Novak hurdles stern test

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    MELBOURNE.— Novak Djokovic’s aura of invincibility at Rod Laver Arena wavered under the pressure of Frances Tiafoe but the Serbian rose to the challenge to claim a galvanizing 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3 win and reach the third round of the Australian Open.

    The double-defending champion has rarely been tested so early at his favorite Grand Slam, but he had his hands full against American Tiafoe, whose sparkling tennis revived memories of his exhilarating run to the 2019 quarterfinals.

    Tiafoe went toe-to-toe with the top seed, but it all fell apart in the seventh game of the final set when the American grew frustrated 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 as Djokovic advanced to a third-round clash against the winner of Americans Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka.

    US Open champion Dominic Thiem kept his time in the Melbourne sun to an absolute minimum, taking 93 minutes to beat Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 and secure his place in the third round of the Australian Open.

    In women’s play, Serena Williams overcame a spirited Nina Stojanovic 6-3 6-0 on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena to reach the third round for the 19th time.

    The Austrian third seed had to tough it out at times in the opening set but took full control after that as his German opponent appeared to struggle in temperatures touching 30 degrees Celsius on Margaret Court Arena.

    Thiem lost to Novak Djokovic in the Melbourne Park final last year and would have been hoping to conserve energy in the early rounds this week as he looks to dethrone the Serbian and clinch his second Grand Slam crown. – Reuters