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Federer into 19th straight third round at Melbourne

Wawrinka defeated by unknown American in straight sets

Image Credit: AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer powers a forehand shot against to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff yesterday.
Gulf News

Melbourne: Defending champion Roger Federer advanced to the third round for the 19th straight Australian Open with an easy win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff on Thursday.

The Swiss second seed was too strong for the 55th-ranked Struff, reeling off a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 victory in 1hr 55 min in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion will face Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the third round on Saturday.

“I knew about him going in. I’ve practised with him, played singles and doubles against him too so you have the information you need,” Federer said of his German opponent.

“You know he can serve 215-220 km/h no problem for five hours, that’s what you are ready for and I knew he was going to go for his shots.

“So the focus was on me protecting my serve as well as I can and try to get a service break either by good defence or maybe he helps me out a little bit, and I think it was a bit of both.”

Federer improved his Australian Open record to 89-13.

The Swiss legend broke Struff’s serve three times and lost his own once and made 36 winners and just 22 unforced error.

Federer said he was looking forward to playing long-time rival Gasquet.

“He has one of the best one-handed backhanders in the game, so I love playing the guy, he has great variation and moves to net, and he’s a little old school and we’ve had some good matches over the years,” Federer said.

Gasquet beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to book his place in the next round.

Federer is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, after returning from an injury layoff.

It was in Melbourne a year ago where he lit the fuse on his late-life tennis renaissance, beating Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Mischa Zverev and Stan Wawrinka before downing great rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set final classic.

Wawrinka was knocked out by unheralded American Tennys Sandgren as concerns over his knee injury re-surfaced in a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 defeat.

While the result was a huge shock, it was clear from the outset that the Swiss 32-year-old, champion in Melbourne in 2014, was hampered in his movement.

Watching him grimace and clutch at his knee it was a surprise he even made it to the end of the match.

World No. 97 Sandgren, who had won only one Grand Slam singles match compared to the three Grand Slam titles Wawrinka owns, produced a rock-solid display to claim the biggest scalp of his career, offering up only two break points.

The Tennessee native, named after his great grandfather rather than the sport, remained focused throughout and sealed victory with his 11th ace.

Wawrinka had right knee surgery in August and Tuesday’s victory over Ricardas Berankis was his first match for six months, having only declared himself fit last weekend.

Despite clearly being way below 100 per cent, 2014 champion Wawrinka remained positive.

“You don’t enjoy matches like that, that’s for sure. Never easy to feel that way on the court,” he said.

“But I need to be still positive. I think the last 12 days was more than what I could have dreamed coming here.

“Even today my knee was feeling way better than two days ago. If I look the big picture, I know it’s really positive.” Sandgren, who needed career-saving hip surgery in 2013 and has spent his career on the Challenger and Futures tours, claimed his first grand slam singles win against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the first round.

Now, with world No. 94 Maximilian Marterer of Germany next to play, he has a great chance to reach the fourth round.

Inevitably, the on-court interviewer could not resist calling his win a “good day for Tennys”.

“I was really happy to get my first grand slam win here, and now I’ve got my second. I’ll go for the third one and give my best,” he said. “I was definitely aptly named.

“It was my great-grandfather’s name. I had to be at least half decent at the sport. I think I’ve done that.”