Jason Kubler was unable to give his home crowd a win over 18th seed Karen Khachanov in the second round of the Australian Open men’s singles on Wednesday, but he did provide a moment for fans to savour when he came out tops in a sensational 70-shot rally.
Kubler was a set down, with Russia’s Khachanov serving for the second set. However, although 5-4 down, the Aussie had a break point in his favour.
It took 70 shots of back-and-forth tennis for Kubler to catch a lucky break, as the ball clipped the top of the net off his shot and bounced onto Khachanov’s side, leaving him helpless.
Kubler broke serve again to win the set, but Khachanov had the last laugh, winning 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. He set up a third round clash with 2022 US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe.
Tiafoe, the 16th seed at the Australian Open, beat Shang Juncheng in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 in the second round.
The 26-year-old Khachanov apologised, perhaps half-jokingly, to the home crowd for knocking out one of their favourites. After the match, he wrote on a camera lens: “Sorry Aussies, keep cheering for me, please.”
This is not the first time in recent months that Khachanov has caused an Aussie heartbreak at a grand slam. At the US Open, he beat Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals.
If anything, Khachanov is likely to have endeared himself to spectators for his part in a rare moment in tennis on Wednesday, but the rally was not the longest ever in the Australian Open.
Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils shared a 71-shot rally on the same court nine years ago, with the former winning the point and the all-French matchup.
As per the Library of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, the longest recorded rally took place in 1984.
Jean Hepner and Vicky Nelson shared a 643-shot rally in Richmond, Virginia. While Khachanov and Kubler’s rally lasted 90 seconds, Hepner and Nelson kept theirs going for an astonishing 29 minutes.
For Kubler, it will not be a huge surprise to have lost to Khachanov, now one of the dark horses at grand slam tournaments. Although he reached last year’s mixed doubles final, where he and compatriot Jaimee Fourlis lost 6-3, 6-4 to Kristina Mladenovic and Ivan Dodig, this year’s run to the second round was his best singles performance ever at his home grand slam tournament.
Indeed, he has never progressed past the fourth round at any grand slam — having only ever made it that far at Wimbledon 2022.
By Leonard Solms
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