Australian Open: Djokovic reaches third round as seeds fall

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 19, 2023 Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his second round match against France's Enzo Kokad R.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 19, 2023 Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his second round match against Enzo Kokad of France REUTERS/Carl Recine

Novak Djokovic stormed his way into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday to accelerate his bid for a 22nd Grand Slam crown, but several of the men’s seeds were eliminated.

Second seed Casper Rudd, Taylor Fritz, Alexander Xavierio and Diego Schwartzman were all sent packing on day four at Melbourne Park.

With the defending champion’s shock exit on Wednesday Rafael Nadalthe top two seeds are both now eliminated.

Top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz is also absent due to injury, a huge opportunity for Djokovic, who has previously Hot favorite to win a 10th Melbourne crown.

The 35-year-old Serb needed a medical timeout and strained his left thigh against 191st-ranked qualifier Enzo Kokad.

He was also harassed by some rowdy fans and at one point during the match called for a drunken fan to be thrown out.

But Djokovic defeated the Frenchman 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-0 to face 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.

“There was a lot going on in the match tonight,” Djokovic, who is battling a hamstring injury, told Rod Laver Arena.

His on-court interview was stopped momentarily when a spectator shouted.

“I love you too, thank you,” said Djokovic, who enjoyed a warm return to Melbourne Park after being banished a year ago for his stance on Covid vaccines.

“I love playing night sessions and let’s keep it going,” he added.

Fellow seeds Andre Rublev, Dan Evans, Holger Rune and Roberto Bautista Agat also advanced to the second round.

But it was a bad day for some of the top men’s players.

World number three Rood struggled against the always hard-hitting Jensen Brooksby and the Norwegian was beaten by the American in four sets, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2.

The 39th-ranked Brooksby, who is making his Australian Open debut, will face compatriot Tommy Paul in the third round.

Ruud, who could have become world number one in Melbourne, refused to blame the stomach injury.

“I gave it my all, but it wasn’t enough, especially in the fourth set,” he said.

Eighth-seeded Fritz also defeated local wild-card hope Aleksei Popairin 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-6. were heading home. 2.

“It’s a dream and I don’t want to wake up at all,” said the 113th-ranked Popperian, who was moved to tears by the crowd chanting her name.

Zverev, The 12th seed suffered another setback in his return from a serious injury as he lost to 107th-ranked Michael Moh.

Omnos Sabalenka

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 19, 2023 Arina Sabalenka of Belarus celebrates after winning her second round match against Shelby Rogers of the United States.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 19, 2023 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus celebrates victory in her second round match against Shelby Rogers of the US REUTERS/Carl Recine.

In the women’s draw, Aryna Sabalenka showed why she is a serious title contender by reaching the third round.

French fourth seed Caroline Garcia also secured victory, a 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 win over former US Open finalist Leila Fernandez.

Sabalenka of Belarus beat 51st-ranked American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 27 minutes and will face 26th seed Elise Mertens.

Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open last year, extended her 2023 unbeaten run to six matches. He won the recent Adelaide International without dropping a set.

This is a stark contrast to the start of last season when her serve completely abandoned her during the Australian Open warm-up event, leaving her in tears.

Sabalenka hit three aces against Rogers but, obviously, no double faults. He spoke candidly about the hard work involved in turning his fortunes around.

“I worked a lot on my serve. You can’t imagine,” he told reporters.

“Oh my god, I did almost everything to fix my serve, I think.”

American qualifier Katie Valentes knocked out Russian world number nine Veronika Kodermatova.

Valentes, 21, won 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena before paying heartfelt tribute to his extended family in war-torn Ukraine.

“It’s a really difficult time. Before, everyone was able to move around the country however they wanted and get on with their days,” said Valents, who speaks Russian.

“And now it’s just, you know, everyday.

“I really feel for them and to have their support through it all is incredible.”

Other seeds to lose in the second round included Estonia’s Annette Kontavet, who lost to Poland’s Magda Linnet and Russia’s Lyudmila Samsonova.

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