Matt Barton’s fairytale Wimbledon debut will continue into the second round after he posted an extraordinary maiden grand slam victory in a marathon, rain-affected first-round clash.
The Australian qualifier finally prevailed on Thursday afternoon, winning 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 14-12 over France’s Albano Olivetti in a match spanning three days and taking four hours and three minutes to set up a second-round clash with American 18th seed John Isner.
Barton’s status as the tournament’s biggest underdog may have been stolen by world No.772 Marcus Willis, who captivated the Wimbledon crowds in losing to all-time great Roger Federer on Centre Court on Wednesday.
But his victory remains one of extreme perseverance for the world No.246, having previously retired from the professional circuit to take up a personal coaching role after being worn down by persistent knee injuries.
And in keeping with his career arc, Barton did it the hard way.
He squandered three match points, blowing six break points in the fourth set, before finally closing out the win.
But victory in the epic five-setter could scarcely have tasted better for the Sydneysider, who was ultimately gifted victory when his rival double-faulted for the 17th time – causing Barton to collapse to the ground in exhaustion and relief before running to congratulate Olivetti on their lengthy battle.
Barton and Olivetti slugged it out for a monster 85-minute fifth set which started on Wednesday night and finished Thursday afternoon as both proved nigh-on impossible to break.
Olivetti, credited with having the second-fastest serve in history, sent down 56 thundering aces to Barton’s 33.
But crucially the Australian had just nine double faults, offered only one break point – which he saved – and had 105 unreturned serves compared to Olivetti’s 99.