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Thompson, Vukic blow away Wimbledon gloom over Kyrgios


Jordan Thompson celebrates a point in his first round comeback victory over Brandon Nakashima. Picture: Alberto Pezzali.

Australian despondency over the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios has been swept away by a brilliant first-day comeback triumph for his mate Jordan Thompson and a stirring late-evening victory for Aleksandar Vukic.


After Kyrgios had pulled out on the eve of the tournament with a wrist injury, Thompson, who'd been trying to help his compatriot get fit for the tournament in practice at the All England Club, produced one of the best wins of his career on Monday against Brandon Nakashima.


Then, in the gathering gloom after a rain-hit opening day, on the same Court 9 where Australian fans had been encamped to watch three of their players in action, another Sydneysider pulled off a fine victory as Vukic beat Germany's Daniel Altmaier 6-3 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 7-5. 


Coming from two sets down to win a grand-slam match for the third time in his career, never-say-die Thompson rallied in his rain-interrupted marathon to a 2-6 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win after it had looked as if he would get swept away by the American who gave Kyrgios a scare at Wimbledon last year.


It was a perfect tonic for the nine-strong Australian challenge after an early but predictable setback when Max Purcell, battling with a fractured foot, lost 6-3 7-5 6-4 in little more than 90 minutes to Russia's No.7 seed Andrey Rublev.


Queensland qualifier Storm Hunter also suffered a heavy defeat while not playing at all badly, losing 6-3 6-1 to an inspired Wang Xinyu in a repeat of their Australian Open first-round clash, which had also been won by the Chinese world No.73. 


Pride of place went to Thompson, who set up a dream meeting with defending seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round, after the Serbian maestro opened the defence of his crown with a 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-4) win over Argentina's Pedro Cachin. 


Thompson hoped his win would go some way to making up for the blow of Kyrgios' withdrawal.


"I went to bed early and when I got to the courts this morning, someone told me he'd pulled out - and it's incredibly disappointing."

"I know he was having issues when we're practising. But he made the final last year and he's our best chance of winning this, having come so close last year. 


"It's not good news. Hopefully I've salvaged a little bit (from the disappointment) but I don't think anything will match the disappointment of him pulling out."


It may have been a new-look, clean-cut Thompson, the famously hirsute Aussie having got rid of his trademark moustache and beard over the weekend after he decided to finish a bad job made by a barber.


But it was the same old 'Tommo' spirit as he earned victory from two sets down just as he had against Italian Lorenzo Sonego at the US Open last year.


After Hunter's loss - which leaves just Daria Saville representing Australia in the women's draw - the fans who had spent much of a soggy, windy day camped around the cramped Court 9 cheered world No.87 Vukic to victory over Altmaier, ranked 21 places higher.


"There were definitely beers around - but those beers helped for sure," said Vukic, convinced the boisterous crowd had helped drag him to what he felt was his best win after his 2022 Australian Open victory over Lloyd Harris. 


"But it was very special because I had my family here - my parents (dad Rad and mum Ljiljana), my girlfriend, my coach. 


"It's great to share it with those ones who are there with you day to day."


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