Australian Open 2019

Big three still highly fancied

American Frances Tiafoe stretching for a return in his upset win over fifth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.
American Frances Tiafoe stretching for a return in his upset win over fifth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Federer agrees with Djokovic that they and Nadal know best how to tackle Grand Slams

MELBOURNE • Roger Federer has given cold comfort to the next generation of men's players hoping for Grand Slam glory, saying that he, Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Spaniard Rafa Nadal are still deserving favourites to claim the game's biggest trophies.

The top three seeds at Melbourne Park snapped up all four of the Majors between them last year, with Federer winning his sixth Australian Open, Nadal claiming his 11th French Open and top-ranked Djokovic sweeping both Wimbledon and the US Open.

The Swiss great is bidding for his 21st Grand Slam crown and a hat-trick of Melbourne titles this year, and he sailed into the third round yesterday with a straight-sets 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win over British qualifier Dan Evans.

Before the tournament began, top seed Djokovic declared the trio were again the favourites to win the Slams this year, and Federer agreed when asked after his match.

"Yes, I guess so," the third seed told reporters. "I mean, look, we know how to win Slams, Novak, Rafa, myself. I mean, Rafa has to be the No. 1 favourite, I don't care how he feels, before the French.

"Novak is always a favourite on the hard courts, basically any court if he's feeling 100 per cent, if he plays like last year.

"Maybe just because of my amount of titles I have at Wimbledon and other places, maybe also have to put me in the mix every time, as well."

  • SELECTED DAY 3 RESULTS

  • MEN, 2ND RD

    Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 7-5 6-7(9-11) 6-4 6-4, Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Kevin Anderson (Rsa) 4-6 6-4 6-4 7-5, Karen Khachanov (Rus) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn) 6-3 6-3 6-3, Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Matthew Ebden (Aus) 6-3 6-2 6-2, Taylor Fritz (USA) bt Gael Monfils (Fra) 6-3 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6(7-5).

    WOMEN, 2ND RD

    Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt Kiki Bertens (Ned) 3-6 6-3 6-3, Caroline Wozniacki (Den) bt Johanna Larsson (Swe) 6-1 6-3, Petra Kvitova (Cze) bt Irina Begu (Rou) 6-1 6-3, Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) bt Katie Boulter (Gbr) 6-3 6-4, Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Beatriz Haddad Maia (Bra) 6-2 6-3, Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Rebecca Peterson (Swe) 6-2 6-1.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The last time a player not named Federer, Djokovic or Nadal won a Grand Slam was at the 2016 US Open where Swiss Stan Wawrinka lifted his third Grand Slam trophy.

Pundits have decried the younger generation's failure to break into the Slam cartel enjoyed by the old guard, though some have tipped change at the top this year.

German fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who won the ATP Tour Final event last November, is often touted as the player most likely to upset the apple cart. But he has only a solitary Slam quarter-final spot at Roland Garros last year.

The 21-year-old will play France's Jeremy Chardy in the second round today and Federer felt he could be a dark horse this time round.

"There are other guys, no doubt about it," said the 37-year-old, who will play American Taylor Fritz in the third round tomorrow.

"Also, with Sascha (Zverev) holding the World Tour Final (title), it's fair to say that even though he has not ripped through those Slams yet, he will go deep this year, definitely at one of them.

"Maybe even here. We'll see."

There were no real shocks on the day with Nadal cruising to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Australian Matthew Ebden, while women's defending champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark also made it safely through after rolling past Sweden's Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-3.

However, it was curtains for South African fifth seed Kevin Anderson, bowing out in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss to American Frances Tiafoe, who equalled his best progression at a Slam.

Ninth-seeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens was overpowered 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the women's draw also suffered an exit by a top-10 player.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Day 4: Singtel TV Ch114/Ch115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Big three still highly fancied'. Print Edition | Subscribe