Djokovic trumps Tsonga again
World No. 1 wins 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in a repeat of their 2008 final, with the match ending past midnight local time
World No.1 Novak Djokovic blasted past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 at the Australian Open yesterday in a repeat of their 2008 Melbourne final, also won by the Serb.
The top seed vanquished his old French foe for the 17th time in 27 tour meetings stretching back 11 years and advances to face Canada's 25th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round.
Djokovic, 31, won the first of his 14 Grand Slams in that final against Tsonga over a decade ago and he said the memories came flooding back as the pair walked back out on Rod Laver Arena.
"You could feel the tension on court at the beginning. We felt a lot of emotion but we tried to play a great game," said Djokovic as both players took a trip down memory lane.
That occasion remains world No. 177 Tsonga's sole Grand Slam final.
The 33-year-old is on the comeback trail after missing seven months of the 2018 season following left-knee surgery that saw his ranking plummet outside the top 200.
Back in 2008, Djokovic had won in four sets and, despite the easier-looking scoreline, the Serb said Tsonga remained a hard opponent.
"It's always tough to play Jo. He has struggled with injury and his ranking doesn't do him justice in my eyes."
Rain delays earlier in the day meant that the second-round showdown began at 10.37pm yesterday and finished at 12:41am local time this morning after 2hr 4min of play.
Djokovic thanked the fans for staying for the match.
"It's almost 1am," he said. "But I don't feel like sleeping."
It was a tough day for several of the men's seeded players, though.
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem retired when trailing 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 to 19-year-old wildcard Alexei Popyrin.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev almost blew his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title before registering a gritty five-set win over France's Jeremy Chardy.
The German, 21, looked far from his anointed status as the flag-bearer for the next generation.
Watched by his concerned coach Ivan Lendl, he threw away four break-points in the third set and four more and a match-point in the fourth before winning 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1.
The dogged Frenchman, the world No. 36, would not lie down and extended the match beyond midnight with Zverev finally securing match-point at 12.15am local time.
Zverev will face young Australian wildcard Alex Bolt in the next round.
Milos Raonic, seeded 16, relied on his serves to reach the third round, following a pulsating 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (7/5) victory against former champion Stan Wawrinka.
In one of the best matches of the opening rounds, the 1.96m Canadian repeatedly served his way out of trouble against an opponent armed with an elegant as well as destructive single-handed backhand.
Raonic will play Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the third round, after the French player beat last year's semi-finalist Chung Hyeon 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4. - AFP, REUTERS
Men's singles, 3rd round
Today, from 10am:
- T. Fritz v R. Federer (x3)
- M. Cilic (x6) v F. Verdasco (x26)
- A. de Minaur (x27) x R. Nadal (x2)
Women's singles, 3rd round
- A. Barty (x15) v M. Sakkari
- M. Sharapova (x30) v C. Wozniacki (x3)
- D. Collins v C. Garcia (x19)
- K. Birrell v A. Kerber (x2)
* Selected ties, all in Singapore time