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Djokovic downs Tsonga to set up Shapovalov tie

 

By Eleanor Crooks

Novak Djokovic won a rematch of the 2008 Australian Open final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to set up a third-round clash with 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

Djokovic won in four sets 11 years ago and needed one fewer this time, winning 6-3 7-5 6-4 as the clock ticked towards 1am.

Tsonga has slipped outside the top 100 in the rankings after missing most of last season because of knee surgery, but showed enough here to indicate he will soon be heading in the right direction.

Djokovic said afterwards he felt more nervous than usual because of his long history against Tsonga, calling him "one of the greatest rivals that I had throughout my life".

The generational divide was emphasised by Shapovalov describing the possibility of a night match against Djokovic as "sick".

The 25th seed insisted he will not be overawed, though, saying of playing the big stars: "Probably two years ago, I was just happy to be on the court with them, get a couple of games. Now I'm thinking how am I going to give a fight to this guy, how am I going to win sets and potentially even the match."

Shapovalov burst on to the scene two years ago and was hailed as a future star. He is the world's highest-ranked teenager but admitted the expectation has been hard to deal with.

"Everything kind of came so quick to me. All of a sudden I was in the spotlight. Now, every week if I lose, 'Denis is disappointing'. It was so much noise.

"Obviously I was blocking most of it out. But still it does get to you. I was just thinking to myself, discussing to my team, 'Is this really what I want? What do I want in life?'

"I came to the realisation, yes, that's what I grew up wanting to do. I want to be a star. I want to be one of the Rogers or Rafas."

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev survived another lengthy battle at a slam, staving off a fightback from Jeremy Chardy to win 7-6 (5) 6-4 5-7 6-7 (6) 6-1.

Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic are both working their way back up the rankings after injuries and contested a high-quality encounter, which went the way of the Canadian.

Raonic looks like he could cause significant damage later in the tournament while, for Wawrinka, there was frustration but also encouragement.

The 2014 champion said: "It's been a long way to get back. I'm sad and frustrated, but, if I take some distance with it, I'm happy to see I'm able to play with this level, able to move that well."

Kei Nishikori fought off the challenge from Ivo Karlovic who came back from two sets down to force a decider before losing 6-3 7-6 (6) 5-7 5-7 7-6 (7).

Last year's semi-finalist Chung Hyeon is out, but there were wins for Borna Coric, Fabio Fognini and David Goffin.

Belfast Telegraph

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