Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur will be bidding for wins in their first ever meetings with their opponents, with a spot in the fourth round looming.
For de Minaur, his level-headed temperament may well be more important than ever against an “absolute nutter” who nearly came to blows with his second-round opponent.
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Points loss for private racquet smash?
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis have won through to the second round of the Australian Open men’s doubles, defeating Lloyd Harris and Julian Knowle 6-2 6-4.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis looked overjoyed on court together and didn’t need a crowd to help them entertain themselves.
The pair were a wildcard entry into the event and are set to take on fourth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot in the second round.
Both Kyrgios and Kokkinakis were in good spirits throughout the match despite tough five-set losses to end their singles campaigns, with the pair laughing between points and pulling off some audacious shots during the win.
ASH, ALEX BID FOR FOURTH-ROUND SPOTS
Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur are warm favourites to progress to the fourth round tonight, but both face opponents they have never previously faced on tour.
Barty takes to Margaret Court Arena to start Saturday night’s session, facing Ekaterina Alexandrova for the first time.
Alexandrova is in fine form and hasn’t done much wrong to start 2021, defeating Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek in the leadup to her Australian Open campaign, during which she hasn’t lost a set.
Barty’s path to the Australian Open final has opened up even more so than when the draw was announced, with only one other top-10 seed (Elina Svitolina) remaining in the path to the final.
De Minaur faces Fabio Fognini for the first time, a perennially talented player who has threatened to deliver on his promise during his career but is yet to have fulfil those promises.
Already polar opposites, de Minaur and Fognini’s on-court temperaments were further highlighted during their second-round wins.
Italian stars in Open spat
While de Minaur was workmanlike in his dismissal of Argentine Pablo Cuevas, Fognini came through in a marathon fifth set to win 14-12 in the match tiebreak, before almost coming to blows with opponent and countryman Salvatore Caruso post-match.
“He’s crazy talented but you never know which Fabio’s going to turn up and I think that’s one thing; it’s the unknown with him when he turns up, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” ex-player Sam Groth told Wide World of Sports.
“He could turn up and play unbelievable tennis, I mean the guy’s still the 16th seed here for a reason. His best tennis is incredible. But his best tennis is reliant on him not being an absolute nutter on the day.”
Barty is looking to make the fourth round of her home slam for the third time, with last year’s semi-final berth her best result yet.
De Minaur, who was forced to withdraw with injury ahead of last year’s event, is yet to make the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2021 – NIGHT 6
ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY FEBRUARY 12
Play begins at 11am AEDT unless listed otherwise
Rod Laver Arena
Karolina Muchova (CZE)  v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)  7-5 7-5
Daniil Medvedev (RUS)  def Filip Krajinovic (SRB)  6-3 6-3 4-6 1-6 6-0
Belinda Bencic (SUI)  v Elise Mertens (BEL) 
Anett Kontaveit (EST)  v Shelby Rogers (USA)
Cameron Norrie (GBR) v Rafael Nadal 
Margaret Court Arena
Elina Svitolina (UKR)  def Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)  6-4 6-0
Donna Vekic (CRO)  def Kaia Kanepi (EST) 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4
Andrey Rublev (RUS)  v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
Ash Barty (AUS)  v Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 
Fabio Fognini (ITA)  v Alex de Minaur (AUS) 
John Cain Arena
Jessica Pegula (USA) v Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2 6-1
Jennifer Brady (USA)  v Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-1 6-3
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)  v Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-4
Not before 5pm
Karen Khachanov (RUS)  v Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 
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