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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic survives tough test to reach third round

Novak Djokovic kept his Australian Open title defence on track with a gritty performance in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who came through the longest first-round match of his grand slam career on Sunday, had to save four set points on his serve to avoid falling 2-1 down to Australia’s Alexei Popyrin on Rod Laver Arena.

The world number one eventually took the third set on a tie-break and appeared to be inspired by an exchange of words with a spectator in the fourth on his way to a 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) 6-3 victory.

It was not clear if the 10-time champion asked for the spectator to be removed but former Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who is commentating for TV, said on Eurosport: "Just say the word Novak and I’ll run out of this commentary box and escort him out myself."

Popyrin was left to rue failing to convert any of his four set points in the ninth game of the third set and Djokovic said in his on-court interview: "He had quite an easy forehand and he missed it.

"I didn't do anything special, I was lucky at that point and that game to get away. He was the better player for a set and a half. The momentum shifted in the tie-break, I managed to put one more ball in the court than he did but that's all.

"I think I played maybe at the highest level in some instances but also credit to him for tactically coming out with the right game plan and serving big. He deserves a big round of applause for the performance.

"I haven't been playing my best but particularly in the early rounds you play players who have nothing to lose, they come out on the centre court trying to play their best tennis and I think both my first and second round opponents were really great quality tennis players and I managed to find a way to win.

"Hopefully I'll be able to build as the tournament progresses."

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Djokovic in last year's final, also had to save four set points on his way to victory over another Australian, Jordan Thompson.

Thompson took the opening set and had four chances at 5-6 in the fourth set to force a decider before Tsitsipas sealed a 4-6 7-6(6) 6-2 7-6(4) victory.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner enjoyed a far easier day as he thrashed Dutch qualifier Jesper de Jong 6-2 6-2 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena, but 17th seed Frances Tiafoe was beaten in straight sets by Czech world number 75 Tomas Machac.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev needed just 99 minutes to beat American Chris Eubanks 6-4 6-4 6-4, while Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry – who beat Andy Murray in straight sets on Monday – beat Gael Monfils by the same score.

Australian 10th seed Alex de Minaur is also into the third round after beating Italy's for the loss of just six games.

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