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Updated: 19 min 27 sec ago
Rain wreaked havoc with the doubles schedule on Friday at the Australian Open, but when they finally got on court, Bob and Mike Bryan made short work of Mahesh Bhupathi and Gilles Muller to reach the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The Americans, who have changed things up by switching sides on the court at Melbourne Park, are chasing their first Grand Slam title since the 2014 US Open. They are six-time winners at the Australian Open, most recently lifting the trophy in 2013 (d. Haase/Sijsling).
The twins go on to face Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who saved a match point in their 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey.
Second seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Austin Krajicek and Donald Young. "We had a long day,” Melo said. “We warmed up five or six times. Twice we were just about to go on court and the rain came back. I came to the courts at 8am and finally got on court at 5:30pm. So there were many hours waiting, but we are happy to play as well as we played after all that. We are very happy to be in the third round."
Fourth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea also cruised through, dismissing Lukas Dlouhy and Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2 to set a clash with Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi, who beat Thomaz Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.
"Today we played a very solid match and I think put a lot of pressure on our opponents when they served," said Bopanna. "It was tough with the weather and waiting all day there, but glad we stayed tough and played some good tennis. We're happy to be into the third round and looking forward to it."
Ninth seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock were given a free pass into the third round when Robin Haase and Fernando Verdasco withdrew from their clash, with Verdasco citing a foot injury.
Despite his runner-up finish at the 2014 US Open, the Australian Open remains Kei Nishikori’s most successful Grand Slam. The two-time quarter-finalist improved to 19-6 in Melbourne Park on Friday, advancing to the round of 16 for the fifth straight year with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
“I have to give a lot of credit to him, because he was hitting really hard,” said Nishikori, who dealt with a sore wrist. “I thought he was going to hit with more spin, but he was hitting a lot of flat balls and they were going in. So it was tough to play. But I started playing much better in the third and fourth [sets]. I tried to dictate a little more, tried to step in and use more forehands, and I think I was able to come in many times today (he won 16 of 24 net approaches).”
A break in hand, the 26th-seeded Garcia-Lopez, who came into the match with a 0-2 deficit in FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters with Nishikori, had a chance to serve out the first set at 5-4. But after falling behind 15-40, he dumped a forehand into the net as his opponent brought the set back on serve. Two games later, Nishikori took the 46-minute set on yet another untimely error from Garcia-Lopez.
Tsonga highlights courtesy AusOpen.com
To the 32-year-old Spaniard’s credit, he didn’t let the missed opportunity drag him down. He came out firing in the second set and broke Nishikori in the first and fifth games to level the match at one set apiece. It was the first set he had taken from the top-ranked Japanese man in their three encounters.
Nishikori, 26, moved ahead two sets to one with a break at 3-2 in the third, and struck again at 1-all in the fourth to distance himself in the two-hour, 48-minute contest.
Nishikori advanced to the third round after defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round, and Austin Krajicek 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 in the second round. This is his seventh Australian Open appearance. He reached the quarter-finals in 2012 (l. to Andy Murray) and in 2015 (l. to Stan Wawrinka).
Garcia-Lopez was bidding to reach the round of 16 here for the second straight year. He fell to 2-8 against Top-10 players at the majors.
The match was played under a closed Margaret Court Arena roof as rain prevented play on all but the three covered courts in Melbourne Park.
Nishikori, who registered 33 winners to 38 unforced errors, will next face No. 9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga defeated Pierre Hughes-Herbert 6-4, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) in the first of two all-French third-round clashes. The 2008 Australian Open runner-up has now lost just one of 14 meetings with his countrymen at the majors. Nishikori owns a 4-2 edge in FedEx ATP Head2Head match-ups with the Frenchman.
“He's going to be a tough, tough opponent,” Nishikori observed. “We played last year at the French and I almost came back, but he raised his level in the fifth. It was a really tough loss for me, so I hope I can get revenge here. I’ve been playing good and with a lot of confidence, so it's going to be a good match.”
Also advancing on Friday was No. 15 seed David Goffin, a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 winner over No. 19 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria. The Belgian, who led his country to the Davis Cup final last year, registered 55 winners, 17 aces among them, to 61 unforced errors.
“I was really aggressive at the beginning of the match,” said Goffin, who will face Roger Federer in the next round. “That's why it was 6-1. And then he started to serve better and was feeling better on the baseline. That's why it was tough the last three sets. It was tough until the end.”
