Second seed Norwegian Casper Ruud is now out of the Australian Open race after losing to hard-hitting American Jenson Brooksby in a second round match on Thursday – a result that means the top seeding have exited the year’s first Grand Slam.
The result comes just a day after top seed Rafael Nadal – the record 22-time grand slam winner – experienced an early exit as he lost 4-6 4-6 5-7 against unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round, a premature end to dream to defend the title.
Ruud, last year’s French and US Open runner-up, was chasing a first Grand Slam title and the chance to become world number one. But the world number 39 outplayed the 24-year-old in a 6-3 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 defeat.
But it doesn’t stop there as eighth seed Taylor Fritz too lost 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 to wildcard home hope Alexei Popyrin.
Twelfth seed Alexander Zverev, still in the early days of his return from a serious ankle injury, was beaten 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-3 6-2 by lucky loser Michael Mmoh, who said he had to change his flight because he had expected to already be out.
However, Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev suffered no such upset, beating Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-2 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 to set up a third-round meeting with Britain’s Dan Evans.
Danish ninth seed Holger Rune beat American Maxime Cressy 7-5 6-4 6-4 and will face France’s Ugo Humbert next.
Brooksby, 22, took control early against Ruud with two breaks of serve in the opening set and he commanded play from the baseline in the second.
Ruud, who later said he had felt “tension and some slight pain” in his abdomen but refused to blame that for his performance, saved three match points in the third before winning a tie-break to force another set.
But Brooksby regrouped to break early in the fourth, sealing the win when his opponent sent a backhand long.
“Casper’s a warrior, I knew it’d be a great battle out there. I was pretty confident with my level and just wanted to have fun out there and see what could happen,” Brooksby said in his on-court interview.
“I was really proud of my mental resolve out there after the third-set battle didn’t go my way to turn it around.”
Brooksby will face Tommy Paul in the next round after his compatriot beat Spanish 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five sets.
The men’s draw was already without last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, who withdrew before the tournament through injury, leaving Novak Djokovic as the overwhelming favourite for a record-extending 10th men’s title.
American Mmoh was expecting to fly home on Wednesday, but was a late call-up into the main draw when another player withdrew.
The 25-year-old, whose father Tony reached the Australian Open second round in 1988, sealed victory against Zverev with a smash and fell to the floor on his back to take in the biggest win of his career.
Mmoh, who had Australian cousins in his box from his mother’s side of the family, said of his whirlwind week: “Right when you think everything is looking dark, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. My week is proof of that.
“I was packing my bag, I had my flight booked. The fact I am still here playing on Margaret Court is insane. I’m not even supposed to be here.”