Vasek Pospisil pulled off an improbable survival mission against Australian Matt Ebden on Wednesday night to make the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time.
The Canadian 28th seed started nervously in his first outing on Rod Laver Arena against a local hope backed by the home crowd, but regained his composure before eventually charging home late in a 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6(9) 6-1 victory.
After dropping the first set, Pospisil received an injury timeout for an ongoing back complaint. It seemed to do the trick. He immediately held to love, and games continued with serve until 5-5 when Pospisil again appeared to be reaching for his back.
“I just tried to hang tough,” he said. “About midway through the third set it wasn’t feeling good, so I took some painkillers. The physio said though I couldn’t make it any worse.”
Having forced a second-set tie-break, Ebden missed a relatively comfortable backhand volley put-away to drop to 2-1 in the tiebreaker. He quickly fell to 4-1 but would make no mistake closing in on a backhand volley second time around, and then found himself at set point with the Canadian shanking a forehand pass attempt.
Sensing his opponent was struggling for movement, Ebden became tense, dropping the next three points and with it, the seemingly unlosable set, eight points to six in the tie-break.
In the third set, it was a horror case of déjà vu for the 67th-ranked Australian.
Having spoken at length with the trainer at the turn of the set, Pospisil appeared on the brink. But again, Ebden could not take the initiative, dropping serve to love before the Canadian returned the favour.
Again, the set would be decided by a tie-break, and again, set point would go begging for Ebden before an erratic Pospisil finally sealed it 11-9 on his fourth opportunity.
Dejected at having let two winnable sets slip, Ebden was broken early in the fourth set and a questionable challenge finally derailed his cause.
Pospisil was untroubled from there, going on to book a third-round clash with Swiss eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who eliminated Alejandro Falla in four sets earlier on Wednesday night.