Francis Tiafoe overcame a stern examination from Italy’s Marco Cecchinato on day one of the Australian Open 2017 qualifying tournament, booking his place in the second round with a hard-earned 6-3 5-7 7-5 win.
The American No.2 seed – 20 years the junior of 38-year-old No.1 seed Radek Stepanek – needed two hours and 15 minutes to dispatch Cecchinato, who saved two match points before netting a backhand on the third.
It proved to be a tough start for the draw’s top seeds, with Stepanek meeting stiff resistance from American Sekou Bangoura before prevailing 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes.
No.3 seed Jozef Kovalik was the day’s biggest casualty, beaten 6-3 6-3 by Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti, who had won their main-draw encounter in the first round at Melbourne Park a year ago. Yuichi Sugita, the No.4 seed, bucked the trend with a 57-minute 6-1 6-1 dismissal of Marc Polmans.
Up next for Tiafoe is Belgium’s Yannick Reuter, whose 6-3 2-6 6-4 win over Canada’s Steven Diez also ran past two hours, while Stepanek faces Blaz Kavcic, who advanced when Matteo Donati of Italy retired while trailing 6-2 3-3.
Vasek Pospisil was among the big-name casualties in the first round of qualifying. The Canadian No.19 seed, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, fell 3-6 6-3 6-4 to Uladzimir Ignatik, the Belarusian’s first win at Melbourne Park in four attempts.
Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk was the first player to book his place in the second round, racing to a 6-0 6-2 victory over Saketh Myneni of India in just 41 minutes, while John-Patrick Smith was the day’s first Australian winner, beating Argentina’s Agustin Velotti 7-6(6) 6-3.
Seeds Tim Smyczek, Bjorn Fratangelo, Peter Polansky, Taro Daniel and Go Soeda all advanced with straight-sets wins, as did Denis Kudla, who knocked out Aussie wildcard Luke Saville 6-4 7-5, and Roberto Carballes Baena, who eliminated Marinko Matosevic 6-4 6-2.
Eighteen-year-old No.7 seed Stefan Kozlov was ousted by India’s Yuki Bhambri, 6-1 6-4, while Germany’s Benjamin Becker, the No.8 seed, lost the longest match so far to Miljan Zekic. The Serbian prevailed in two hours and 50 minutes, 6-4 5-7 10-8.
Kenny De Schepper also went into extra innings to down a seed, ousting No.27 Norbert Gombos 6-4 5-7 9-7 in in two hours, 26 minutes.
There were straight-sets wins for Tatsuma Ito, Ivan Dodig and Ernesto Escobedo – fresh from his off-season work with Roger Federer in Dubai – while Laslo Djere routed No.24 seed Andrej Martin 6-0 6-2.