Novak Djokovic kept rolling in his title defense at the Australian Open. The 7-time tournament champion routed an overmatched Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in just under 90 minutes of play.
”Definitely one of the best serving matches I’ve had lately, inspired by my coach, Goran Ivanisevic,” said Djokovic who lost just eight points on serve. “There are a lot of technical details you can talk about, but sometimes less is more. It’s all about the rhythm and balance… So far, it’s been working really well.”
While Djokovic was enjoying his day, a few of his rivals were not.
Roger Federer dropped the opener in his rematch with Australian John Millman who beat the Swiss at the US Open in 2018. Federer came back in the second set in a break and then gained control with the third set.
But Millman got a break in the fourth for 4-3, then got out of a 0-30 hole.
In the decider, Millman got up a break early and of the two, he looked fresher. But the Swiss responded getting back to level. As the tension rose, the two forced the first final set breaker on Rod Laver.
Millman got out early as Federer failed to find the mark. The 30-year-old looked solid and in command, and built what appeared to be an insurmountable 8-4 lead. Except… The Australian 30-year-old wouldn’t win another point.
Federer scratched his way back winning the last six points of the match, culminating on guessing right to redirect a Millman smash to the open court for a match-ending winner.
Federer took it 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(8) in just over four hours.
“Oh God that was tough,” an exhausted Federer told the crowd just before 1am. “Thank God it was super tiebreak otherwise I would have lost this one.
“I think John played a great match, he’s a great fighter, a good guy and it came down to the wire at the end.
“I was getting ready to explain myself in the press conference. The demons are always there. They are lurking. Anyway, what a match and John deserves over half of this one.”
The puts Federer into the 16s and earns him his 100th career match win at the Australian Open.
In a match of previous semifinalists, Milos Raonic knocked out Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2) without dropping serve while cracking 19 aces.
“Today was an incredible match for me,” said Raonic who never faced a break point. “I was very happy with how things went. I enjoy the energy of playing on this court and it’s great to be healthy and playing well. I can take a lot of pleasure in this win.”
Former finalist Marin Cilic went five sets for a second straight match, this time topping a tough Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0, 5-7, 6-3 to reach his third straight Australian Open third round. Cilic now gets Raonic.
“I had an incredible patch,” said Cilic. “It was just a surreal level. Every ball I was hitting was going in. It was coming off my racquet incredibly well. I knew Roberto would always fight and he pushed me all the way in the fourth set.”
Next for Novak is Diego Schwartzman who held off his countryman Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(7).
“He’s one of the quickest players on Tour,” Djokovic said of the Argentine. “Hopefully my serve can be as good as it was today, or at least close, because then I feel that I have a pretty good chance. I’ve got to be patient, but still aggressive.”
Added Schwartzman, “Nole is a big player, a legend of our sport,” he said. “I’m just thinking to recover well and be ready for Sunday.”
2018 quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren is back in the fourth round after dismissing Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. And Marton Fucsovics also returned to this stage overwhelming a weary 22-year-old Tommy Paul.
Fabio Fognini advanced in easy fashion over Guido Pella in the evening. Fognini will meet Sandgren.
On Saturday, Rafael Nadal will challenge countryman Pablo Carreno Busta. Daniil Medevedev meets young Australian Alexei Popyrin and his in another AUS-RUS affair, Nick Kyrgos takes on the big Karen Khachanov in a good one.
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