Djokovic passes Tiafoe test, Serena sublime at Australian Open | Daily News

Djokovic passes Tiafoe test, Serena sublime at Australian Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a return against Frances Tiafoe of the US during their men's singles match
Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a return against Frances Tiafoe of the US during their men's singles match

MELBOURNE, AFP - Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic was made to sweat at the Australian Open yesterday as Serena Williams made serene progress in her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

Women's favourite Naomi Osaka also charged through but fellow major-winners Stan Wawrinka, Bianca Andreescu and Petra Kvitova were all second-round casualties.

Djokovic was given a stern examination by America's Frances Tiafoe and dropped his first set of the tournament before recovering to win 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.

The top seed looked in control after taking the first set, but lightning-quick Tiafoe, who reached the quarter-finals two years ago, refused to go quietly.

The American bounced back to take a close second set but imploded as tensions rose in the fourth, receiving a code violation for an audible obscenity as Djokovic took charge.

The Serb is targeting a record-extending ninth title and his 18th Grand Slam trophy overall as he snaps at the heels of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who top the all-time list with 20 each.

He avoided the fate of 2014 winner Wawrinka, who blew three match points in the fifth-set tie-breaker in his four-hour epic with Marton Fucsovics, who won 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (11/9).

Osaka, whose three Grand Slam titles include the 2019 Australian crown, had no such trouble in her evening match against France's Caroline Garcia, winning 6-2, 6-3 in 61 minutes.

Earlier Williams, 39, continued her quest to equal Margaret Court's all-time mark of 24 Grand Slams with a 6-3, 6-0 romp past 99th-ranked Serbian Nina Stojanovic.

Williams hit 27 winners in her 101st Australian Open match while again sporting her unique, one-legged catsuit inspired by track legend 'Flo-Jo'.

Williams' elder sister Venus, 40, was a major casualty on day three when she painfully rolled her ankle in the first set against Sara Errani before hobbling through a 6-1, 6-0 defeat.

And Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion who missed the entire 2020 season with a knee injury, saw her comeback come to an abrupt end 6-3, 6-2 against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.

Elsewhere Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion and Melbourne runner-up in 2019, committed 44 unforced errors in her 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 defeat to Romania's Sorana Cirstea as the big names tumbled on day three.

However, reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem, runner-up to Djokovic last year, was all smiles as he beat Germany's Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

Eighth seed Diego Schwartzmann of Argentina also hurried into the last 32, brushing aside Frenchman Alexandre Muller 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 in an hour and 32 minutes on 1573 Arena. Germany's volatile US Open finalist Alexander Zverev will close out the night session against America's Maxime Cressy.

The tantrum-prone Nick Kyrgios could also provide fireworks out on his favourite John Cain Arena against France's 29th seed Ugo Humbert.