Australian Open: Novak Djokovic overcomes a slow start to beat Gael Monfils

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic overcomes a slow start to beat Gael Monfils

Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic successfully passed both the heatwave and Gael Monfils to notch his 60th win in Melbourne, advancing to the third round after a 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-3 triumph over the Frenchman. Way back in 2004, Gael Monfils won their first match in Futures but Novak seized the control in the head to head meetings since 2005, winning all 15 encounters they played at the ATP level. The temperature on the court was well above 40 degrees Celsius and they battled for 2 hours and 45 minutes before Novak converted his 4th match point to book his place in the 3rd round. Double faults plagued the game of both, with 26 in total (11 from Novak, 15 from Gael) but the Serb had a much higher first serve percentage, which helped him a lot.

It wasn't a high-quality affair by any means, with a lot of errors on both sides, but it was clear who will be the winner when Novak grabbed that second set and started to control his shots at least a little bit better. Serb will still have some time to adjust his shots, especially the backhand, but he was never in doubt against the opponent whom he beat so many times in the past, and who suffered on the court even more than he did. It was a poor start from both, with 5 breaks of serve in the opening 7 games, and it was Gael who seized a 4-3 lead when he broke Novak for the third time in game 7. The Frenchman fends off 4 break points until the end of the set to clinch it by 6-4, and it looked we are heading towards a big surprise on the Rod Laver Arena.

Instead of that, Novak tightened the screws in his service games in set number 2, offering no break points to Gael and stealing rival's serve in game 8 to conclude the set in the following game. Serb was the dominant figure in set number 3 as well, sailing through his service games and breaking Monfils 3 times in a row to clinch the set by 6-1 and move a set away from the victory. Frenchman recovered his game a little bit in set number 4, missing 4 break points in game 5 that could have made the things more interesting, and Novak broke him at 15 in game 8 to take a 5-3 lead. Serving for the win in the following game, the Belgrade native saved a break point and he wrapped up his win on his 4th match point to stay on the comeback trail after being sidelined from the court since July and Wimbledon. 

World number 5 Dominic Thiem will play in the third round of the Australian Open for the 3rd straight year following a hard-fought 6-7(6) 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-3 win over the American Denis Kudla in 3 hours and 48 minutes! This was the second time that Thiem managed to escape from 2 sets to love deficit (against Gulbis at the US Open 2014), taking control from set number 3 to bring the match home safely against the rival who ran out of gas as the match was reaching the 4-hour mark. Thiem's first serve worked well but he struggled to find the range on the second, Kudla was returning well and he stayed in touch with his rival from the baseline in the opening 2 sets. Dominic turned the tables with a late break in set number 3 and that gave him the upper hand in the rest of the encounter, breaking his rival twice in sets 4 and 5 to wrap up a win and move into the last 32 where he will face Adrian Mannarino.

Hungarian Marton Fucsovics had a breakthrough season in 2017 and he is eager to remain in the winning rhythm in 2018 as well, reaching the third round at Grand Slams for the first time in his career. Marton became the first player from his country who reached the 3rd round at the Australian Open since Szabolcz Baranyi in 1973, after a 6-4 7-6 4-6 6-2 win against the 13th seed Sam Querrey in 2 hours and 43 minutes. Marton was more efficient on both the first and second serve but they both had a lot of break chances, with 28 up for grabs. Hungarian converted 4 out of 16 he earned and Sam broke him just twice, which wasn't enough for a better result. Fucsovics found the right rhythm on serve early on and he faced no break points in the opening set while stealing Sam's serve in game 7 when the American netted a forehand. A service winner delivered the set for the underdog in game 10 and Querrey had a lot of work to do if we wanted to get back on the scoreboard.

First of all, he needed to push Marton more in the return games and he did exactly that, breaking in the second game and creating a 5-2 lead with some good serving. Fuscovics saved 4 break points in game 6 and that proved to be crucial for the entire set, as he won 12 out of 13 points to level the score at 5-5, breaking Sam at 15 in game 9. Hungarian took the tie break by 8-6, sealing the deal with a forehand winner to complete a great comeback and move a set away from victory. Querrey had to do something and rather quickly if he wanted to get back in contention and the start of the third set was promising for him, breaking at love in the first game to keep the advantage until the end, winning the set by 6-4 after a service winner. Marton restored his shots in set number 4, dropping just 4 points on serve and keeping the pressure on Sam, who couldn't endure it. Querrey was broken in game 4, Fucsovics converted his 5th break point with a volley winner to grab the lead and he sealed the deal with another break in game 8, celebrating his biggest win in a career so far. 

Second round results: