Wawrinka, Sinner stay in ATP title hunt

Melbourne (AFP) –


Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka clawed past Mikhail Kukushkin Wednesday to keep alive his hopes of a first title since 2017 as he battles back from a case of Covid-19.

The Swiss 35-year-old, who won the first of his three Grand Slam titles in Melbourne in 2014, tested positive to the virus just before Christmas, upsetting his preparations.

Seeded one at the Murray River Open and in his first match of the season, he lost the opening set against his Kazakh opponent but kept his composure to fight back and win 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

"It felt okay. I'm happy to get the win and I'm ready to start a new tournament, a new year, especially after a few months out," said Wawrinka, who last won an ATP title in Geneva more than three years ago.

He faces Australian Alex Bolt in the third round.

Britain's Dan Evans, who had the best season of his career in 2020, climbing to a career-high 28, also stayed in the title hunt, as did Australian James Duckworth, who upset French seventh seed Ugo Humbert.

Teen Jannik Sinner, who in November became the youngest ATP champion in 12 years when he won in Sofia, was another in the winners circle.

Playing his first match since claiming the silverware in Bulgaria, the 19-year-old Italian swept past Australia's Aleksandar Vukic 6-2, 6-4 in the Great Ocean Road Open, being played concurrently at Melbourne Park.

"The pressure is on, because I want to be there trying to win matches," said Sinner.

"But I'm also trying to enjoy playing tennis. That's the most important thing for me."

While Sinner excelled, two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren exited, beaten in three sets by Italy's Salvatore Caruso.