Aslan Karatsev survived a scare Monday as he continued his impressive recent record in Australia with a hard-fought win, edging Spain’s Jaume Munar 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round at the Australian Open.
The 18th seed, who advanced to the semi-finals in Melbourne last year as a qualifier, won his third tour-level title on Saturday at the Sydney Tennis Classic (d. Murray). But the Russian was never completely comfortable against the solid baseline game of Munar. The Spaniard led by a set-and-a-break on Kia Arena as Karatsev was unable to consistently replicate the clean hitting that powered him to the Sydney crown.
With just one day off between his victory against Andy Murray and his opening match in Melbourne, Karatsev could be forgiven for showing signs of fatigue. Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis had faced the same 48-hour turnaround having won the Adelaide International 2 trophy on Saturday and he was unable to replicate such heroics in Melbourne, with German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann cruising past the wild card 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
Unlike Kokkinakis though, Karatsev was able to find the energy and resolve required to fight back, securing his mammoth win after four hours and 55 minutes. The World No. 15 now leads Munar 2-0 in their ATPHead2Head series after also defeating the Spaniard in the first round of the 2021 US Open.
In a tight clash, Munar clinched the first set 6-3 after a series of wayward groundstrokes from Karatsev gave the Spaniard a double break. Visibly frustrated, the Russian let out a roar of anger at the start of the second set which seemed to spark him into life as he recovered from 0-3 to force a tiebreak, which he sealed with a sublime forehand pass.
Munar’s consistency caused problems for the more hit-or-miss style of Karatsev throughout. The Russian ended with 87 winners but also 107 unforced errors, compared to Munar’s 24 winners and 35 unforced errors.
After the Spaniard stayed calm to take the third set tiebreak, a topsy-turvy end to the match saw Karatsev throw away double-break lead in the fourth set, before he finally prevailed in the decider to set up a second-round meeting with World No. 55 Mackenzie McDonald.
Munar was making his fourth appearance at the Australian Open. The World No. 71 reached the quarter-finals at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier in January and also teamed with countryman Rafael Nadal on the doubles court at the ATP 250 event.