Djokovic and Tsonga to meet in second round of Australian Open
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios was the big name to crash out in the first round to Milos Raonic
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return against Mitchell Krueger of the US during their men’s singles match on day two of the Australian Open. Photo: Paul Crock/Getty Images
The second round of the Australian Open will feature a rematch of the 2008 final between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
This will be the earliest of their 23 career meetings, with Frenchman Tsonga currently down at 177 in the rankings after missing most of last season following knee surgery.
The 33-year-old, a top-10 stalwart for many years, is playing in his first grand slam tournament for 12 months and admitted he questioned his future in the sport during his long lay-off.
After beating Martin Klizan 6-4 6-4 7-6 (5), Tsonga said: “It’s never easy because you have to test your mind, you have to really know if you still want to play to come back at the best level.
“But at the same time it’s really good because when you are sure that you want to come back and do all the sacrifice to be at a good level, it means you are really motivated and ready to compete again. For me the answer was really easy. I love it and I still feel like I have the tennis to play.”
Tsonga’s breakthrough came in Melbourne 11 years ago with a stunning run to his first, and so far only, slam final, which ended in a four-set loss that gave Djokovic the first of his 14 slam titles.
Tsonga can boast six career wins over the Serbian, including here in the quarter-finals in 2010.
His expectations are lower this time, but he said: “I’m pretty happy to go in the second round and be able to face Novak Djokovic on a big court again. I will try to take my chance and live the moment.”
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne as the man to beat and was comfortable in a 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over battling American qualifier Mitchell Krueger.
He said of facing Tsonga: “It’s funny, 11 years after our first grand slam final here. It feels like a lot has happened for both of us. It’s good to see him playing well.
“He’s another great player, champion, someone that has been very successful in the past. Just very powerful — serve, forehand, big weapons. I know what to expect.”
Nick Kyrgios will tumble further down the rankings after losing in the opening round to Milos Raonic.
The Australian paid for dropping outside the top 50 by drawing 16th seed Raonic and is now likely to be around 70 when the standings are updated following a 6-4 7-6 (5) 6-4 loss.
Kyrgios received treatment to his right knee throughout the match and made no secret of his irritation at another injury problem with some colourful language.
But afterwards he gave all the credit to Raonic, saying: “I don’t think that was at all the reason I lost today. He played unbelievable. Never seen serving like that in my life.
“I actually thought I played OK. I competed well. I probably would have beaten 75 per cent of the draw. But Milos played scary.”
Kyrgios declined, meanwhile, to back up Bernard Tomic in his criticism of Australia Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.
Speaking after his first-round loss on Monday, Tomic accused Hewitt of favouring certain players, saying: “No one likes him any more. He’s doing the wrong thing. (Thanasi) Kokkinakis, Kyrgios, we don’t want to play any more because he’s ruined the system.”
Kyrgios raised eyebrows earlier this month with a Twitter post saying Hewitt had abandoned him and Kokkinakis, which he later deleted and insisted was a joke.
Asked if there was a rift between him and Hewitt, Kyrgios said: “Not really. I don’t have a big deal with anything. I’ve always wanted to play Davis Cup. I love Davis Cup. If I don’t play, I don’t play. I’m available. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev answered doubts about his fitness with a 6-4 6-1 6-4 victory over Aljaz Bedene, joking afterwards: “My body is close to perfection right now.”
Eighth seed Kei Nishikori and last year’s semi-finalist Chung Hyeon both came from two sets down to claim victories, while Borna Coric, Fabio Fognini, Denis Shapovalov, Stan Wawrinka and Daniil Medvedev also went through.