He is just the fourth Belgian man to reach the last 16 in Melbourne. Olivier Rochus was the last to do so in 2005.
Goffin highlights courtesy AusOpen.com
Twelve months ago, Andreas Seppi posted one of the upsets of the year as he stunned Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open. He made life difficult for Novak Djokovic on Friday night, but the World No. 1 made sure he did not fall victim to the Italian, overcoming strong resistance to prevail 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6) on Margaret Court Arena.
A 25-minute first set flashed by as Djokovic won more than double the amount of points as Seppi, but the Italian found his feet in the second set. He saved break points to hold serve in the first game and was denied the chance to break Djokovic in the sixth game. The Serb made his breakthrough in the 11th game before closing out the tight 59-minute set.
Video courtesy AusOpen.com
Seppi again had chances to break Djokovic at the start of the third set as he continued to dig his heels in. Djokovic rallied from 15/40 to hold though. In the eventual tie-break, Seppi recovered from 2-4 down to hold two set points at 6-4, but was unable to convert. At 6-6, a looping forehand from Djokovic brought an error from Seppi and the Serb sealed victory with an unreturned serve in two hours and 21 minutes.
"I think that I started very well," said Djokovic. "A set and then a couple of break points early in the second. Didn't use that. He started serving well. I backed up half a step back. He started playing more aggressive tennis. Not as many unforced errors.
Djokovic improved to a 12-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Italian as he set up a fourth-round meeting with France’s Gilles Simon.
The Belgrade native is through to the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the 10th straight year and has a 53-6 tournament record. He is bidding to equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian titles and become the 10th man in history to win six titles at any Grand Slam event. The right-hander triumphed in Melbourne in 2008 (d. Tsonga) and again in 2011 (d. Murray), 2012 (d. Nadal), 2013 (d. Murray) and 2015 (d. Murray).
World No. 15 Simon will attempt to beat Djokovic for just the second time in 11 meetings after dismissing Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 42 minutes. Since beating Djokovic in their first contest eight years ago in Marseille, Simon has lost his past nine meetings with the Serb. The 31 year old is looking to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009 (l. to Nadal).
John Millman is set to take on fellow Australian Bernard Tomic for a place in the Australian Open fourth round.
Lleyton Hewitt talks about his goosebump moment and more as he reflects on the final singles match of his career, at the Australian Open.
As Lleyton Hewitt stood on Rod Laver Arena after playing his final singles match, a video was played on the big screen with messages from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The video ended with Nick Kyrgios, whom Hewitt has mentored in the past six months, declaring the two-time Grand Slam champion to still be the best player in Australia and suggesting he reconsider his retirement.
Naturally, it had to be asked in the press conference if the 34-year-old Hewitt was having any second thoughts about hanging up his racquets.
With his three children, Ava, Mia and Cruz seated beside him, Hewitt responded, “No, I've been set on it. I got the most out of my body. I've pushed myself to the limit. I look forward to the next phase in terms of work, helping these next guys coming through, including the likes of Nick.”
Indeed, it was very much a family affair as Hewitt bid a fond farewell to professional tennis on Thursday evening, bowing out in the Australian Open second round against David Ferrer. The Adelaide native was joined on court afterwards by his children, who had been watching with their mother, Bec, in the stands, and explained they had been a large part of why he had continued to play for as long as he did.
“Especially the past few years, they've actually been able to come to tournaments and remember it,” said Hewitt. “They're going to have lifelong memories of being out there with me and Cruz hitting with the likes of Federer, Nadal, Murray, these guys. It's pretty cool.
“It's probably pushed me to play that little bit longer to enjoy it so they could get something out of it, as well. Cruz, the past couple years, he came on a little boys trip to a couple of different tournaments. It's been nice.”
Hewitt has spent the past 12 months building up to this moment, since announcing last year that his 20th successive Australian Open would be his last tournament.
The right-hander may have only won four matches last year, but he has enjoyed a special farewell tour, which saw him lead Australia to the Davis Cup semi-finals – where he played a memorable doubles rubber alongside Sam Groth against the Murray brothers – and go out to great ovation at Wimbledon, the US Open and a special on-court ceremony at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
His final bow fittingly came on Rod Laver Arena, where he has enjoyed some of the most momentous wins and biggest battles of his career – not least a semi-final victory over Andy Roddick in 2005.
