Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem advance at Australian Open

Tennis


Six-time champion Novak Djokovic beat Gael Monfils in four sets at the Australian Open in a match in which both players slouched and crouched over in the shade at the back of the court between points due to intense heat.

The 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win was a relief for Djokovic, who says he’s still not 100 percent after six months off the tour with an injured right elbow and who lost in a second-round shocker here last year.

Now seeded 14th, Djokovic needed four match points in an eight-minute last game before clinching the win — his 15th straight against Monfils — in heat that reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

“It was obvious we both suffered on the court today,” Djokovic said. “Really tough conditions — brutal.”

Monfils said afterward that “it was tough to breathe.” He was checked by a tournament doctor during the second set.

“I get super dizzy. I think I have a small heat stroke for 40 minutes,” Monfils said. “Couldn’t feel fresh. I try to cool down. But even with the ice towel, the water, I think my body was super warm. Could not, you know, be very fresh after any points, so it was tougher.”

Djokovic noticed Monfils was struggling.

“It was obvious that he was not at his best. … At times we were both just trying to get a little bit of extra breath, a few seconds more, so we can recover,” he said. “We were also getting into some long exchanges and rallies. That’s what happens when we play each other.”

It’s supposed to be even hotter on Friday, with a forecast high of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

Djokovic was asked if play should continue in such heat.

“I think, you know, there are certain days where you just have to, as a tournament supervisor, recognize that you might need to give players few extra hours until it comes down,” he said. “I understand there is a factor of tickets. If you don’t play matches, people will be unhappy. You have to take into consideration different angles before making a big call like that.

“But, you know, people might say, Well, at this level you have to be as a professional tennis player fit. It’s the beginning of the season. You kind of work and train hard to be able to sustain these kind of conditions, to be tough. But I think there is a limit, and that is a level of I guess tolerance between being fit and being, I think, in danger in terms of health.”

Djokovic said that his match was right at the limit.

“But it’s our choice, at the same time, whether we want to play or not,” he said. “So I don’t want to sound ungrateful. In contrary, I’m very grateful. But I also think that there should be some kind of rational conversations about, you know, rules that are maybe imposed or certain things that are concerning players’ well-being.”

In other matches, fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev overcame a mid-match lull to advance to the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over fellow German Peter Gojowczyk.

It’s the second year in a row that Zverev has reached the third round. Last year, the 20-year-old who is predicted to be a future Grand Slam winner lost to eventual runner-up Rafael Nadal in five sets.

Zverev won five titles last year, including Masters 1000 titles at Rome and Montreal.

Dominic Thiem survived his first career five-set match, rallying from two sets down to defeat 190th-ranked American qualifier Denis Kudla 6-7 (6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.

The fifth-seeded Austrian player improved his five-set record at Grand Slams to 3-3 with the win. He lost both five-setters that he played last year at the majors to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon and to Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open.

Thiem counted 21 aces among his 57 winners in the match with Kudla. Thiem was broken three times in the opening set and once in the second set, then didn’t face another break point for the rest of the match.

Wild-card entry Julien Benneteau had an upset 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory over seventh-seeded David Goffin, winning the last five points in the tiebreaker in a third-round match.

It was only the second time in the now 59th-ranked Benneteau’s career — in 19 attempts — that he’s managed to beat a player in the top 10 in a Grand Slam singles match.

American Sam Querrey is out after losing his second-round match 6-4, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-2 to 80th-ranked Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.

The 13th-seeded Querrey was one of 10 American players — men and women — to reach the second round from the 32 who started the main draws, the lowest number of Americans through to the second round in Melbourne since seven in 2011.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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