MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray hit top gear as Petra Kvitova was the only top player to encounter difficulties at the Australian Open.
Men’s favourite Djokovic, Murray and 13-time grand slam winner Serena Williams highlighted the yawning gap between tennis’s best and the rest as they strolled into the third round. Djokovic has been in commanding form at the year’s first major as he bids to repeat last season’s heroics and the Serb expended little energy in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 hit-out against Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo.
“I try to not underestimate any opponents in the early rounds,” said Djokovic. “Santiago came out early, hitting the ball quite flat. But I knew that sooner or later he’s going to drop the rhythm and I have to hang in there. I’ve done a good job.”
Meanwhile, two-time finalist Murray raced through the first set in just 23 minutes as he beat France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Ricardo Mello 7-5, 6-4, 6-4, while fifth-seed baseliner David Ferrer defeated Ryan Sweeting 6-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Kvitova survives scare
Kvitova had to survive a second-set meltdown against Carla Suarez Navarro to beat her 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Williams brought up her 500th career win against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beating her 6-0, 6-4. The American said she was aware of the approaching milestone heading into the tournament.
“It’s the ultimate, it’s really, really cool,” she said. “The first thing I asked is there anyone that achieved a thousand. I guess not. I never will get there either, but it’s really cool.”
Resurgent Maria Sharapova made light of her lack of competitive tennis as she thrashed Jamie Hampton 6-0, 6-1. Afterwards, the Russian said being world number one was not her priority.
“My goal is to be ready for the important ones, for the big tournaments,” said Sharapova. “That’s what matters at this stage in my career. I try to prepare as best as I can for them.”
Marcos meltdown doesn’t shock anyone
Meanwhile, Marcos Baghdatis was fined $800 for an extraordinary racquet-smashing tantrum but in a sport known for its meltdowns, fellow players greeted the outburst calmly.
The Cypriot shocked spectators by breaking four racquets as he lost the plot in his clash with Stanislas Wawrinka, which the Swiss won 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. But Djokovic admitted racquet-pummelling can help relieve the pressure in a sport where players are alone on court.
“I’m not doing it as often now,” said Djokovic. “But when I’ve a smash of the racquet, I usually feel relieved afterwards.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2012.