Thursday, April 18, 2024

Djokovic wins in his 100th AO match to reach 4th round


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MELBOURNE, Jan 19: Novak Djokovic is starting to feel better about his health and his game, winning in straight sets Friday for the first time this tournament with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over Tomas Martin Etcheverry in his 100th Australian Open match.
The 24-time major winner is 92-8 at Melbourne Park, where he’s won the title 10 times and is on a 31-match winning streak.
Only Roger Federer (117) and Serena Williams (105) have played more matches at the season’s first major.
Djokovic has had health issues and been dealing with a sore right wrist. He lost sets in each of the first two rounds against 18-year-old Croatian qualifier Dino Primzic and Alexei Popyrin, when he challenged a heckler to “say that to my face.”
Next up he faces 35-year-old Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who won a five-setter for the third straight round to advance 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 over US Open semifinalist Ben Shelton.
“I played better than I did in the first two rounds, so that’s a positive change, I guess.” Djokovic said. “Starting to feel better game-wise and physically, as well. It’s positive signs (but) I still haven’t been playing at my best.”
Against Etcheverry, he didn’t even face a breakpoint.
Not that No. 30 seed didn’t challenge him, really going for his ground strokes and chasing down drop shots — to the point where he had to veer off court to avoid the net in the third set and nearly crashed into the umpire’s chair.
Djokovic, as he got closer to victory, started to put his index finger to his ear after hitting winners, bringing more support and noise from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.
After closing with a pair of aces to move into the fourth round here for the 16th time, his celebration was calm.
“It was a great match,” Djokovic said. “The best performance I had during this tournament. I’m pleased with he way I played, particularly the first two sets.
“He raised his level in the third set (and) we went toe-to-toe.”
Potential quarterfinalists in that section are 2023 Australian runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Luca Van Assche 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, and No. 12 Taylor Fritz, who held off Fabian Morozsan 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
No. 4 Jannik Sinner is in hot form in the bottom of this half of the draw, advancing to the round of 16 without losing a set after a 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Sebastian Baez.
He next faces 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov, who beat Tomas Machac 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5).
In another night match, local hope Alex de Minaur continued his run with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. win over Flavio Cobolli.
Sabalenka, Gauff advance
Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and US Open winner Coco Gauff swept to commanding wins at the Australian Open on Friday to reach the fourth round.
Second-seeded Sabalenka beat Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-0 in 52 minutes while No. 4-seeded Gauff dropped just two games in beating fellow American Alycia Parks 6-0, 6-2.
Sabalenka, who won her first Grand Slam title here 12 months ago, has dropped just six games in three rounds.
The pair did not shake hands — as is the convention for Ukrainian players against opponents from Russia or Belarus, where Sabalenka is from — but Tsurenko congratulated Sabalenka verbally.
Sabalenka will play Amanda Anisimova, who continued her comeback with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Paula Badosa. Anisimova, who took seven months out of the game last year for mental health reasons, hit 40 winners on her way to the fourth round.
Gauff played an almost flawless match as she beat Parks in 61 minutes, making just eight unforced errors to the 34 of her less experienced opponent.
Sixteen-year-old Mirra Andreeva continued her remarkable Australian Open debut when she came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat Diane Parry of France 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
The Russian player was in tears when she was one game from defeat but she produced a brilliant comeback, saving a match point at 2-5 before winning the deciding tiebreak 10-5.
Bopanna-Ebden pair advance
Second-seeded Indo-Australian pair of Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden barely broke a sweat in a straight-set victory over local hopes John Millman and Edward Winter to enter the men’s doubles third round of the Australian Open here on Friday.
Bopanna and Ebden strolled past the wildcards 6-2 6-4 in a second-round match at Court 3 that lasted a little over one hour.
The 43-year-old Bopanna and Ebden dominated their rivals in all areas. They won 80 percent of the first serve against 68 percent by Millman and Winter.
The duo also recorded the fastest serve of the match – 203 kmph, and they also nailed 17 winners against their opponents’ 11.
In the first-round match on Thursday, Bopanna and Ebden, the 2023 US Open finalists, had beaten another Australian pair of James Duckworth and Marc Polmans 7-6 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (10).
In the third round, Bopanna and Ebden will face 14th seeded Dutch-Croatian team of Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic.
Earlier, another Indian, Sriram Balaji, entered the second round of the Australian Open men’s doubles in the company of his Romanian partner Victor Cornea.
The Balaji-Corena duo defeated the Italian duo of Matteo Arnaldi and Andrea Pellegrino 6-3, 6-4 in the first round.
India’s singles challenge in the season’s first Grand Slam ended on Thursday following Sumit Nagal’s loss to China’s Juncheng Shang in the second round. (AP)


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