In the history of tennis, fans are often enamoured of matches which occur in later stages in majors. We can all think of epic finals, semi finals and quarter finals. However, the first week of majors is often completely forgotten when we are discussing the greatest matches of all time. In the last 5 years alone, there have been a plethora of box-office 1st and 2nd round grand slam matches at all the majors. Earlier rounds of grand slams are quite criminally underrated.
In many instances, tennis has seen some fireworks in earlier rounds which have exceeded the quality of matches in later rounds. There are plenty of instances where a 2nd round match had been far more exciting than any of the 4th round matches, for instance. Looking back over the last 5 years, matches such as the 2018 Australian Open 2nd round between Shapovalov- Tsonga was a match which had it all. At the 2019 Australian Open, Ugo Humbert v Jeremy Chardy was a 5 set epic which was decided by a tiebreak in the 5th set. That match started amid broad daylight in the Australian summer (4.30PM)- but concluded just before sunset at 8pm.
In 2021, Jannik Sinner v Denis Shapovalov was an early round match for the ages. In the opening night of play, the two young guns played a high quality 5 set affair – which really deserved to be a 4th round match instead. Similarly, at the 2019 Australian Open, Paire- Thiem was another early round match for the ages. This match finished just shy of 2.30 am local time in Australia.
On the other side of the world, there have been quite as many blockbuster early round matches over the past 5 years. For instance, the 2019 US Open 2nd round between Alex de Minaur and Marin Cilic is still the latest finishing US Open match in history. The match commenced at 10.30 PM and finished at 2.24 am New York time.
However, one particular player who has seemed to feature in an abnormally large number of 5 set epics in early rounds is Jaume Munar. Despite not being quite the household name, Munar has had some enthralling finishes at grand slams over the years. For example, at this year’s Wimbledon, he took 9th seed Cameron Norrie to 5 sets in the 2nd round. In the US, Munar had a marathon 5 set epic against Bemelmans in the 2nd round in Flushing Meadows back in 2018. How about the 5 set epic at this year’s Australian Open -where Karatsev edged out Munar -in a match that lasted a whopping 4 and half hours
Now to the ‘servebots’, who can forget the 2017 Australian Open first round between Horacio Zeballos and Ivo Karlovic. In 37 degree weather on court 19, the match lasted an extraordinary 5 hours, with the the final set ending 22-20! The final set on it’s own lasted 2 and half hours, with Karlovic firing 75 aces, the most aces in a match in Australian Open history, and the 4th most aces in a match in grand slam history.
Another epic of the US is the 2019 US Open between 16 year old Zach Svada and 37 year old Paolo Lorenzi. In a match that lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes, Lorenzi sealed the deal against the teenager on Court 5. However, almost 3 years prior to this date, Paolo Lorenzi achieved a similar feat, defeating Gilles Simon in 4 hours and 58 minutes in the 2nd round of the 2016 US Open.
Another player who is not well known but has produced some epic tennis over the years is Andreas Seppi. In the 2nd round of the 2017 Australian Open, Seppi defeated Nick Kyrgios in a match where the 5th set alone lasted 64 minutes! Last but not least is the 2nd round of the 2014 Australian Open between Andreas Seppi and Lleyton Hewitt. Despite playing in 42 degrees Celsius weather (107.6 Fahrenheit), the match lasted 4 hours and 18 minutes. Almost in a similar fashion, at the 2nd round of the 2021 US Open, Andreas Seppi defeated Marton Fucsovics in 4 hrs and 4 minutes- with the final set finishing 15-13, after saving 5 match points on Court 8. Speaking of Fucsovics, he had another epic of his own, saving 3 match points to defeat Stan Wawrinka in a 5 set thriller at the 2021 Australian Open
Lastly, Albert Ramos Vinolas vs Denis Istomin was one of the best early round major matches you could watch. The match lasted a whopping 4 hours and 55 minutes in the 2017 US Open first round. However, what could top that? The 2017 Australian Open second round between Novak Djokovic and Denis Istomin. In an absolute marathon 4 hr 48 minute affair, the unseeded Istomin, in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, defeated 2 time defending champion (and 5 time winner) Novak Djokovic in a result absolutely nobody saw coming.
So, all in all, what is the best early round 5 set match ever?