Australian Open: Dominic Thiem survives huge upset with comeback five-set win over Denis Kudla

In Margaret Court Arena, Austrian Dominic Thiem survived a huge upset by coming from two-sets down to defeat the American qualifier Denis Kudla 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open after more than three hours 50 minutes. He faces Adrian Mannarino next. 

Kudla wins opening set via tiebreaker following exchanges of breaks

It was the fifth seed who made the quicker and better start to the second round match. He held serve to begin the match then brought up two break points following an unforced error. He missed his first chance but took his second with the American netting.

Kudla showed some fight and forced Thiem to deuce on four occasions but the 24-year-old finished off the game to consolidate for 3-0 in a lengthy game. The world 180 began his attempted comeback by eventually getting on the board in the fourth game with an ace, 3-1. Playing aggressively relatively early on, this helped Thiem gain a 4-1 lead.

Denis Kudla hits a forehand as he takes the opening set (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Denis Kudla hits a forehand as he takes the opening set (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

But Kudla was beginning to settle down in the next game, looking comfortable, 4-2. Two breakpoints came and went for Kudla in the next game and following another lengthy game, he needed another two attempts to break the Thiem serve. He then collapsed momentarily allowing the Austrian to break to love.

This time, the fifth seed crumbled serving for the set and the 25-year-old broke once more before a hold of serve occurred for the first time in four games, 5-5. Another two breaks of serve occurred before heading to the tiebreaker. After missing his first set point, Kudla crushed an ace to take the set 6-7(6). 

Kudla takes a surprise two-set lead

Up a set on Thiem, Kudla began the second set with a relatively solid hold of serve to 15. However, Thiem was still struggling and was taken to deuce before striking a forehand winner to hold his opening game, 1-1. A more comfortable hold of serve gave Kudla the 1-2 lead while the Austrian was taken to deuce for the second time but came through again for 2-2.

The next two games went with the server with the second set locked at 3-3. The seventh game gave the world number five a glimmer of hope as a breakpoint went his way.

The American denied Thiem with an overhead winner to send the game to deuce before holding after two more deuces in the game, 3-4. It was then the American's turn to pressurize Thiem in the next game. All square at 30-all, Thiem hit a flat forehand error as he faced a breakpoint.

Thiem crumbled under the pressure as he hit a double-fault and was in danger of going two-sets behind. Thiem had two chances to break Kudla and keep the set going but the American successfully denied him and then gained a set point. A good unreturnable serve gave the American qualifier the two-set lead, 3-6. 

Thiem begins comeback with brilliant set

The start of the third set went the same as the second with the server dominating on serve. But this time, Thiem seemed to be wearing down Kudla who had to deal with being two-sets ahead. Thiem held serve in the sixth game with an ace then began to put the American under enormous pressure.

Kudla was suddenly finding himself battling against the Austrian who had clearly stepped up a gear. Following three deuces, Thiem crunched a forehand winner to bring up a breakpoint.

Dominic Thiem battling it out in the Melbourne sun against Denis Kudla/Getty Images)
Dominic Thiem battling it out in the Melbourne sun against Denis Kudla/Getty Images)

Having taken control of the rally in the next game, Thiem hit an unlucky shank as Kudla survived the first breakpoint. A second would come and go for Thiem and in yet another lengthy game, Kudla came through. Unlike in the previous two sets, the Austrian was managing to ease his way through his service game, doing so in the eighth game to love for 5-3.

Once more, Kudla found himself battling a breakpoint chance but this time, the fifth seed got the better of the American by taking control of the rally and striking at the most valuable time. He broke and served it out in the next game to take the set 6-3. 

Thiem levels to force a fifth set

Both started the crucial fourth set by holding their opening service games. With the momentum firmly on Thiem's side, he began to take full control of the match.

The Austrian earned two important breakpoints in the third game. Kudla sent a backhand long and the match was truly heading in the fifth seeds direction. He backed this up with a comfortable, strong, hold fo serve to take a 3-1 lead.

Both then held their next service games with ease and Kudla seemed to be running out of energy in the basking Melbourne sun. Thiem took control of Kudla's dip in form and brought up further breakpoints following an unforced error from his opponent.

The American flashed a backhand long to gift the world number five the chance to send the game to a decider. Which he did, earning triple set points and serving an unreturnable serve to take the fourth 6-2.

Thiem survives Kudla test  

One-set-all, the fifth set was all to play for. But with the tables turned, Thiem immediately looked to put the final set out of reach for the American. Two break points went his way and at the first time of asking, he broke the American and his spirit.

He consolidated to 15 for an early 2-0 lead. All Kudla could do was hold serve and hope the Austrian collapses but instead, he was getting stronger and stronger as the fifth set continued.

A nice embrace at the net as Dominic Thiem is congratulated by Denis Kudla (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
A nice embrace at the net as Dominic Thiem is congratulated by Denis Kudla (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The American qualifier ranked 180 in the world did, in fact, show some signs that he wasn't ready to give up and saved two break points in the fifth game to stay just the game behind at 3-2. Again, Thiem raced through his service game as the finish line looked nearer and nearer.

Serving to stay in the match down 5-3, Thiem set up break point and the first matchpoints at love-40. Kudla saved two but ultimately, his fight ended as the fifth seed's comeback was confirmed as he won the point, the set 6-3, and the match in five.