born Spanish player will now face top-ranked Iga Swiatek of Poland.
Andreescu defeated Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4 of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Open, while Busca bounced Eva Lys of Ukraine 2-6, 6-0, 6-2.
Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., was a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-5 winner over Japan’s Taro Daniel.
Shapovalov, seeded 20th at the tournament, fired eight aces to Daniel’s one and won 73 per cent of his first serves.
The Canadian also broke Daniel six times on nine attempts.
Shapovalov appeared flustered at times during the match, not with his opponent but rather with the loud heckling coming from stands at Court No. 2.
The world No. 22 complained to the umpire about the behavior from at least one fan and suggested that the rowdiness was being fuelled by alcohol.
“It’s excessive,” Shapovalov told the official. “They had a beer too much and now they’re fooling around.”
Shapovalov will next face No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, out-lasted Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a marathon match that drifted into the early hours of Thursday morning in Melbourne.