World number one Novak Djokovic is into the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-3 6-7(3) 7-6(2) 6-3 win over a resilient Frances Tiafoe on Rod Laver Arena.
The Serb was made to work hard by the unseeded American who levelled the contest in the second set, but Djokovic proved too good for him in the end as Tiafoe got increasingly frustrated in the simmering heat on court.
Djokovic, who is chasing his ninth Australian Open title, will play another American – Reilly Opelka or Taylor Fritz – in the next round.
The double-defending champion has rarely been tested so early at his favourite Grand Slam but he had his hands full against American Tiafoe, whose sparkling tennis revived memories of his exhilarating run to the 2019 quarter-finals.
Tiafoe went toe-to-toe with the top seed but it all fell apart in the seventh game of the final set when the 23-year-old was irritated by the service clock and was broken after a foul-mouthed tirade.
Tiafoe also earned a code violation for an audible obscenity before bowing out with a double fault on match point.
“Very tough match,” he said post-match. “It was difficult conditions. We had very warm and long rallies. I want to give a hand to Frances again for a great fight. It was a fantastic match on his part.
“If I was to choose I would like to have these kind of matches in the opening week but the matches are only going to get tougher with higher seeds each round progressing in the tournament. It’s not the first time that I’m in this kind of situation. I know how to handle this kind of circumstances but at the same time I was fortunate to get through the third set today.
“It was really anybody’s game and Frances played great served very well. It’s probably the most aces I’ve served to someone in a long time so it was just high quality tennis. He gave it all and it was an unfortunate warning that took away the first serve from him at 30-30 when I broke his serve. These kind of things are just unlucky because he deserved better. But it is what it is and I hope he’ll have a great year.
“Various things affect my positive performance here at the Rod Laver Arena. Over the years when you win a lot on a certain court you feel more comfortable coming to the same court each year.
“It feels like my living room, I feel comfortably playing here. The surface has changed over the years, it’s the quickest court I have ever played on here at Rod Laver Arena in the last 15 years so you need a big serve.”