In a relatively upset-free day on in the men’s draw, fifth seed Kevin Anderson was sent packing from the Australian Open in round two Thursday with American Frances Tiafoe prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
The South African, a Wimbledon finalist last year, struggled with an elbow injury early in the clash and couldn’t cope with Tiafoe’s power and finesse. World number 39 Tiafoe, who is into the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time, equalling his best ever Grand Slam result, next plays veteran Italian Andreas Seppi.
Roger Federer ground out a tough three-set win to make the Australian Open third round for an incredible 20th straight year Wednesday, with long-time rival Rafael Nadal joining him after a routine second-round win.
Defending champion Federer reached the third round but was made to battle hard by Britain’s Dan Evans before winning 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
The ageless 20-time Grand Slam champion, who is gunning for a record seventh Melbourne Park title and third in a row, was given a much tougher examination by the world number 189.
Evans, whose ranking plummeted from a career-high 41 after he was slapped with a year-long ban for testing positive to cocaine in April 2017, played almost flawless tennis to stave off a set point on his way to forcing a first set tie-break.
He even had the temerity to lead 5-3 in the breaker before Federer stepped up a gear and reeled off the next four points with a cry of “Come on!” as he secured a hard-fought opening set after exactly one hour.
It was harsh on Evans who had committed only two unforced errors and constantly put the third seed under pressure with his scampering, attacking game and flurry of winners off both wings.
Nadal on song
Nadal overwhelmed Australia’s Matthew Ebden in straight sets to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday and stay on track for an 18th Grand Slam title.
The Spaniard, who cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury, raced through the tie in just 116 minutes.
The 32-year-old’s newly remodelled serve only briefly came under pressure from Ebden, 31, who enjoyed vociferous home support on Rod Laver Arena before losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
The Australian forced three break points at 3-2 in the first set, but could convert none before the second seed reeled off four games in a row to close it out in 35 minutes.
It was one-way traffic from then on as Nadal, sporting a trademark sleeveless shirt, cruised into the last 32.
“I played a solid match, I was happy with the way I served. I did a few things very well,” said Nadal, who next plays Australian 27th seed Alex de Minaur. “It is an honour to play here. Was a great atmosphere.”
Nadal pulled out of his Brisbane warm-up event two weeks ago with a thigh strain but showed no sign of the injury woes that saw him limp out of both the Australian Open and US Open last year.
“I don’t know if it’s that good,” said Nadal modestly after a dominant performance. “I just came back from injury so it is not easy to evaluate yet.”
Nadal will face Alex de Minaur, another Australian, in the third round.
He is bidding to become the first man in the Open era, and only third in history along with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.
‘Went to a different place’
American Tiafoe,who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sunday, said, “I lost to him three times last year and when I was down a set and a break it looked like it would happen again. I dug deep and went to a different place.
“It’s all about competing, how bad you want it and I want it real bad. I’d love to get to the second week of a Slam for the first time,” he added.
Sixth seed and last year’s Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic ground out a tough four sets win over American Mackenzie McDonald to move into the third round.
The Croat, who lost an epic final in five sets to Roger Federer a year ago, needed 3hr 37min to get past the 23-year-old 7-5, 6-7 (9/11), 6-4, 6-4.
“Every single time the atmosphere here is amazing,” said Cilic, who has been struggling with a knee injury. “Mackenzie played unbelievable tennis today, he was hitting from the back ridiculously well. I had to work hard to win this one and I’m extremely pleased.”
The former US Open champion, who will play Spanish 26th seed Fernando Verdasco, said the knee was still not 100 percent.
“It’s getting better but I feel that if could improve, so I’m hoping with a couple of matches and getting used to the conditions it’s going to get better,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball well and enjoying my time on the court and these two matches have been great for me.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the first Greek to win an Australian Open match, reached the last 32.
But the 20-year-old 14th seed didn’t have it all his own way against Serbian veteran Viktor Troicki in a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win that set up a third-round clash with Georgian 19th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Troicki, 32, is ranked 185 places below the young tyro and the gulf was apparent early as Tsitsipas raced to the first set in just 31 minutes, backed by a rowdy contingent of Greek fans on Court 3 chanting football-type songs and flying a banner daubed “Stefanos the Great”.
But Troicki, ranked 200, silenced them in the second stanza when he converted his third break point to lead 4-2 as Tsitsipas double-faulted.
The young Greek held five break-back points in the next game but when he failed to convert any of them he threw down his racquet in frustration, breaking it and earning a warning from Australian umpire John Blom.
Clearly rattled, Tsitsipas failed to win another game as Troicki levelled the match before the youngster disappeared for a bathroom break in an effort to compose himself.
The cooldown worked and Tsitsipas resumed control in the third, despite having to change is broken shoe at a crucial moment with the score 2-2, 30-40 on Trocki’s serve.
Men’s singles - 2nd round
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x14) bt Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x19) bt Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Tomas Berdych (CZE) bt Robin Haase (NED) 6-1, 6-3, 6-3
Andreas Seppi (ITA) bt Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x18) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4
Marin Cilic (CRO x6) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 7-5, 6-7 (9/11), 6-4, 6-4
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Kevin Anderson (RSA x5) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5
Fernando Verdasco (ESP x26) bt Radu Albot (MDA) 6-1, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3
Karen Khachanov (RUS x10) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt Daniel Evans (GBR) 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
Taylor Fritz (USA) bt Gael Monfils (FRA x30) 6-3, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x22) bt John Millman (AUS) 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x20) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5
Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) bt Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-7 (15/17), 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/5)
Alex de Minaur (AUS x27) bt Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (7/9), 4-6, 6-3
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Matthew Ebden (AUS) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2