Score one for the headcases.
The two players with arguably the most to prove of anyone in the tournament, Nick Kyrgios and Sascha Zverev came into the 2020 AO with some particularly notable question marks. Kyrgios, had to prove his strong showing at the ATP cup was no flash in the pan, while Sascha Zverev had to show the exact opposite. On Thursday, they both took a big step towards doing so.
Despite enduring one of his patented midmatch breakdowns, Kyrgios managed to extract himself from the down-side of an emotional rollercoaster to triumph over Gilles Simon in four sets, while Zverev and his much maligned serve were on-song in a straight set win over Egor Gerasimov that saw him record zero double faults.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go in this tournament – and plenty of time for them to plummet back to earth – but in a sport as reliant on the mental aspect as tennis, these sort of performances shouldn’t be taken for granted. Maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing two enormously talented players start to get their heads on straight.
Here’s your three-to-see on Friday in Melbourne:
Milos Raonic (CAN)  v Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)  – First on Margaret Court Arena (Night session)
One of those matches where a loss would particularly sting, either 2019 AO quarterfinalist Milos Raonic or semifinalist Stef Tsitsipas is going home with a fairly significant chunk of their rankings points missing. A matchup made possible by Raonic’s injury-hit 2019, the big-hitting Canadian looks to have found his footing somewhat in the first two rounds of this tournament, albeit with the caveat that Tsitsipas is obviously a significant step-up from Lorenzo Giustino and Christian Garin. Nevertheless, it should be a very entertaining contest, with both players looking to take the initiative and go on the attack from the baseline, and an outcome likely to be decided by only a few points, whether it goes three sets or five.
Naomi Osaka (JPN)  v Cori Gauff (USA) – First on Rod Laver Arena (Night session)
A match that features the future of women’s tennis… and the future beyond that, Naomi Osaka v Coco Gauff has the potential to be the Federer-Nadal of the women’s game, even if the latter still has a long way to go. Not that far removed from Osaka’s 6-3, 6-0 trouncing of the young American at last year’s US Open, it would be unreasonable to expect some sort of momentous turnaround here, yet the strides Gauff has made since then can’t be discounted either. Even if Osaka rolls comfortably, there should be enough fearless play from Gauff to make this a must-watch, as much for the tennis on display as what we could at later stages of this tournament in a few years time.
Roger Federer (SUI)  v John Millman (AUS) – Second on Rod Laver (Night session)
Arguably the most bizarre loss of his career, Roger Federer’s defeat at the hands of John Millman at the 2018 US Open saw the Swiss Maestro at his most human, subdued in equal measure by the sweltering heat and the Aussie’s tenacity. Here the conditions are unlikely to be a problem, but Millman figures to be as obstinate as ever, and even if Federer spent his previous match performing an absolute dissection on Filip Krajinovic, there’s no guarantee he’ll repeat that performance again. Indeed, Millman is the exact sort of guy who can lull Federer into one of those “off-days” that have dotted his career over the past ten years, and that means that at the very least, the Swiss will have to win “uglier” than he’d like at this stage of the tournament.