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Djokovic cruises past Ito to make third round

andrew hendrie /

Defending champion Novak Djokovic has eased into the Australian Open third round after beating Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito in straight sets on Wednesday.

After a tough four-set win over Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round, Djokovic would have been hoping for a smoother contest in the second – and that’s exactly what he carved out for himself on Rod Laver Arena, dropping just seven games in a dominant 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory.

It was an extremely solid performance in windy conditions from Djokovic, with the 16-time major champion striking 31 winners to a tidy 17 unforced errors, while his serving was impeccable as he fired down 16 aces and lost just 11 points behind his first delivery, winning 93 per cent of first-serve points.

“He was playing pretty aggressive and flat, with not too many unforced errors in the second set. I just managed to somehow find my way,” Djokovic said. “From my side, my serve helped me a lot to get out of trouble.

“I knew shots would come quick and flat, so I had to be quite low [and] put some variety on the shots, spins, slices, and come to the net on occasion. It worked well.”

Aiming for a record eighth Australian Open title this fortnight, Djokovic will face another Japanese player in the third round after Yoshihito Nishioka beat 30th seed Dan Evans in straight sets earlier on Wednesday, 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Nishioka is coming back strong after a lengthy spell on the sidelines a year ago and Djokovic knows he’ll have to be on guard against one of the speediest players in tennis.

”I’m playing all the Japanese players in the field,” Djokovic smiled. “He’s very quick, probably one of the quickest players we have on the Tour.

“You know what his strengths are [and] what his weaknesses are, so hopefully I can execute the game plan.”

Meanwhile, sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas received a walkover into the third round after German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew injured ahead of their scheduled second round encounter.

Tsitsipas is defending semi-final points at the Australian Open after making his first big Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne a year ago, beating Roger Federer en route.

The Greek star and reigning ATP Finals champion will face either Milos Raonic or Cristian Garin for a place in the fourth round on Friday.