Defending champions Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki eased into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The third seeded Federer got past Daniel Evans 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 while Wozniacki beat Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-3. Second seed Rafael Nadal also won through to the round of 32 with a straight set win over Mathew Ebden 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 but fifth seed Kevin Anderson was knocked out by American Frances Tiafoe in four sets.
Federer playing on a cool day at Melbourne faced some pressure early in the match as he was taken to a tie break in the first set and found himself down 3-5 but then reeled off four points in a row to take the tiebreak. In the second set, Federer appeared to be cruising with an early break but then was broken while serving for a two sets to love lead. The second set went to a tie break as well but this time Federer took an early 3-0 lead and held on to take it 7-3. Both players showed off their backhand slices and it proved to be a battle for ascendancy as to who would find his way to the net first. Federer proved to be the victor in the battle and thereafter the resistance shown by the British qualifier Evans faded as Federer was able to raise his level and he completed the win in two hours and 35 minutes.
After the match, Federer likened playing Evans to playing his mirror self. “I see why he can cause difficulties to players. He was feeling it today, I thought. He was very sort of cat and mouse a bit. Playing a player like Dan Evans is like facing myself. It feels like playing a mirror a little bit. That was my mindset heading into it – how would I play myself potentially?”
There were question marks surrounding Nadal’s fitness before his Australian Open campaign. The second seed had not played since retiring against Juan Martin Del Potro in the U.S Open semifinals in September and had suffered numerous injuries over the last 12 months which also saw him retire from Australian open quarterfinals to Marin Cilic last year. In the first set his opponent Ebden pulled some outstanding passes to fashion three break points but Nadal’s new serve helped him save two and in the third Ebden missed a backhand volley that proved crucial as the World No.2 held on for a 4-3 lead. He broke immediately and then proceeded to win the set 6-3. From that stage Nadal started finding his rhythm and came up with some terrific forehand winners to help him dominate the rallies pushing Ebden around the court. Two breaks helped Nadal take a two sets lead and he soon clinched the win just short of two hours.
After his win, Nadal was positive about his play. “Every day is a test, and especially when you are back after injuries. I think I played a solid match, I’m happy with the way my serve worked, and I think I did a few things very well – serve and first shot have been very, very positive, hitting a lot of winners with my forehand.”
The third seed Wozniacki eased into the third round with a straight set win over Larsson and set up an exciting match up with 30th seed and former champion Maria Sharapova in the third round. Second seed Angelique Kerber won her 100th Grand Slam match with a routine 6-2, 6-3 win over Beatriz Haddad Maia. She was joined by Sloane Stephens who beat Timea Babos 6-3, 6-1 and seeds Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka. There were some upsets with Anderson bowing out to young American Tiafoe in four sets while women’s ninth seed Kiki Bertens losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets. Marin Cilic however won through as did Grigor Dimitrov.
In doubles action, the Indians had a bad day as all three pairs lost their opening round matches. 15th seeds Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan lost to the Spanish pairing of Guillermo Garcia Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Nicholas Monroe lost 4-6, 7-6(8), 7-5 in a nail biter to Kevin Krawietz and Nikola Mektic after missing match points in the second set tie break. Veteran Leander Paes and his Mexican partner Miguel Angel Reyes Varela lost a tight encounter 7-5, 7-6(4) to Austin Krajicek and Artem Sitak.