first_imgShare on LinkedIn Topics Speaking after the match, Ebden credited the boisterous crowd for his victory. “He [Isner] is such a great player and so tough to beat so I had to stay composed and find a bit of extra positivity and energy and I think I got that from the crowd, so thank you.“I am working hard and trying to be my best… it’s nice to get some rewards. I’ve been playing better the last six months, I [just] want to keep it going.”Ebden will need to produce another standout performance if he is to advance beyond the second round; he will now face Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who advanced in straight sets over the lowly-ranked Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria.For Stosur, it was an all-too familiar story. She found herself a set and a break up, and she even had match point at 6-5 in the second, only for debilitating nerves in front of her home crowd to bite yet again. The Australian women’s No3 was desolate after falling in a three-set epic to Puerto Rico’s Rio gold-medallist Puig 6-4, 6-7, 4-6.On an afternoon filled with more hope than disappointment for the locals, Stosur was in far from her best form and her groundstrokes caught the frame as often as they were middled. Yet again, her proven talent is still to be displayed in front of an adoring home crowd.“I think everyone else makes a bigger deal about it than what I do personally,” she said later when asked whether her playing on home soil was an issue. “But, look, I was one point away. I’d be in the second round if I won one more point.“Unfortunately that’s the way it goes sometimes. Obviously I do everything I can to try to have a better result here in Australia. For whatever reason, it just won’t happen for me. I’ll come back next year and do it all over again.”An emotionally-attuned Margaret Court Arena crowd were reassuring more than buoyant, with regular cries of “c’mon Sam” and “we’re with you, Sam” following errors more often than winners.Stosur began the first set shakily, regularly pushing flatter groundstokes well beyond the baseline, while her service returns also frequently found the middle of the net.At times Puig appeared to play Stosur into form, some longer rallies eventuating in the US Open winner hitting the ball more cleanly.Stosur appeared to grow in confidence as the first set progressed, however, serving well into the corners of the service box and leaving her opponent frustrated at a lack of returning space.Some of the most tense tennis of the match came in the second set, with Stosur down a break point on her service game at 4-3, only for a late out call to bring her back to deuce. The Australian responded emphatically with an ace, but in typically erratic fashion, double-faulted to gift her opponent another break point opportunity. This time Puig hit the tape, and Stosur put away the short ball with confidence. But after another mistimed groundstroke found the frame, Stosur was forced to defend a third break point. The rally that followed was one of the highlights of the match; Puig eventually breaking Stosur’s valiant resistance with a lob that sailed agonisingly over the Australian’s head.Down 4-5 in the second, Stosur steadied to hold easily, but had multiple opportunities to break Puig’s serve at 5-5, none of which were converted. Under significant pressure at 5-6 down in the second set, Stosur again served strongly to force the tiebreak.Puig began the tiebreak by missing an easy volley, allowing the one-sided crowd back into the game with vigor. They were soon quieted as Stosur lost the next four points in succession. She would rally for a crowd-lifting match point, but a forced error allowed Puig back into the game and the Puerto Rican bravely pulled off a forehand winner to force a deciding set.In the last Stosur regained some much-needed composure, as if more accustomed to being down and almost out than in the box seat. Games favoured traditionally to serve, until Stosur fell down a crucial break at 3-3.Down 4-5 with Puig serving for the match, tournament organisers called on AC-DC to rally a disheartened and increasingly-empty stadium. It worked; one of the longest rallies of the match ended with a deep, backhand winner from Stosur that brought the crowd to their feet. Her next two backhands, however, hit the net, before a mini-capitulation brought about the seemingly-inevitable. Despite the loss, Stosur was farewelled with a rousing reception, prompting Puig to apologise to the crowd. “I just want to thank the crowd for being such an amazing support to Sam,” she said on court. “Australia loves her, and she should know that. There will be other chances.”Gavrilova’s comprehensive late-night win over Falconi came after she dropped her opening service game, but she never looked back after that, reeling off nine straight games to put herself in a winning position. “I’m really happy with the way I played today,” she said after booking a second-round clash with Belgian world No.36 Elise Mertens. “All I thought about was competing today and I did that well. “I’m not putting expectations on myself, and nor does my team. All I do is go out and fight every point.”Earlier on Monday, local wildcard entrant and world No334 Jason Kubler thrilled an equally-vocal crowd on court eight, giving 10th seed Paulo Carreno Busta an almighty scare in his four-set 5-7, 6-4, 7,5, 6-1 loss.In a match that lasted three and a half hours there was little to separate two men so far apart in ranking. The Spaniard looked uncharacteristically nervous, down 4-1 in the third set before rallying to close the crucial set out 7-5. With that opportunity gone begging, Kubler’s nerves showed with a poor fourth set, 11 double faults and just 59% of first serves landing in proving the difference. Olivia Rogowska was another Australian winner on day one after she beat compatriot Jaimee Fourlis 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, while John Millman saw off Croatia’s Borna Coric in straight sets 7-5, 6-4, 6-1. Home aspirations at the Australian Open were given an unlikely boost on day one of the year’s first grand slam, with a patriotic crowd spurring Matt Ebden to the biggest win of his career against the American 16th seed, John Isner.But those same fans gathered inside Margaret Court Arena were unable to lift Sam Stosur during the next match, as her first-round losing streak at Melbourne Park continued for a third successive year with a three-set defeat to the reigning Olympic champion, Monica Puig. Share on Facebook Australian Open 2018 Australia sport Australian Open … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Belinda Bencic beats Venus Williams in the Australian Open first round – as it happened Share via Email Read more The Recap: sign up for the best of the Guardian’s sport coveragecenter_img Tennis Share on WhatsApp news Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Share on Messenger Read more Support The Guardian Better news for Australian women came late at night under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, when Daria Gavrilova disposed of the American qualifier, Irina Falconi, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round.Ebden’s tightly-fought contest lasted just over two hours, with the 32-year-old, a mixed doubles champion with Jarmila Gajdošová here in 2013, prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.Ebden was eliminated in the first round in his last Australian Open appearance, in 2016, and has never made it past the second round of a singles draw at a major. He has likewise never won a career singles title – nor beaten a player in the top 20 in a grand slam. Australia’s No2 men’s player benefitted from a cool head under pressure, winning all four of his break point opportunities. Unsurprisingly, he was out-served by Isner, who managed 24 aces to 13, but the world No16 won only one of his three break point opportunities, failing to capitalise on a superior number of winners overall.It was a disappointing result for Isner, who has won 12 career titles and been a quarter-finalist at his home grand slam in the US; he had been expected to advance in an open draw here. Since you’re here… Reuse this contentlast_img read more