“I've been very fortunate that I've had such a great career that I had the opportunity to go out on my terms,” said Hewitt. “A lot of great sporting athletes don't have that opportunity. Especially if you play in a team environment where a coach makes a decision whether you're going to play or not and sometimes where you finish your career.
“I actually had the ball in my court in a lot of ways to do that here at the Australian Open. I feel really pleased about that.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere out there,” continued Hewitt, who brought the crowd to its feet on more than one occasion with a final flourish. “A couple of the roars during the match tonight were as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times. Obviously just watching the video and hearing those great players talk about you in that light was pretty emotional.
“Especially when I got back in the locker room, I guess that hits you a little bit more then. When I'm with my close friends and coaching staff that have helped me so much out. It's sort of a strange feeling because you're obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything we've done as well.”
The journey is not quite over for Hewitt. Before he fully assumes his role as Australia’s Davis Cup captain, there is at least one more match left to play: the men’s doubles second round with Sam Groth. The Australians play another homegrown player, John Peers, and his Finnish partner, Henri Kontinen, on Friday.
“I saw Grothy in the locker room and he was already asking about practice tomorrow and warming up tomorrow!” said Hewitt. So the retirement celebrations tonight won’t be too exuberant then? “No, I might have a quiet beer. That's it.”
Flanked by his three children, Lleyton Hewitt reflects on his storied career after a second-round defeat at the Australian Open, his final pro tournament.
The curtain came down on Lleyton Hewitt’s illustrious career on Thursday night in Melbourne as David Ferrer defeated the former World No. 1 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open. Hewitt was competing in his 20th successive Australian Open.
As expected, the 34-year-old Hewitt left it all out on the court, but the No. 8-ranked Ferrer held off the Aussie’s challenge to claim victory in two hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt was watched from his box by his family, Tony Roche and Thanasi Kokkinakis among others.
“He was too good tonight,” Hewitt said in his on-court interview. “He’s a Top 8 player in the world, couple of times a semi-finalist here. He plays extremely well in these conditions and is at the top of his game at the moment.
“I came out and gave everything I had like always. I left nothing in the locker room. That's something I can always be proud of. My whole career I've always given 100 per cent. I love coming out here and competing. It's never hard to come out playing in front of such great spectators every time I play out here on Rod Laver Arena. It's like a second home for me and I'm just so fortunate to have this opportunity 20 years in a row.
“It’s a weird emotion; I don't think it will fully set in for a couple of days' time. As I've always said, I'm such a competitor, I try and push myself all the time to get the most out of myself. Obviously it was in the back of my mind coming into every match this week, but I have had a fantastic last month. I feel honoured to have this support and this love from these crowds. It means so much to me. I’ve had so much success and big matches on this court; I feel fortunate to finish here.”
The Adelaide native did not go down without a fight. Leading by a set, Ferrer was on the verge of taking a double-break lead in the second set. But Hewitt saved two break points in the seventh game and almost recouped the break in a marathon eighth game, which saw Ferrer save seven break points.
Hewitt finally broke the Ferrer serve in the sixth game of the third set, levelling up at 3-3, much to the delight of the fans. But it was to be his final hurrah, as Ferrer broke again in the following game before closing out victory. In their exchange at the net, Ferrer asked Hewitt if they could swap shirts after leaving the court. The Spaniard goes on to face Steve Johnson on Saturday.
Speaking to Jim Courier for the host broadcaster afterwards, Ferrer admitted, “I was nervous because it's a different day. Finally I won the match, but if I'd lost, it might have been my last match! He gave a very good performance. He's one of the best players in history. I have a shirt signed by him from seven years ago, the only shirt from another player I have in my house.
“It’s a sad day, because Lleyton is finishing his career. He's an idol for me and an amazing player. In my career, tonight is going to be very special for me, playing in Lleyton's last match. The match was tough. Lleyton fought until the last ball. He's unbelievable. He deserves everything coming.”
Hewitt remains in the doubles at Melbourne Park, competing alongside Sam Groth.
Australian Open top seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau talk about being the world's No. 1 team after a first-round win at the Australian Open.
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka cruised into the third round with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Radek Stepanek on Thursday at the Australian Open.
The Swiss struck 43 winners and converted five of his 12 break points as he sealed victory in just over two hours on Hisense Arena.
