British No. 2 Katie Boulter scored a bizarre and brilliant first-round win over Ekaterina Makarova, an experienced Russian with a fine record in Melbourne, after playing the first-ever 10-point tie-break to be contested at a grand-slam singles tournament.
The Australian Open has introduced a new rule at this event: if the score reaches 6-6 in the deciding set, then you play a “super tie-break”, in which the finishing line comes at 10 points rather than seven.
This might seem like an abstruse detail, except that Boulter did not seem to be aware of the unfamiliar rule. When she smacked a clean forehand winner up the line to move 7-4 ahead in the tie-break, she exulted with a multiple fist-pump and moved forward to the net.
Moments later, she would be back on the baseline, looking understandably frustrated.
When Makarova took the next two points, Boulter’s supporters must have feared that the misunderstanding might prove fatal. It’s not easy to regather your energies after that sort of celebration, especially when you have already been out on court for almost two-and-a-half hours in sweltering 35-degree heat.