The 35-year-old has already won this tournament nine times, in 2022 he was absent because he was not allowed to enter the country due to a missing corona vaccination. Andy Murray also made it up in a thrilling game.
Djokovic is seeded as number four and only had to be on the court for just over two hours on his return to Rod Laver Arena. Then, 40 minutes after midnight, the recently struck ex-world number one was celebrated with much applause. “The atmosphere is great here. It’s a dream to be welcomed like that,” enthused Djokovic, who won his last 22 matches at the Australian Open: “I’m very happy to be back in Australia. If I get a place and If I had to pick a time, it would be the night session here at Rod Laver Arena.”
The next hurdle is either Hugo Dellien from Bolivia or the French Enzo Couacaud. Many decisions could not be made on Tuesday because first the heat and then the rain threw a spanner in the works for the organizers.
Play on the outdoor courts was interrupted for around three hours because the official “heat stress scale” had reached its highest level around 2 p.m. (local time). Temperatures of over 35 degrees were measured at Melbourne Park. After the games resumed, the rain meant that many games could not be completed or even started. That was not the case on the main courts.
Heat alert: Australian Open games suspended
Murray defeated former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini. After an entertaining 4:49 hours, including defending a match point, the three-time Grand Slam tournament winner beat the number 13 seeded Italian 6:3,6:3,4:6,6:7(7),7:6( 6) through. “I’ve put a lot of work into playing matches like this over the past few months. It’s paying off now,” said 35-year-old Murray, who has been playing on the tour with an artificial hip since 2019. The five-time Melbourne finalist and former world number one had already declared his career over.
Murray dictated what happened in the first two sets before last year’s semi-finalist Berrettini seized the initiative. In the fifth set, Murray was able to fend off a match point when the score was 4: 5 and subsequently won the match tiebreak 10: 6. “I’m just incredibly happy and proud,” Murray said. On Thursday, Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis and Italy’s Fabio Fognini face the next hurdle for number 66 in the world.
A look into the past is not a good omen. In 2022 Murray also started with a successful five-set marathon in Melbourne, but then two days later clearly failed at the Japanese Taro Daniel with three times 4: 6.
The second seeded Norwegian Casper Ruud also had a hard time with the Czech Tomas Machac, but won after 3:15 hours 6:3,7:6(6),6:7(5),6:3. Olympic champion Alexander Zverev was only able to prevent a defeat at the start with difficulty, beating the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas 4: 6.6: 1.5: 7.7: 6(3), 6: 4. “I’m extremely happy, I’ve missed that in the last seven months,” said Zverev. “No matter what comes next – the tournament is already a success for me.” Seven and a half months after his serious foot injury in the French Open semifinals, his lack of match practice was noticeable.
After a weak first set, the Hamburg player improved, but in the third round there was a break in the game of the world number 13, who brought the clay court specialist Varillas back into the game with mistakes and lack of concentration. After that, Zverev was in demand as a fighter – and the 2020 Australian Open semi-finalist accepted that brilliantly. After 4:06 hours, the 25-year-old converted his second match point in the covered and air-conditioned Margaret Court Arena.
Zverev now meets the French Laurent Lokoli or the American Michael Mmoh. Here, too, Zverev could have been worse, because the world number 50 said on Tuesday. David Goffin from Belgium fell ill at short notice. For him, Mmoh moved up as a lucky loser. Taylor Fritz (USA-8/6:4.6:2.4:6.7:5 against the Georgian Nikolos Basilashvili) and Holger Rune (DEN-10/6:2.6:3.6: 4 against the Serb Filip Krajinovic).
In the women’s game, second-ranked Tunisian Ons Jabeur had more trouble than she would have liked in a 7:6(8),4:6,6:1 against Slovenian Tamara Zidansek. In contrast, Caroline Garcia (FRA-4), Aryna Sabalenka (BLR-5) and Veronika Kudermetowa (RUS-9) did not lose a set.
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