Wawrinka captured his first Grand Slam title two years ago at Melbourne Park, stunning Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals before beating Rafael Nadal in the final. The Lausanne native added a second major title at Roland Garros last year, beating Djokovic in a match that ultimately denied the Serb the calendar Grand Slam.
The 30-year-old Wawrinka goes on to face Lukas Rosol, who upset 25th-seeded American Jack Sock 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 6-3. Rosol withstood 50 winners from Sock, striking 45 of his own to set up the clash with Wawrinka, whom he trails 0-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Andrey Kuznetsov continued his good start to the year as he reached the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over No. 30 seed Jeremy Chardy. The Russian was a quarter-finalist in Doha in the first week of the season, falling to Nadal in three sets. He goes on to face Dudi Sela.
Australia’s John Millman enjoyed a thrilling five-set victory over Gilles Muller, prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in three hours and 38 minutes. The 26-year-old Brisbane native had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park before beating Diego Schwartzman in the first round.
"It's probably a breakthrough win," said Millman. "I came close at Wimbledon to that third round. Lost in five sets (against Marcos Baghdatis). I managed to turn the tables around today when I was being outplayed at the start of the match. I was down a set and a break. I had to dig deep today and change things up and find a way, and I managed to.
Next up for Millman will be countryman Bernard Tomic, who needed three hours and 50 winners to edge Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5. Tomic is a win away from repeating his best Australian Open performance, having reached the fourth round in 2012 and 2015.
They were dethroned from the World No. 1 spot at the end of 2015 and had a hiccup at the start of 2016 with a first-round loss in Sydney. Not ones to lick their wounds, Bob and Mike Bryan decided to change things up as they began their Australian Open campaign, pulling the ‘switcheroo’.
The change in tactic – with Mike switching to the deuce court and Bob on the Ad side – brought the 37-year-old twins a 7-5, 7-6(4) first-round win over Chris Guccione and Andre Sa. But were their opponents surprised by the change in formation?
"They didn't seem too surprised!” Mike told ATPWorldTour.com. “We actually warmed up on the other side to try and trick them and when they looked up to serve, they didn't do a double take, so I think they were kind of expecting it. A couple of guys were practising next to us and it circulates pretty fast. It's like high school gossip, it spreads like wildfire!
“I think 2010 was the last time we played that way consistently. It worked today. We got some returns going and had a lot more options with the second shot. That's what we're going to do this week and probably continue into the rest of the year.”
Bob added, "Guccione was serving bombs and Sa is one of the best returners out there. It was a tough game and we're happy to get through.”
The team to take over the No. 1 mantle from the Bryans, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, also made a winning start, beating Martin Klizan and Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-5, 6-2. “They broke us on our second service game, but after that we didn't face any more break points and started getting more opportunities on our return games and managed to convert at the end of the first set,” said Tecau.
“Once we got that first break, we kept the energy and the momentum and got another break the next game. The second set went better for us. Overall, it just took us a while to get into a good rhythm, but we're very happy with this match because it was a tricky match-up against two guys who can come up with crazy shots that you don't usually see on the doubles court."
Fourth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea – runners-up at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year – quietened the home support as they defeated Nick Kyrgios and Omar Jasika 7-5, 6-3. “It was not an easy match playing the local players,” said Bopanna. “We didn’t play great, but found a way to keep hanging in there and come out with a win.
“The atmosphere was fantastic and it’s brilliant to see how the Aussie players get great support and it was great to play in a packed stadium.”
Sixth seeds and last year’s runners-up Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut cruised through their opener, dismissing Nicholas Monroe and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo 6-1, 6-4. They were joined in the second round by seventh seeds and last week’s Sydney champions, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, who beat Jonathan Marray and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-3, 6-4.
Other first-round winners on Thursday included eighth seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers, 10th seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, and 11th seeds Dominic Inglot and Robert Lindstedt.
Dudi Sela talks about his tense four-set Australian Open win over Fernando Verdasco, who upset Rafael Nadal in the first round.
Bob and Mike Bryan try to take their first-round opponents by surprise at the Australian Open. But they fool no-one. 'It's like high school gossip, it spreads like wildfire,' Mike says. Learn more.
In his decade-long pro career, Andy Murray had never lost an ATP World Tour-level match to an Australian. Not Hewitt. Not Tomic. Neither Kyrgios nor Kokkinakis. Sixteen matches, 16 wins. And he wasn’t about to let that streak come to an end on Thursday at the Australian Open, where the No. 2 seed advanced to the third round for the eighth straight year via a 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 win over power server Sam Groth.
