In his downtime, Alex Bolt cruises down to a YMCA centre in Melbourne's west with his housemates and takes in a spot of social basketball, competing as the 'Union Road Royals.'

He's a baller. To be more specific, a guard, tasked with dictating plays and creating his own opportunities down both ends of the court.

With an unusually pleasant sun overhead he did just that for two sets as he placed world no.5 Dominic Thiem on the ropes, coming within six games of the most startling result of this Australian Open and replicating what countryman Alexei Popyrin achieved one year ago.



"I just threw my racquet at [the ball], and I flushed it," Bolt recounted, with a smirk.

The momentum continued into the ensuing tiebreak. Bolt quickly raced out to a 5-1 lead with some aggressive returning and more endeavours to the net.

By the end of the set, which was sealed with a bomb of a serve, Bolt had won 26 out of 37 trips forward.

The physicality required to condemn Thiem to a two sets to one deficit paid dividends. And then it didn't, as Melbourne Arena's five o'clock shadow cast over the court.

Thiem, renowned as one of the tour's premier athletes, regained control and with the next gear in his game engaged, never let it go again.

Australian Open: Bolt from the blue nearly overruns Thiem_1
Inset: Dominic Thiem reserved praise for his Australian opponent after their brutal clash. Photo: Getty

Bolt won only three more games for the match, and once the final sniff in a 10-minute long game in the fifth set was snuffed, the lights went out, whiz-bang.

6-2 5-7 6-7(5) 6-1 6-2. Three hours and 22 minutes of pain.

"There were a lot of positives to come out of this match – I showed my level's good enough to stick it with the top guys but unfortunately, fatigue and my fitness wasn't quite up to scratch," Bolt said, with ambitions now firmly set on entering the top 100.

Thiem, too, saw plenty of spark.

"He's not really any weaknesses. Good lefty serve, comes in pretty well," the Austrian said.

"So, well, there is not a single reason why he shouldn't get in the top 100 soon."

Conquer that fatigue, and perhaps Alex Bolt's baller-like ways could one day propel him to his goal, among the likes of Thiem and co.