Australian Open 2016: Federer rises to Dog-Day challenge, Djokovic glides on
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer ease into the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday
After the upset of opening Tuesday at the Australian Open, with No5 seed and former champion Rafael Nadal losing in five gripping sets to compatriot and world No5 Fernando Verdasco, Wednesday brought not a single upset as the draw channels its way to the all-seeds third round.
The only missing top-32 names in the top half remain No22 Ivo Karlovic, who retired with injury in his opener, and No17 Benoit Paire, beaten in Round 1. Instead, top seed Novak Djokovic’s half now contains No53 Federico Delbonis and No167, Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
The defending champion breezed past the teenage wild card, Quentin Halys, as anticipated, though the youngster gave the world No1 a decent work-out in the third set, at one point pulling off a show-stopping round-the-post winner. But Djokovic closed out a fast-and-furious schedule on Rod Laver, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(3), in an hour and 40 minutes with an impressive 44 winners to 14 errors. He next plays No28 seed Andreas Seppi.
Many expected the No3 seed Roger Federer’s second match to be rather tougher, played as it was against the unpredictable and explosive tennis of Alexandr Dolgopolgov, a former world No13 and one of the highest ranked non-seeds in the draw at 35.
Federer certainly expected a few problems, and he knew the Ukrainian’s game well: They trained together at Federer’s base in Dubai during the off season, and Federer was quick to point out that he had lost one of their training matches:
“I think it’s going to be very tough, to be honest. I’ve practised with Dolgopolov in the off-season in Dubai. Had some great practice sessions together there, this year and last year. I know him very well.
“[He] is a different player, a different level [to my first match]. He’s been there before. He’s got the fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ, all that. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
And yes, Dolgopolov put up a strong fight, but Federer was serving so well—25 aces, and 43/49 first serve points won—and so determined to take time away from the shot-making ability of his opponent—he won 15 points at the net and 45 percent of receiving points—that Dolgopolov could not even work a break point. The first set to the Swiss was over in a flash: love hold for 2-1, love break for 4-2, love hold for 5-2, and three aces to take the set, 6-2, in 26 minutes.
The second set was more competitive, reaching 5-5, but then a couple of fatal errors from Dolgopolov and Federer broke. Again, the Swiss served out with an ace, in 45 minutes.
The third set showcased not just Federer’s imposing serve-and-attack game but at times some impressive stretching defence. Dolgopolov managed to win his opening serve, but three breaks later, a clean backhand winner down the line sealed the match for Federer, 6-1.
The four-time former champion was generous about his opponent:
“I’m a big fan of his game. He’s explosive; got a great return, especially on the second serve. He’s got all the shots. Just for him it’s managing how to use what at what time. I’m very pleased with this win… In my opinion, he’s better than a lot of the guys who are ranked ahead of him.”
He is probably right, judging from his previous ranking and that he beat both Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal last year.
And Federer might say the same of his third-round opponent, the elegant No27 seed Grigor Dimitrov who took Federer to three tough sets in the quarters in Brisbane a fortnight ago, and then reached the final in Sydney. Dimitrov broke the top 10 in 2014 before a slump in form and confidence hit him last year, but he appears to be coming back to his best just in time for a quick rematch against the man whose game Dimitrov’s most resembles.
Today, he beat Marco Trungelliti, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, in an arduous 2hrs 28mins, and admitted that his next match will be a challenge:
“Obviously it’s not an easy match, but I felt that I’ve been playing good. I have quite a few matches behind my back already. It’s exciting match for me to be able to get to the third round and play against [Federer]… Hopefully I can play better tennis than Brisbane, and maybe do a couple of things different. I definitely want to get out there and have a rematch—with a different outcome, I hope!”
First (Djokovic) quarter
No7 Kei Nishikori beat Austin Krajicek, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3
No9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Omar Jasika, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4
No14 Gilles Simon beat Evgeny Donskoy, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(1), 4-6, 7-5
No26 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat Daniel Brands, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-3
No28 Andreas Seppi beat Denis Kudla, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4
Second (Federer) quarter
No6 seed Berdych lost just two points on his first serve (37/39) to beat Mirza Basic, 6-4, 6-0, 6-3, in 98 minutes. He hit 15 aces among 43 winners. That sets up another cracker of a match in the bottom quarter with No29 Nick Kyrgios, who beat Pablo Cuevas, 6-4 7-5 7-6(2). The high-profile Australian, hot from winning the Hopman Cup, hit 19 aces among 50 winners, to just 27 errors.
No12 Marin Cilic beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4)
No15 David Goffin beat Damir Dzumhur, 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2
No19 Dominic Thiem beat Nicolas Almagro, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3
No24 Roberto Bautista Agut beat Dusan Lajovic, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1