Jordan Thompson has booked a potential Wimbledon Centre Court meeting with defending champion Novak Djokovic after battling back from two sets down against higher-ranked American Brandon Nakashima.
On a wet and windy opening day in south-west London the battling Aussie clawed his way back after looking headed for an early exit barely an hour into the Championships.
Ultimately it was mid-afternoon when he sealed a 2-6 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4) 6-3 210-minute victory over world No.51 Nakashima.
Thompson, freshly shorn of his trademark beard and ‘tache, came into the fortnight in good form. But Nakashima, ranked 20 places higher, was a tough first round opponent. He made the fourth round last year where he took Nick Kyrgios to five sets.
The 21-year-old broke early to establish a 3-0 first set lead, breaking again to take the opening stanza 6-2.
Watched by a growing band of Australians on court 9 Thompson responded by breaking immediately to take a 2-0 second set lead, but then lost six games in a row, including the set’s final eight points.
When Nakashima extended his run of points to 12 in succession it seemed all but over, yet Thompson rallied in style, winning four of the next five games before taking the set.
The 29-year-old Sydneysider went on to force a break point in the fourth set’s seventh game but was unable to take it. Come the tie-break he seized the initiative, breaking twice before winning the 61-minute set 7-4.
It was the fifth time Thompson had come back from two sets down to two-each in a grand slam. He had previously won two, including most recently against Lorenzo Sonego in New York last year, and lost three.
The deciding set went with serve until Thompson forced a break point to go 4-2 up. However, at that point, with light rain falling, the chair umpire summoned the covers.
Ninety minutes later Nakashima served that point, and Thompson returned until his opponent put a forehand into the net.
Nakashima held to be 3-5 but Thompson served out successfully, leaping for joy after winning on his first match point.
Meanwhile, over on Centre Court Djokovic, under the roof, was two sets up against Argentina’s Pedro Cachin making a first ever meeting between the Serb and Thompson very likely.