By Matt Trollope
Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov has recovered from two-sets-to-love down to knock out local wildcard Greg Jones on Margaret Court Arena late on Monday afternoon.
While it began extremely promisingly for the Sydneysider, the 13th seed and 2011 Australian Open quarterfinalist began to find the range on his powerful groundstrokes and eventually proved the fitter of the two men, wrapping up a 1-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 win in two-and-a-half hours.
Part of the reason for Dolgopolov’s slow start may have been his own health.
He said he was feeling the effects of a blood condition.
“I was feeling really bad ... Greg helped me a bit in the third set and he had some problems in the fourth and fifth set I believe so it was a pretty ugly match,” he said.
“But I’m through so I guess that’s good, and I hope I’ll be feeling better in the next match.”
Before a lively home crowd, Jones opened impeccably, precise serving and big hitting from the baseline helping him hold his service games comfortably.
Dolgopolov, the more explosive yet erratic of the pair, was taking massive cuts at the ball with intermittent success and his errors helped Jones to 0-40 in the fourth game.
The Australian went on to break serve to lead 3-1, and soon the unforced errors were tumbling from the Ukrainian’s racquet, his forehand in particular deserting him. Jones enjoyed a streak of eight consecutive winning points to take the set in just 21 minutes.
Jones was a perfect eight-from-eight points won at net, and continued to attack with success in the second set. Hitting his way out of trouble when facing a deficit in the opening game to lead 1-0, games continued on serve until the fifth game.
There, Dolgopolov’s frustration at yet another error finally boiled over, and he sent his racquet slamming into the Plexicushion. His anger was compounded on the next point when Jones hit a winner that Dolgopolov challenged, only to discover that Hawkeye was malfunctioning.
Jones broke serve and moved ahead 4-2 in the next game, but the 13th seed broke back to love when Jones dished up a handful of his own errors.
The erratic nature of the match continued in the next game when Dolgopolov again began misfiring, and Jones broke to give himself a chance to serve for the set.
He held firm, opening the game with a volley winner and securing a two-sets-to-love lead with a powerful smash, at exactly the same time compatriot Bernard Tomic smacked a final forehand winner to dismiss No.22 seed Fernando Verdasco in five sets across on Rod Laver Arena. Things, it seemed, were looking extremely rosy for the host nation.
However, the match would take a dramatic turn as the groundstrokes Dolgopolov had been spraying wide began to find their mark.
Over the course of the next two sets he pounded 23 winners while only 11 errors, his trigger-happy, go-for-broke style completely denying Jones any rhythm. A shell-shocked Jones was simply obliterated and found himself in a fifth set just 50-odd minutes after he took his two-set lead.
“I went to the toilet after the second set and thought (about) how I have to play now and change up to compete in these conditions and (with) the way I was feeling so I just tried to risk more,” Dolgopolov said.
In the fifth, Jones put up a little more resistance, staving off break points in the fourth game. But fading physically – the result of cramp and possibly a blister on his right toe requiring treatment in the third set – Jones was unable to eek out the game, falling behind 3-1.
Thanks to two errors from Jones four games later, Dologopolov had secured his passage into the second round, where he will face German Tobias Kamke, a straight-set winner over Victor Hanescu.