'Worried' Djokovic through as Ruud, Jabeur bow out of Australian Open

Jabeur made 50 unforced errors in her 6-1 5-7 6-1 loss to Vondrousova

By Reuters

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a backhand return during the second round match against France's Enzo Couacaud. — Reuters
Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a backhand return during the second round match against France's Enzo Couacaud. — Reuters

Published: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 8:02 PM

Injury-hampered Novak Djokovic moved into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday as the path to a 22nd Grand Slam title opened up for him with the premature exit of second seed Casper Ruud.

Ruud's second-round exit came a day after Djokovic's great rival Rafael Nadal, the top seed, had been evicted after suffering a hip flexor injury that will sideline him for up to two months.


Nine-times Melbourne Park champion Djokovic was delayed only slightly by an inspired second set from French qualifier Enzo Couacaud in his 6-1 6-7(5) 6-2 6-0 victory but was troubled by his heavily-strapped left thigh.

With world number one Carlos Alcaraz absent injured, Djokovic will fear few opponents on the blue courts where he is unbeaten since 2018 but only if his hamstring holds out.


"I have to take it day-by-day. I am worried. I cannot say that I'm not. I have reason to be worried," said the Serbian.

"My physio and medical team have been doing everything possible so that I can be able to play every match. There's not much more to talk about. There's two choices: leave it or keep going. So I'm going to keep going."

Women's second seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia also departed after an error-strewn performance against former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, but there were wins for title contenders Aryna Sabalenka, Caroline Garcia and Belinda Bencic.

Jabeur was a shadow of the player who reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, making 50 unforced errors in her 6-1 5-7 6-1 loss to Vondrousova.

Ruud was simply outplayed for all but a few games of his 6-3 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 loss to 22-year-old Brooksby over nearly four hours on Rod Laver Arena.

Brooksby's win was followed by lucky loser Michael Mmoh stunning German former world number two Alexander Zverev 6-7(1) 6-4 6-3 6-2 to make it eight American men in the third round.

Andrey Rublev continued to carve his way through the men's draw with a 6-2 6-4 6-7(2) 6-3 win over Emil Ruusuvuori, the third-set setback coming after a row with the umpire over whether the fifth seed was swearing in Russian.

He will next face Briton Dan Evans, who beat Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-4 6-1 after the Frenchman also fell out with the chair official when a ball dropped from his pocket during a rally.

After two days of severe weather disruptions, Melbourne Park escaped extreme heat or rain on Thursday with play continuing well into the early hours of the morning to get the second round completed on schedule.


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