Novak Djokovic continued his excellent run in Melbourne and defeated Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 after a close contest at the Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old struggled against the 24-year-old Aussie but eventually found his way back in the game and thrived under pressure, something that he does best.
Djokovic, a four-time Australian Open champion, swiftly secured an early advantage by winning the first set 6-3. Despite the initial dominance,
Popyrin, ranked 43rd globally, mounted a comeback, claiming the second set 6-4. Encouraged by a supportive local audience in the Rod Laver Arena, the Australian had four set points in the third set, but he eventually lost 7-4 in a tiebreak.
In the fourth set, Djokovic secured an early break and went on to win convincingly with a score of 6-3. Popyrin displayed commendable courage, saving four match points before succumbing to defeat. Despite the loss, the Aussie can derive positives from his performance.
“He was a better player in the second and third set and then (with the set points) he had quite an easy forehand and missed it. I was lucky at that point,” Djokovic said after the win.
“Things changed around and the momentum shifted in the tie break. I managed to put one more in the court than he did.
“Credit to him for tactically coming up with the right game plan and serving big. He deserves a big round of applause for the performance today.”
The Serb will now take on in-form Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who handed Andy Murray a first-round exit, in the third round.