Fabio Fognini and Salvatore Caruso had to be separated by the court supervisor after the first all-Italian Australian Open men’s singles match of the open era ended in uproar on Thursday.
The compatriots had battled it out over nearly four hours in the John Cain Arena before 16th seed Fognini emerged a 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6(12) winner.
The traditional handshake at the net quickly degenerated into a heated argument when Fognini suggested Caruso had been lucky on some points in the match, an observation the Sicilian objected to.
The expletive-filled argument continued by the side of the court until the official stood between the two players as they continued to gesticulate.
It is the second year in a row that Fognini has been involved in controversy after a long match at Melbourne Park.
Fognini ripped his shirt off in protest and was docked a point for refusing to play during an ill-tempered fourth round loss to Tenys Sandgren that the American described as a “war”.
The 33-year-old claycourt specialist will face Australian number one Alex de Minaur in the third round.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev reached the third round with a straight-sets victory over Thiago Monteiro.
Rublev beat the Brazilian 6-4 6-4 7-6 (10-8) and will face 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez next after the Spaniard fought back to knock out Italy’s 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.
Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3 to set up a meeting with Russian 19th seed Karen Khachanov, who saw off Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in three sets.