Second-round singles action concludes Thursday at the 2023 Australian Open, where Casper Ruud and Novak Djokovic seek to build on solid opening wins at the first Grand Slam of the year.

Five-time finalist Andy Murray also returns to court, as the Scot tries to build on his epic win against Matteo Berrettini in an enticing clash against home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Taylor Fritz are among the other names in action on Thursday, when men’s doubles action also commences. Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, and 2020 champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury are among teams eyeing a fast start at Melbourne Park.

ATPTour.com runs through some key battles scheduled for Day 4 at the Australian Open.

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[2] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. Jenson Brooksby (USA)

Ruud is doubly motivated to make the most of his return to the Australian Open after he missed the 2022 event with an ankle problem. But that unfortunately timed injury now has a silver lining: With no Pepperstone ATP Rankings points to defend, the Norwegian can rise to World No. 1 by winning the title in Melbourne, or by reaching the final if Stefanos Tsitsipas does not claim the crown.

The 24-year-old passed a tough opening test in a four-set win against Tomas Machac, but it won’t get any easier against the tricky Jenson Brooksby in the second round.

“It is great to be back,” Ruud said after his 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3 first-round win. “I could not play here last year unfortunately, so I am very eager to have a good tournament. This was a good start. I think Tomas played well, very aggressive and played some great points in the third-set tie-break. It was frustrating but I managed to stay strong and earn the win.”

Australian Open debutante Brooksby also needed four first-round sets to defeat home favourite Christopher O’Connell, blitzing through the final three sets after conceding the opener. The American is 4-1 on the season, having reached the Auckland semi-finals last week.

He seeks his second Top 10 win on Thursday, after his upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas last year at Indian Wells. Brooksby could not repeat the feat against Ruud two months later, with the Norwegian scoring a 6-3, 6-4 win in Rome in the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head encounter.

Seeded second in Melbourne, Ruud has firmly established himself as a player to beat at the Grand Slams: He reached his first two major finals last season at Roland Garros and the US Open.

Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Thanasi Kokkanakis (AUS)

Five-time Australian Open finalist Murray hopes to carry momentum gained in his thrilling first-round win against Berrettini into his meeting with Kokkinakis. The physical toil required for the Scot to reach the second round may have been high, but he believes his off-season fitness work gives him every chance possible to be fresh for Thursday’s clash.

“It’s obviously not that easy to recover from a four-hour 45-minute match,” Murray said after his five-set victory against Berrettini. “But I have put myself in the best chance to be able to do that with the training and stuff that I’ve done the last few months. I wouldn’t expect myself to feel perfect on Thursday, but hopefully I’ll be in a good place.”

The Scot can also look to his previous tour-level meeting with Kokkinakis for comfort. He beat a then-19-year-old Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 in a 2015 Davis Cup tie, but will be aware that the Australian now possesses considerably more big-match experience and a strong record on home soil. The 26-year-old wild card won his maiden tour-level title in his hometown of Adelaide in 2022 and upset World No. 6 Andrey Rublev en route to the semi-finals at this year’s Adelaide International 2.

[4] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [Q] Enzo Couacaud (FRA)

Djokovic’s bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown continues with a maiden ATP Head2Head meeting against Couacaud. The 27-year-old qualifier claimed just his second Grand Slam win against Hugo Dellien in a rain-delayed first-round clash on Wednesday, but he now faces one of the toughest tests in tennis against Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena — the Serbian has won his past 22 matches on Melbourne Park’s centre court.

The fourth-seeded Djokovic was in fine form in his opening win against Roberto Carballes Baena, despite playing with a strapped left hamstring that he aggravated during his run to a 92nd tour-level title at the Adelaide International 1 earlier this month. The 35-year-old will feel confident as he aims to stay on track to equalling Rafael Nadal’s record tally of 22 major crowns.

🤩@DjokerNole | @AustralianOpen | #AusOpen

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Also In Action…

Holger Rune notched his maiden Australian Open win in straight sets on Tuesday against Filip Krajinovic. The ninth seed faces a tough test next in the big-serving American Maxime Cressy. The pair has never met at Tour-level but played at an ATP Challenger Tour event in France in 2021 and in qualifying for the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Rune prevailed in straight sets in both.

Andrey Rublev came through a potentially tricky first-round clash against Dominic Thiem in style, and the fifth seed will hope to continue his form from that straight-sets win against the clean-hitting Finn Emil Ruusuvuori. Eighth seed Taylor Fritz meets home favourite Alexei Popyrin, while 12th seed Alexander Zverev faces lucky loser Michael Mmoh.

Other seeds in action include Pablo Carreno Busta, Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov. The 14th seed Carreno Busta meets Benjamin Bonzi, 23rd seed Schwartzman takes on American J.J. Wolf and former World No. 3 Dimitrov, the No. 27 seed, plays Laslo Djere.

As well as Kokkinakis and Popyrin, Alex de Minaur flies the flag for the host nation Thursday in Melbourne. The 22nd seed carries a 2-1 ATP Head2Head lead into his second-round clash against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. The #NextGenATP American Ben Shelton eyes a third-round berth when he takes to court against qualifier Nicolas Jarry.

Men’s doubles action commences Thursday after inclement weather delayed the competition’s start at Melbourne Park. The first day’s matches include top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski taking on Alexander Bublik and John-Patrick Smith, second seeds and 2020 champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury up against Marcos Giron and Constant Lestienne, and fourth seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic against Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni.

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