He will next face Joao Sousa, the No. 32 seed having advanced with a 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Santiago Giraldo.
“I know he can serve better than that,” said Murray. “He doesn't just hit the big serves. He can use different spins and stuff. I think when he's serving well he can make it very tough for guys, because he's not that predictable with the serve. He changes the pace on it. I think he actually is better from the back of the court than he thinks he is. I don't think he maybe needs to serve and volley as much as he does, because from the back he hits the ball good as well.”
Murray, long one the sport’s best returners, sped through the opening set with three service breaks. He surrendered just one point on his serve in the 29-minute opener.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of the second set that Groth managed to hold serve. The 67th-ranked Australian would bring the set back on serve at 4-all, only to have Murray break him again for a two-sets-to-love lead.
Murray, a four-time Australian Open runner-up, would add two more breaks in the third set, sealing this match-up of 28-year-olds in one hour and 31 minutes. The Scotsman led most key stats: aces (10-6), winners (35-23), service breaks (7-1) and first-serve points won (82%-59%).
“I thought I managed to fight back in the second set,” said Groth. “Not ideal conditions for me. Had a bad serving day against the No. 2 player in the world. Probably not going to cut it.”
Of his upcoming match-up with Sousa, Murray said, “He's almost the opposite to Groth really. Plays predominantly from the back of the court. Very solid from the baseline. Doesn't serve so big, but makes a lot of returns. He's a very good mover. Good athlete. He wins. He knows how to win matches. He understands the game well and he gets the most out of his game. If I play well, I’ve got a good chance. But he's the sort of player that if your level's not quite there, he'll make it very tough for you.”
Murray occupies eighth place on the list for the most Australian Open match-wins in the Open Era (41). If he reaches the final here, he would tie Pete Sampras in seventh place (45). Groth fell to 0-5 against Top-10 competition.
No. 13 seed Milos Raonic out-aced his opponent 24-0 in a 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 7-5 win over Spaniard Tommy Robredo in two hours and 55 minutes. The Canadian posted 75 winners to 59 unforced errors. His next opponent will be Serb Viktor Troicki, who best American qualifier Tim Smyczek in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in one hour and 29 minutes.
Day 4 at the Aussie Open proved a letdown for Fernando Verdasco. Two days after the Spanish veteran stunned countryman and No. 5 seed Rafael Nadal in five sets, he fell to streaking Israeli Dudi Sela 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4), hampered by 63 unforced errors, including seven doubles faults.
American Steve Johnson made quick work of Thomaz Bellucci, losing only four points on his first serve in a one-hour, 27-minute 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over the Brazilian baseliner.
No. 10 seed John Isner is into the third round of the Australian Open for the second straight year and the fifth time overall thanks to a 6-3, 7-6(6), 7-6(2) dispatch of Spain’s Marcel Granollers.
In Thursday’s opening match on Hisense Arena, Isner, one of eight Americans to have reached the second round, struck first with a service break in the eighth game, and subsequently consolidated for the 33-minute opening set.
Granollers, No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, raced ahead 4-1 in the second-set tie-break, but Isner would reel off seven of the next nine points for a two-set lead.
It was all Isner in the third-set tie-break, and the American would amass 53 winners, including 20 aces, while winning 82 per cent of his first-serve points (59 of 72). He hasn't faced a break point in two matches in Melbourne, having struck 37 aces in his first-round win over Poland's Jerzy Janowicz.
Granollers has won just one of his past 19 matches against Top-20 opposition at the majors, his lone win coming against Robin Soderling at the Australian Open in 2010. He was bidding to reach the third round in Melbourne for the first time.
The 30-year-old Isner finished 2015 at No. 11 — his highest year-end ranking and the sixth consecutive season he has finished inside the Top 20 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. His best Australian Open performance was reaching the round of 16 in 2010 (l. to Andy Murray).
Next up for Isner will be Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard survived a scare against World No. 75 Guido Pella, edging the Argentine 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-7(8), 6-4 to prevail in four hours and 31 minutes. Lopez almost clinched victory in four sets, when he led 6-5 and 8-7 in the fourth set tie-break, but Pella dug in to force a decider.
There were no gifts for birthday boy Nicolas Mahut from fellow Frenchman and No. 23 seed Gael Monfils in Margaret Court Arena, where Monfils rolled to an efficient 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 win in just one hour and 39 minutes.
