Aussie duo bundled out but better for the experience
FRENCH Open semi-finalist Dominic Thiem has aggressively bounced back to top form in a four-set Australian Open whipping of Sydneysider Jordan Thompson.
Thiem struggled to find his top tennis in lead-up events at Brisbane and Sydney and lost his first set of the Open, but has since won six of his next seven, including a 6-2 6-1 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 defeat of Thompson.
Thompson, 22, showed some terrific mid-match fight to rally from 5-2 down in the tiebreak and pinch the third set and briefly buoy hopes of consecutive comebacks from two sets behind.
But a menacing Thiem reeled off the opening nine points of the fourth set to quickly snuff that out in two hours and 44 minutes.
The Austrian world No.8 is the second-highest-ranked player left in the bottom half of the draw - behind French sixth seed Gael Monfils - due to six-time champion Novak Djokovic's shock exit.
"My first two sets were amazing, but the whole match was pretty good," Thiem said.
"Jordan really stepped up in set three and it was a really close match ... it was my first night session at the Australian Open and was an amazing experience.
"I'm already looking forward to my next one and I hope people like me and my game."
Thiem was also complimentary about beaten foe Thompson.
"It's really tough to play against him," Thiem said.
"I obviously played a very good first two sets, (but) he's a really good fighter with a really good first serve, which came good the last two sets, and no doubt he has a good future."
Beaten Australian wildcard Andrew Whittington, meanwhile, feels ready to consistently test himself on the elite ATP Tour after a successful grand slam debut at the Australian Open.
Marathon man Ivo Karlovic ended the Melburnian's Open in the second round on Thursday in a 6-4 6-4 6-4 result on court eight after the Croatian survived a five-and-a-quarter-hour epic on Tuesday.
"Ivo is (ranked) 20 in the world, so it was just a great learning experience," Whittington said.
"I could have played a bit better but, all in all, it was still a great experience. I just think playing these top guys helps build a lot of confidence for me, hanging around that level.
"That's obviously where you want to be. I'm ranked at 170, so obviously I want to try and push my ranking up towards those guys and play them day in, day out."
No.20 seed Karlovic finished with 19 aces - well shy of his tournament-record 75 in round one - and enjoyed an 85% success rate with his first ball.
Whittington, 23, was zip from five on break-point chances, including three in a row in the sixth game of the second set while trailing 3-2.
The world No.194 landed just 41% of his first serves in the opening set and missed five of eight in conceding an immediate second-set break.
"My serving let me down a little bit today. I thought I actually returned not too badly," Whittington said.
"I made a decent amount of returns and made him play a lot of balls - I think I had (five) break points and just didn't take one.
"If I take one or two of those, it could be different. I could still be out there."
Whittington plans to contest back-to-back Challengers in Burnie and Launceston, Tasmania, before likely attempting to qualify for ATP Masters 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami in March.
Whittington will invest his $80,000 prizemoney back into his tennis career.
"It's going straight in the bank. I think that's the wise option, isn't it? Probably not head to the casino and put it on black," he said with a grin.
"It's nice knowing you have that in your back pocket, but rankings-wise and playing-wise, I'm ready for those (top) tournaments.
"I've worked my way up there and I'll give it a red-hot crack."