Roger Races Through
No. 3 seeded-Swiss remains unbeaten against 35th-ranked Dolgopolov
Roger Federer had practised with Alexandr Dolgopolov as recently as the off-season in Dubai. So the No. 3 seed knew good and well that the 35th-ranked Ukrainian had the fitness, the speed and the tennis IQ to makes things difficult for him in the second round in Melbourne.
The Swiss kept that all in check on Wednesday in Rod Laver Arena by simply serving his way past his 27-year-old challenger, charting 25 aces and winning 88 per cent (43 of 49) of his first-serve points in a straight-sets 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 win. He will next face 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov in a third-round blockbuster after the Bulgarian got past Argentine Marco Trungelliti 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Even after all these years, Federer explained, he’s still fine-tuning his service game. And the hard work clearly paid off on Wednesday.
“I think it's a very important part of the game,” said Federer, who moved to within one win of 300 career victories at the majors. “I think everybody should work on it, to be honest. It's the only shot that we can actually really control. The rest we are reacting to. I thought today I did serve very well.”
The first opening came in the sixth game of the first set, Federer breaking the Ukrainian at love with a clean backhand winner. Serving for the set at 5-3, he fired three aces to take the set in 26 minutes.
The second set remained on serve through 10 games when three straight errors from Dolgopolov handed a break to Federer, who then stepped up to the service stripe to secure a commanding two-sets-to-love lead. Three breaks in the final set were just too much for Dolgopolov to overcome in the 92-minute loss.
“I'm a big fan of his game,” said Federer of Dolgopolov. “He's explosive; got a great return, especially on the second serve. He's got all the shots. Just for him it’s managing how to use what at what time. I'm very pleased with this win. I think it's a tough second round. In my opinion, he's better than a lot of the guys who are ranked ahead of him.”
Federer is looking to become only the third man in history to win five Australian Open singles titles after Roy Emerson (six) and Novak Djokovic (five). Federer and Dimitrov played just two weeks ago in a high-qualify Brisbane semi-final, which Federer edged in three sets.
"Obviously it's not an easy match," said Dimitrov. "But I felt that I've been playing good. I have quite a few matches behind my back already. It's exciting match for me to be able to get to the third round and play against him. You know, it's a good start.
"I'm out here to perform the best way I can, and hopefully I can play better tennis and sort of play better I think than Brisbane and maybe do couple of things different that I thought I could have done back then. I definitely want to get out there on the court and have a rematch - with a different outcome, I hope."
Dolgopolov’s best Grand Slam result came at the Australian Open in 2011, when he reached the quarter-finals (l. to Andy Murray). He defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling in five sets to become just the second Ukrainian man to reach the last eight at a major.
Federer wasn't the only one turning in a big serving performance on Day 3. No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych lost just two points on his first serve (37 for 39) in dispatching Mirza Basic of Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-4, 6-0, 6-3 in 98 minutes, 15 aces among the Czech's 43 winners.
“I think it was a good day at the office,” said Berdych. “Straight-sets win — always helpful, always good.”
Forty-nine unforced errors proved Spaniard Nicolas Almagro's undoing in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 loss to 19th seed Dominic Thiem of Austria. Thiem finished with 28 winners to 14 unforced errors in the one-hour and 40-minute victory.
No. 12 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia smacked 17 aces in dismissing Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4). It took more than four hours to determine a winner in the all-Argentina clash between Federico Delbonis and Renzo Olivo, Delbonis prevailing 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-2 despite 87 unforced errors, including 13 double faults.
No. 14 seed Gilles Simon of France survived an upset bid from Russia's Evgeny Donskoy to advance 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(1), 4-6, 7-5. Auckland titlist Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, the No. 24 seed, was a perfect seven for seven in break-point conversions, outlasting Serbia's Dusan Lajovic in five sets 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.