MELBOURNE, January 17: Eleven years after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the 2008 Australian Open, top seed Novak Djokovic bested the Frenchman again at Melbourne Park to reach the third round early on Friday.
The world number one Serb claimed a clinical 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over wildcard entry Tsonga in the late match at Rod Laver Arena.
While Djokovic is seeking a third successive Grand Slam title, Tsonga has been on a different trajectory, with his ranking slipping to 177 after his 2018 season was cut short by knee injury in April.
The gap between the players’ standing was on full show as Djokovic cruised to victory in two hours and four minutes, setting up a mouthwatering intergenerational clash with Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov.
Alexander Zverev almost blew his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title on Thursday before registering a gritty five set win over France’s Jeremy Chardy in the Australian Open second round.
The fourth seed looked far from his anointed status as the flag-bearer for the next generation as he failed time and again to put away the veteran before winning 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1.
The 21-year-old German will face young Australian wildcard Alex Bolt in the last 32 after eventually winning in 3hr 42min on Margaret Court Arena.
Watched by concerned coach Ivan Lendl, Zverev threw away four break points in the third set and four more and a match point in the fourth.
The dogged Frenchman, the world number 36, would not lie down and extended the match beyond midnight with Zverev finally securing match point at 12.15am local time Friday (1315 GMT Thursday).
“Tha was amazing,” said Zverev after the pair had embraced warmly at the net. “He’s very close to me on tour so it was always going to be an entertaining match.”
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams made a late charge into the Australian Open third round Thursday, grinding out a win in her second three-set victory of the tournament.
The unseeded 38-year-old American came back strongly to beat Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, setting up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep.
Williams, who played her first Australian Open in 1998, said she drew energy from the Melbourne Park crowd in the deciding set against world number 36 Cornet.
“The first two sets were so tough and in the second I felt I was controlling the points but just falling a little bit short,” she said.
“So I tried to do the same (in the third set) and not fall a little bit short. It worked out.”
The veteran has reached the final at Melbourne Park twice, most recently in 2017 when she lost to sister Serena.
The siblings could meet again in the quarter-finals if results go their way.
Serena Williams stormed past Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and into the Australian Open third round Thursday as her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title gathered pace.
The American won 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes, setting up unseeded Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska as the next hurdle in her bid for another major to equal the mark set by Australian great Margaret Court.
The 37-year-old won her 23rd major Down Under two years ago while two months pregnant and is the bookies’ favourite to claim an eighth Australian title, despite being seeded 16th.
Williams said she was wary of Bouchard, who is on the comeback trail after a slide down the rankings to number 79 in the world.
“It wasn’t an easy match tonight, Eugenie’s been to the final of Wimbledon (in 2014) and the semi-finals of other Grand Slams,” she said.
Bolt from the blue ousts Gilles Simon
Wildcard Alex Bolt made it a fantastic Thursday for home fans at the Australian Open as he saved four match points in a drama-filled fourth set tie-break before knocking out 29th seed Gilles Simon.
Bolt pulled off the biggest win of his career 2-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 in the second round as he outlasted the Frenchman after 4hr 4min of pulsating action on a rocking Court 3.
Earlier, teenage Australian wildcard Alexei Popyrin also reached the last 32 after his opponent, the seventh-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, retired when two sets down.
The 26-year-old Bolt had never beaten a player in the top 100 before and screamed in delight and danced across the court after he hit a two-handed backhand down the line for a winner on match point.
It was a massive shock with veteran Simon, 34, having never lost a Grand Slam before to a player ranked as low as number 159 Bolt. (Agencies)