Monfils, into the third round in Melbourne for the eighth time, registered 50 winners, including 18 aces, in defeating his compatriot, who turned 34 on Thursday. Mahut was hoping to equal his best Grand Slam performance by reaching the third round.
Monfils will face another Frenchman in the third round after qualifier Stephane Robert went the distance to defeat American Rajeev Ram 6-1, 6-7(6), 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. Robert fired 23 aces in the win.
Also advancing was No. 32 seed Joao Sousa of Portugal, a 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 winner over Colombia's Santiago Giraldo.
The Australian Open has a special place in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's heart.
Watch highlights of Novak Djokovic and Quentin Halys's second-round match at the 2016 Australian Open. Watch more videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/australianopentv
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic put on a masterclass as he raced into the Australian Open third round with a 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over spirited French teenager Quentin Halys on Wednesday night in Melbourne.
As good as Djokovic was – and his performance was close to that of the Doha final against Rafael Nadal – the 19-year-old Halys was not overawed and gave a good account of himself on the Rod Laver Arena.
After the first two sets passed him by in 56 minutes, Halys earned himself a break of serve to start the third set. Djokovic immediately hit back, but the Frenchman dug in for a tough third set, extending Djokovic to a tie-break – which featured a standout round-the-net-post winner from Halys on the first point – before the Serb broke away to clinch victory in one hour and 40 minutes. The Belgrade native hit 42 winners and committed just 14 unforced errors.
World No. 187 Halys left the court to a standing ovation. He had won his first tour-level match when he defeated Ivan Dodig in the first round.
"I think I played a good match," said Djokovic. "Third set was a close set. Was a battle. Credit to him for fighting, for serving well.
The 28-year-old Djokovic, who opened 2016 by capturing his 60th tour-level title in Doha, has won 31 of his past 32 matches, also taking in titles at the US Open (d. Federer), Beijing (d. Nadal), Shanghai (d. Tsonga), Paris (d. Murray) and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (d. Federer).
The Serb is bidding to equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian titles and become the 10th man in history to win six titles at any Grand Slam event. The right-hander first lifted the trophy at Melbourne Park in 2008 (d. Tsonga) and returned victorious in 2011 (d. Murray), 2012 (d. Nadal), 2013 (d. Murray) and 2015 (d. Murray).
Djokovic goes on to face No. 28 seed Andreas Seppi, who defeated Denis Kudla 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. Twelve months ago, Seppi recorded one of the greatest wins of his career when he stunned Roger Federer in the third round at Melbourne Park. But if he is to do the same against Djokovic, the Italian will need to overcome a 0-11 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against the Serb.
"I think he deserves a lot of respect for the amount of years that he spent in the Top 30," said Djokovic of Seppi. "Very solid. He likes playing here. He's not really overwhelmed by a big occasion. Played many, many, many times on big stadiums against top players.
At 33 years of age, David Ferrer is improving once again. Ferrer posted his second best season on the ATP World Tour in 2015 with five titles, trailing only his stellar 2012 season when he won seven tournaments, vaulting the Spaniard into the Top 5 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Ferrer finished last season ranked No. 7, with the fourth best win percentage at 76.8 per cent - trailing only Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in this key performance metric.
Ferrer finished the 2013 season ranked No. 3 and if he's to climb back up the Emirates ATP Rankings to those lofty heights in 2016, the serving side of the equation will be required to perform at the same high level as his return game.
What Ferrer Does Well
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis clearly shows the engine room of Ferrer’s resurgence is his resilience in returning serve.
The mental toughness and physicality he brings to the court can actually be quantified on the scoreboard. His mind helps him get ahead, and his legs make sure he stays there.
For Ferrer, it all starts with winning the crucial first point of the game. When the Spaniard won the first point of his opponent’s service game last season, he broke 38.9 per cent of the time - better than any other player ranked in the Top 8.
He was also the best at converting a break of serve with his opponent serving at 0/30, at 47.6 per cent of the time, and at 0/40, at 56.4 per cent.
Ferrer also led the Elite Eight breaking from a score of 15/15, at 27.9 per cent of the time.
It’s not easy to pinpoint greatness on the return side of the game, but those analytics speak directly to the the iron will of the 5’9”, 160-pound warrior from Valencia.
