Defending champion Novak Djokovic banished the ghosts of wildcards past by despatching Japan’s Tatsuma Ito 6-1 6-4 6-2 to sail into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The world number two was famously knocked out of the second round at Melbourne Park by Uzbek wildcard Denis Istomin three years ago in the upset of the tournament.
He had no such problem against Ito, who earned his place in the draw with victory in the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff.
Having struggled through a four-set grind against unseeded German Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener, Djokovic was back to his imperious best as he fired down 16 aces and racked up 31 winners in a 95-minute romp at a gusty Rod Laver Arena.
“I came into the match and played extremely well at the beginning,” Djokovic told reporters, having stormed to a 5-0 first set lead in 15 minutes. I’m just overall pleased with the performance.”
“It’s only the second round. I do have to keep going. I feel comfortable and confident playing in Australia. History of my results here have been very positive.”
FEDERER SWEEPS PAST KRAJINOVIC
Third seed Roger Federer hit winners at will in an imperious display as he cantered into the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-4 6-1 thumping of Serb Filip Krajinovic on Wednesday.
Starting his second-round match at around 2100 local time on Rod Laver Arena, the six-time champion appeared to be in a hurry to finish the contest, breaking his opponent’s serve twice in the first two sets and thrice in the third.
Krajinovic took a medical timeout to have his right upper arm attended with Federer leading 2-1 in the third set but it made no difference to the momentum for the 20-times Grand Slam champion, who hit his 42nd winner to end the contest in a little over 90 minutes.
Unlike his main rivals, Federer, who won his last major title in 2018 at Melbourne Park, opted out of the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia to spend more time with his family before launching his 22nd season on Tour.
“I prefer this much more than (being) overcooked,” Federer told reporters. “As easy as it looks, there’s always the effort, trying to extend the lead. Of course, it’s not quite the same stress level if you’re down a set or a break or two sets, whatever it may be. I prefer it this way because you have always extra left in the tank if you need it.”
Next up for Federer will be a meeting against local hope John Millman, who beat him in four sets at the 2018 U.S. Open.
“He’s a super good guy, unbelievably tough opponent,” Federer said. “There are not many fitter guys than him out there and those are the guys I respect the most, actually. He gets absolutely the most out of the game and I hope it is going to be a great match with some great rallies.”
TSITSIPAS THROUGH AFTER OPPONENT WITHDRAWS
Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has advanced to the third round of the Australian Open after his German opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew due to injury, organisers said on Wednesday.
ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas, 21, will meet either Canadian 32nd seed Milos Raonic or Cristian Garin of Chile in the third round, having never faced either opponent before.
“Unfortunately Philipp Kohlschreiber has withdrawn from his #AusOpen match vs Stefanos Tsitsipas due to a muscle strain,” the Australian Open said on Twitter.
Tsitsipas, who last year defeated Roger Federer on his way to the Melbourne Park semi-finals, had won both his previous meetings against world No. 79 Kohlschreiber.
SANDGREN DOWNS EIGHTH SEED BERRETTINI
For the second time in three years, Tennys Sandgren defied his lowly ranking to send a top 10 seed out of the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday when he outslugged Matteo Berrettini 7-6(7) 6-4 4-6 2-6 7-5.
The world number 100 felt he rode his luck a little after giving up the third and fourth sets to the eighth seeded Italian young gun with barely a whimper before rallying to snatch his chance of one of the biggest victories of his career.
“It’s a top 10 at a slam so it’s right up there,” the affable 28-year-old American told reporters. “He played too good in the fourth, kind of beat me up a little bit, so going into the fifth set I didn’t feel like I had much momentum. I think I got away with one there.”
Sandgren has been getting away with a good few wins at Grand Slams since he beat ninth seed and former champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round in 2018 and embarked on a stunning run to the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.