Former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova has weathered a three-set war with Storm Hunter to end the local doubles queen’s Australian Open run.
Following on from 3.39am finish for Daniil Medvedev’s comeback win over Finn Emil Ruusuvuori, the bleary-eyed Rod Laver Arena crowd were treated to another post-midnight finish on Friday night.
Hunter, carrying the hopes of a nation as the last Australian left in the women’s singles draw, was knocking on the door of becoming the first qualifier to reach the last 16 at Melbourne Park in six years.
But she could not capitalise on several break points late in the second set, before bowing out 4-6 7-5 6-3 to the Czech No.9 seed in a clash that lasted exactly two hours and 30 minutes.
“Definitely a very, very difficult match,” Krejcikova said.
“She’s doing great. She had a great run.
“I just go point-by-point because everything can change in one second.”
Hunter can console herself by pocketing a $255,000 pay day for her first third-round appearance at a grand slam and she’s provisionally set to rise to world No.127.
Fellow Australians Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic urged Hunter to play more singles after her second-round win over German veteran Laura Siegemund, Krejcikova’s regular doubles partner.
On paper, the 29-year-old Queenslander was a rank outsider against Krejcikova, sitting 169 places lower than the Czech in the WTA rankings.
Both struggled to hold serve in the early exchanges, each broken twice to leave the match finely poised at 3-3.
But it was the Australian who settled first to consolidate yet another break and take out the first set with an unreturnable serve, beckoning for the crowd to rise behind her.
The contest developed into a second-set stalemate as neither was able to produce a break point let alone a break over the first eight games.
Hunter had two break-point chances at both four-all and five-all but couldn’t convert any, before lapsing as Krejcikova turned the screws to take the second set and force a decider.
Krejcikova broke in the second game of the final set and saved a break point chance at 5-2 before closing out the match to book a fourth-round date with Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, an earlier 1-6 6-1 7-6 (10-5) comeback winner over Frenchwoman Diane Parry.