Djokovic sails into Australian Open third round; Federer follows suit

Djokovic sails into Australian Open third round; Federer follows suit

With 13 titles between them at Melbourne Park, the second and third seeds took another step toward a semifinal showdown after both advanced in nearly identical fashion Wednesday.

Six-time champion Roger Federer hit three times as many winners as unforced errors to cruise past Filip Krajinovic on Wednesday night, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1, and reach the third round of the Australian Open.

After a 20-minute first set, Federer broke in the first game of the second set and eventually built a 6-1, 4-2 lead. Things got a bit dicey when Krajinovic broke back to tie it up at 4-all, but Federer broke again right away and served out the set—then steamrolled through the third for a one-hour, 32-minute victory.

He finished the match with 42 winners to just 14 unforced errors.

“I’m very happy to have a great start to the season so far,” Federer said in his on-court interview. “I’m feeling really relaxed. You train hard and just hope it pays off, and I’m happy I’m still going.

“I look forward to the next one, of course. Hopefully it’s another good match.”

Awaiting the No. 3-ranked Federer in the third round will be someone he’s very familiar with in Australian John Millman, who surprised No. 31 seed Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the day, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Getty Images

Millman is the only man in Federer's potential path to the semifinals that has a win over the Swiss. At the 2018 US Open, he completed a stunning 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) victory in the fourth round. Federer is 2-1 overall against the Australian, but the two wins weren’t easy by any means: Federer fought back at Brisbane in 2015, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, and won at Halle in 2019, 7-6 (1), 6-3.

“He’s a great guy. I’ve practiced a lot with him,” Federer said. “I almost passed out when I played against him in New York - it was so hot, but he had no problem. He’s from Queensland, so it’s normal stuff. I’ve played him two other times, once in Brisbane, and I think I almost lost that one, too.

“He’s one of the guys I respect the most, because he really gets the most out of his game.”

Federer is now a win away from 100 career match wins at the Australian Open, something no player in the Open Era, male or female, has achieved. He now has a 99-14 career record in Melbourne. Last year, he surpassed 100 wins at Wimbledon during his runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic.

World No. 2 Djokovic, a seven-time Australian Open champion, was also among the winners on a windy Wednesday, needing just a few minutes more than Federer to beat Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito in an hour and 35 minutes, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic hit 31 winners to 17 unforced errors.

“I don’t think the players enjoy these kinds of windy conditions, to be honest, but it is what it is,” the Serb said. “You have to accept them and embrace the fact that you’re going to be challenged on different levels, not just by your opponent, but also the conditions. That’s okay, and I accepted it.

Getty Images

“I came into the match and played extremely well at the beginning. I got a 5-0 lead up after 15 minutes. I think in the second set we went toe-to-toe until 4-all, when I made that crucial break. My serve has been working extremely well in the first round and second round. That’s something I worked on in the off-season. That’s one of the priorities of the training sessions, I guess, trying to get that advantage of winning a lot of easy points on the first serve. It has been paying off so far.”

Next up for Djokovic will be Yoshihito Nishioka, who upset No. 30 seed Dan Evans, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

“He’s one of the quickest players we have on the tour and doesn’t make too many mistakes,” Djokovic said. “He has a really efficient backhand. He can step in. He can defend well from the forehand. He likes to spin the ball to the opponent’s backhand side. We’ll see - obviously I have to be dictating the play, a bit more aggressive. Hopefully I’ll be serving well. That’s going to definitely help.”

Djokovic beat Nishioka easily in their only prior meeting in the Davis Cup Finals last year, 6-1, 6-2.