What Ferrer Needs To Improve
Ferrer was the best of the Elite Eight at breaking with the opponent serving at 0/15, but he had the lowest percentage of the eight holding from 0/15, at 61.5 per cent. Federer led the pack at 79.1 per cent, with Djokovic close by at 78.3 per cent.
The problems worsen for the Spaniard when you move the spotlight to aces and double faults. Ferrer only hit 155 aces last season, well behind Tomas Berdych’s 583 or Stan Wawrinka’s 576.
Unfortunately, free points are very hard to come by.
The ability to get out of trouble hitting aces on break points is a huge advantage for players to call upon, with Berdych (37 aces), Wawrinka (31 aces) and Murray (30 aces) leading the Elite Eight players in this very specific category.
Ferrer was only able to manage five aces on break points in 2015, being forced to extend a lot deeper into points to try and hold his service games.
The Spaniard also committed 14 double faults on break points, to be the only player in the Elite Eight to have a negative ratio in this crucial area.
Double faults were a real problem area for the Spaniard in 2015, notching up 199, to easily have the most of the Elite Eight players. By comparison, Djokovic was on court a lot more last year (155 hours to Ferrer’s 124 hours) and only hit 135 double faults.
Ferrer also had the second lowest win percentage of the Elite Eight on second serve points won in 2015 at 54 per cent - well behind World No. 1 Djokovic at 60 per cent.
Ferrer had the lowest percentage of the Elite Eight holding serve from 15/15 (84 per cent), 30/0 (95 per cent), and 40/0 (97 per cent).
The percentages were still very high, but just not at the same rarified level of the other players that he is trying to overtake.
To recapture his 2012 form, Ferrer’s serve performance needs to step up once again.
He won 67 per cent of his service points in 2012, and only 64 per cent last season. Service games won were down from 85 per cent to 80 per cent from 2012 to 2015, and break points saved has a similar drop, from 65 per cent to 60 per cent.
Like most pro’s on the ATP World Tour, slight day-to-day adjustments in serve technique, rhythm, coil, energy, height of contact and explosion with the legs will be constantly evaluated and tweaked.
At the 2015 Australian Open, Ferrer averaged only 177kph (110mph) on first serves, and 152kph (94mph) on second serves in reaching the fourth round.
If he is to go deeper at the first Grand Slam event of 2016, more power or more precision to the corners, with his serve, will be called upon to back up one of the best return games our sport has ever seen.
Read more insights at Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers
Nick Kyrgios surged into the third round of the Australian Open under the lights on Hisense Arena on Wednesday evening as he held off Pablo Cuevas for a 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(2) victory.
The 20-year-old Kyrgios narrowly avoided a fourth set, saving two set points when serving at 4-5, 15/40 in the third set. The Canberra native went on to clinch the ensuing tie-break, sealing victory with a rifled backhand winner in just under two hours.
"I knew it was going to be tough going into that," said Kyrgios. "He's a great athlete, makes a lot of balls. I thought the first set was really key, had to get the first set. I thought he was pretty high level. We both played well from the back. I didn't really think he could serve at that high level. And he was really impressive in that category today. He served really well."
Kyrgios reached his second Grand Slam quarter-final at Melbourne Park last year, falling to Andy Murray. The right-hander also advanced to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2014, stunning Rafael Nadal in the fourth round before his run was ended by Milos Raonic.
Next up for Kyrgios will be a first-time meeting with sixth seed Tomas Berdych. Kyrgios has a 4-10 record against Top 10 players. "I know what he's capable of. He's one of the best players in the world." said Kyrgios. "I've played him a couple times. He's going to be wanting to win as much as I'm going to be wanting to win, so it's going to be tough."
Former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was too strong for 18-year-old Australian Omar Jasika, reaching the third round with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 victory. The Frenchman was given a stern test by the wild card in the first set, but struck 40 winners as he went on to claim victory in one hour and 43 minutes. World No. 310 Jasika had claimed his first tour-level win in the first round when he beat Illya Marchenko.
The ninth-seeded Tsonga was runner-up in Melbourne in 2008, losing to Novak Djokovic. The 30 year old began his 2016 ATP World Tour campaign last week in Auckland, reaching the semi-finals (l. to Bautista Agut).
In an all-French third-round clash, Tsonga will face qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who defeated American wild card Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. The 24-year-old Herbert reached the doubles final at Melbourne Park last year with Nicolas Mahut (l. to Bolelli/Fognini) and is through to the third round in singles at a Grand Slam for the first time.