Novak Djokovic stormed his way into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday to strengthen his quest for a 22nd Grand Slam crown, but Ons Jabeur was the first of many seeds to fall.
Most of the carnage happened in the men’s draw – second seeds Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman were all sent packing on day four at Melbourne Park.
With Rafael Nadal’s shock exit on Wednesday, the top two are all gone.
With top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz also out due to injury, it gives Djokovic, who even before that, was the favorite to win a 10th Melbourne crown, a huge opportunity.
The 35-year-old Serbian took time off to recover from a severe strain on his left thigh against 191-ranked Enzo Couacaud.
He was also disturbed by some rowdy fans and at one point during the match he had to be ejected for drunken fans.
But Djokovic regained his composure and stamina to beat the Frenchman 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-0, and set up a showdown with No. 1 seed Grigor Dimitrov. 27, in the third round.
“A lot happened tonight in the match,” Djokovic, who has been battling injuries in the race, told Rod Laver Arena.
His on-field interview was interrupted when a spectator screamed.
“I love you too, thank you,” said Djokovic, who enjoyed a hot return to Melbourne Park after being kicked out a year ago over his stance on the Covid vaccine.
Fellow athletes Andrey Rublev, Dan Evans, Holger Rune and Roberto Bautista Agut also won in the second round.
– ‘Dream’ –