SAMANTHA STOSUR aside, it was a bad day at the office for the Australian hopes in the first round on Monday.
A courageous John Millman recovered from two sets down on his grand slam debut, only to lose in five, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, 7-5 to Japan's Tatsuma Ito, a player he had beaten two weeks earlier at the Brisbane International.
Millman also took world No.3 Andy Murray to three tight sets in the Queensland capital and downed former world top-five player Tommy Robredo the following week in Sydney. But he fell agonisingly short in a seesawing final set that featured several service breaks.
Earlier, Matthew Ebden led his seeded, seasoned opponent two sets to nil and held a match point in the fourth set. He lost.
Another local, Olivia Rogowska, led her unheralded Serbian/Russian opponent 4-1 in the deciding third set. She lost.
One could add Ashleigh Barty's souffle-like rise and deflation against an accomplished seed, in completing a day in which the lowly-ranked Aussies showed pluck - Ebden bordered on gallant - but came up empty. No seed would be slain by the local insurgents. Not 16-year-old Barty, 25-year-old Ebden or 21-year-old Rogowska could finish as they started, or remain ahead.
Ebden's was the closest call on Margaret's court, where lowly Aussies have had a knack for upsetting their numerous betters. He took the opening two sets against the resilient Russian, No.23 seed Mikhail Youzhny, but he could not close the match out in the fourth set, when he held a precious match point on Youzhny's serve.
Once the Russian took the fourth set tie-breaker, the natural order had been restored. Ebden was looking more No.108 in the world, his actual ranking - rather than the accomplished player who had taken the two-set lead. As with salesmen, the ability to close the deal separates seeds from chaff. Youzhny, a true pro, took the fifth 6-3.
But Rogowska ought to be the more disappointed loser. Her opponent, Vesna Dolonc, ain't Serena Williams - the Serb (who was Russian until last year) is in the same ranking/weight division as the Melburnian and, at 3-0 and then 4-1 in the deciding set, Rogowska was well placed to take a place in the second round. But, as with Ebden, she faltered when victory beckoned, ultimately losing 8-6 in the deciding set.
Rogowska will rue the third set, while Ebden's moment came earlier, at 5-4 in the fourth set, when he earned his lone match point on Youzhny's serve but was forced into the backhand corner through some heavy hitting and pushed his shot wide.
The Australian was briefly rattled, allowing Youzhny to break him to 15 in the next game, then blew a 0-40 lead on Youzhny's next service game. He saved one set point before forcing the set into a tie-breaker with a forehand passing shot.
Youzhny rushed to a 3-1 lead in the tie-breaker, but the Australian got it back to 4-4 before the Russian took the match into a fifth set, by which stage Ebden was done.
Barty, too, fumbled a rare chance against a seeded player, No.15 Dominika Cibulkova, winning the first set 6-3 before losing nine consecutive games and the match 6-0, 6-1. The 16-year-old wildcard was playing in her fourth grand slam match, having made her debut at Melbourne Park last year, but is yet to win one and has now played three seeded opponents in succession. Still, she is gathering experience, and improving rapidly, as she goes.