Tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both straight set winners in the second round on Wednesday at the Australian Open.
During the day, Federer won his 16th straight match in Melbourne easing past British qualifier Dan Evans 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3.
It was far from vintage Federer as the Swiss really never got control of the match until the third.
“I think he’s a good player,” Federer said of Evans. “I’ve seen him play some really good matches over the years. I see why he can cause difficulties to players. He’s got a nice slice, defending the court well. He has the variation, which is always a hard thing to play against. He was feeling it today, I thought. He was very sort of cat and mouse a bit. Very interesting. I liked the match. I thought he was playing well. It was enjoyable.”
Evans, who was the last British man left in the field, was playing his first Grand Slam after serving a 1-year doping suspension.
Federer is now 67-1 in Grand Slam second round matches and 27-1 against qualifiers at this level.
Federer will next face the surprising American Taylor Fritz who stunned No. 30 seed Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-7(8), 7-6(6), 7-6(5). The 21-year-old Fritz hit 25 aces and only lost serve once during one of his best matches of his young Grand Slam career.
Fritz is joined in his first Australian Open third round by 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe who came from a set and a break down to shock No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
“I was getting killed,” Tiafoe said of his early 6-4, 3-0 deficit. “Kind of just mix it up, play smarter. Don’t try to go for cannons. Try to serve a bunch of first serves. Don’t give him looks at seconds so he can be on the front foot and kind of be unpredictable.”
The win was Tiafoe’s first over a Top 5 player and put him in his second Slam third round on Friday when he’ll meet Italian vet Andreas Seppi
“Sill my biggest win is probably DelPo in Delray, because him being my idol,” Tiafoe said. “I’ve never felt something like that after winning a tennis match. The fact that it was a Grand Slam, second seed I beat, obviously a top-five player, it’s pretty big.
“These are the matches where they kind of define you and help you feel more and more comfortable to keep winning matches like that,” added Tiafoe.
Anderson, who had treatment on his elbow area late in the match, had beaten the American three times last year.
American giant Reilly Opekla tried to keep pace but fell short. Instead, he made history cracking 67 aces in a final set tiebreak loss to the diminutive Thomas Fabbiano. Opelka’s 67 is just behind Ivo Karlovic’s 75 from 2017 for the all-time tournament record. But Opelka is just 21, so he’ll have many, many more chances to beat it.
Elsewhere, Marin Cilic outlasted pesky American Mackenzie McDonald 7-5, 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4. The 2018 Australian finalist will now face 2009 semifinalist Fernando Verdasco.
The Australian were on in the evening and left with mixed results. Rafael Nadal hammered Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and his countryman Roberto Bautista Agut held on after squandering 4 matchpoints in the fourth set teibreaker for his second set 5-set win beating John Millman 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7(8), 6-4.
“Every day is a test, and especially when you are back after injuries,” said Nadal. “I think I played a solid match, I’m happy with the way my serve worked, and I think I did a few things very well – serve and first shot have been very, very positive, hitting a lot of winners with my forehand. And with my return, I think I’ve been improving during the match.”
In final men’s match of the night, 19-year-old Alex de Minaur hung on to deny Swiss qualifier Henri Laksonnen 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-3.
De Minaur will now play Nadal, most likely Friday night. It will be Rafa’s third straight Australian foe.
Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych were also winners.
Thursday sees the return of tournament favorite Novak Djokovic who meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a rematch of their 2008 Australian Open final. Djokovic leads Tsonga 16-6 having won their last 12 of their last 13 meetings.
2014 champion Stan Wawrinka meets Milos Raonic. Wawrinka leads 4-2 but the Canadian has won the last two, both in Slams at the 2018 US Open and the 2016 Australian.
Alexander Zverev, Kei Nishikori, Hyeon Chung and Dominic Thien are also on the docket.
THURSDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena
From 11:00am AEDT
V. Kuzmova v E. Svitolina(6)
S. Wawrinka v M. Raonic(16)
S. Halep(1) v S. Kenin
From 7:00pm AEDT
E. Bouchard v S. Williams(16)
N. Djokovic(1) v J. Tsonga(WC)
Margaret Court Arena
From 11:00am AEDT
I. Karlovic v K. Nishikori(8)
Not before 1:00pm AEDT
N. Osaka(4) v T. Zidansek
A. Cornet v V. Williams
From 7:00pm AEDT
A. Zverev(4) v J. Chardy
J. Konta v G. Muguruza(18)
From 11:00am AEDT
M. Brengle v Ka. Pliskova(7)
A. Potapova v M. Keys(17)
H. Chung(24) v P. Herbert
Not before 6:00pm AEDT
A. Popyrin(WC) v D. Thiem(7)
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