Tennis: Carlos Alacaraz, Alexander Zverev pushed hard before advancing to third round of Australian Open

Iga Swiatek and Alexander Zverev both had to fight their way back from the brink of defeat to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, a day of close shaves and tight matches at Melbourne Park.

Carlos Alcaraz had a less fraught outing on Rod Laver Arena but the 20-year-old was certainly tested as he matched his best previous performance at the year's opening Grand Slam by getting past the second round.

Women's top seed Swiatek had earlier shown all the fight of a four-times Grand Slam champion as she rallied from two breaks down in the final set to beat Danielle Collins 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Swiatek knew she was in for a potentially tricky contest in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena as Collins had beaten her in the Melbourne Park semi-finals in 2022.

The 30-year-old American, who said after the match that she would be retiring this season, came out firing after losing the opening set and Swiatek needed her best tennis to overhaul a 4-1 deficit by rattling off the last five games in the third set.

"Oh my god, honestly, I was already at the airport," said Swiatek.

Alexander Zverev.
Alexander Zverev. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I didn't feel like I had control over this match (but) I wanted to fight till the end. I'm happy that I was solid and I just believed till the end."

Men's sixth seed Zverev admitted he was fortunate to prevail 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(7) over Slovakian world number 163 Lukas Klein, whose iron grip on their 4-1/2-hour contest had the German plotting his journey back to Monte Carlo.

"I was thinking there's a Qantas flight at 11 p.m. tonight straight to Dubai and then one to home," Zverev said.

"A lot of the time I was a spectator in the match. I was just witnessing whether he's going to hit a winner or miss."

Rain showers disrupted play on the outer courts for the second successive day but it was the wind and sunshine that Alcaraz felt had threatened the quality of his contest against Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

The Spanish second seed felt both players managed to conquer the challenge as he gave up the second set but ran out a 6-4 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(3) winner on Rod Laver Arena.

"It was tough to play your best but we tried to stay there all the time," he said.

Women's fifth seed Jessica Pegula was unable to find a way past France's Clare Burel and crashed out 6-4 6-2, while fellow American Sloane Stephens accounted for 14th seed Daria Kasatkina 4-6 6-3 6-3.

Casper Ruud, the men's 11th seed, was also forced to battle hard for his place in the third round as he was taken to a fifth set tiebreak by local Max Purcell before winning 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 7-6(7).

Ruud thought his match against the unorthodox Purcell was one he might have lost before the boost of confidence he got from a fine showing at the year-opening United Cup.

"That's a typical match you could end up losing," he told reporters. "Today I didn't have to save match point, but he was basically only three points away from winning."

The Norwegian will next face British 19th seed Cameron Norrie, who also needed the full five sets to beat qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 3-6 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4 6-4.

Norrie's compatriot Jack Draper was unable to replicate his win over Tommy Paul in Adelaide last week and the American 14th seed progressed 6-2 3-6 6-3 7-5.