Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams barely moved out of second gear while Victoria Azarenka underlined her Australian Open pedigree as players experienced the hottest conditions of the championship so far on Thursday. Four-times champion Djokovic only needed to up his game after an hour of his 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov, while Williams had to be on her mettle a little sooner following some early resistance from former world number two Vera Zvonareva.
Once the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion got up to speed, however, she cruised away from the Russian with a 7-5, 6-0 victory during the day session.
“Things really clicked. I had no other option but for things to click,” the American told reporters as she moved into the third round and within sight of a potential quarter-final with Azarenka.
Twice champion Azarenka, whose ranking has plummeted to 44 after she was restricted to just nine tournaments last year with foot and knee injuries, proved she would not be kept down for long as she hammered eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2. “I knew that I’m unseeded so I can play anybody. I just accept whoever is on the opposite side (and) I’m happy with the way I stayed consistent throughout the whole match,” she said.
“I think there’s always things you can improve, but it’s a great progress from one match to another.” Woziniacki, a former world number one, said while losing “sucks” she felt her good friend was back to her best already. “Her level, it’s high,” she said. “I think she’s at the level that she left when she stopped playing.”
Men’s champion Stan Wawrinka, who beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, the lowest ranked men’s player in the second round at 194, and eighth seed Milos Raonic, who dispatched American Donald Young, also both advanced after clinical victories.
Air temperatures had dropped considerably for the later matches at Melbourne Park, but had exceeded 35 Celsius during the day session, with France’s Adrian Mannarino a notable casualty. The 26-year-old held two match points in the third set against 12th-seed Feliciano Lopez before he was forced to retire while trailing in the fourth.
Lopez was awarded the match 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 4-0 and will now face Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, who beat 17th-seed Gael Monfils in an entertaining five setter.
In defeat, nice guy Tim wins praise
MELBOURNE: Tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have acclaimed American Tim Smyczek’s act of rare sportsmanship at a crucial time of his losing five-set thriller at the Australian Open. With the score 30-0 deep in the fifth set a spectator yelled out loudly during Nadal’s ball toss, which distracted the Spaniard and forced him to serve a fault.
But in an admirable show of sportsmanship Smyczek called for Nadal to replay his first serve rather than it be declared a fault. Nadal went on to win the epic match and take his place in the third round at the Open, while Smyczek bowed out.
Smyczek’s graceful act in the dog-eat-dog world of professional tennis was a major talking point at the Australian Open on Thursday.
“Very few players can do that after four hours something of a match, 5-all, love-30. So I just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did,” Nadal said.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka also praised the American. “I think it was great for him to give back the point. You don’t see it so many times and it’s great sportsmanship.”Asked if he would have done the same, Wawrinka added: “I don’t know. You cannot answer that. After four hours of the match you don’t know what’s in your mind. Sometimes you react just like that. You just do it.” (AFP)