It was close but Novak Djokovic who shrugged off the strong challenge from Frances Tiafoe who in turn, showed that the world number one can be pushed and made uncomfortable.
But it's not the first time I've been in that kind of situation, I know how to handle this type of circumstance Novak Djokovic
While the Serb seemed to have taken control of the second-round match by quickly pocketing the first set, his American opponent was not downhearted, dug deep and forced the second into a tie-break where he levelled the match.
Losing that set forced Djokovic to raise his level but even then, he was matched by Tiafoe who had his chances only to lose his way in the third set tie-break and the running out of steam in the fourth allowing Djokovic to scramble through 6-3 6-7(3) 7-6(2) 6-3.
“Very tough match. when the sun was on the court, it was very warm. A lot of long rallies,” said Djokovic, the defending champion who is chasing his 9th AO title. “A great fight from Frances, a great match on his part.
“But it’s not the first time I’ve been in that kind of situation, I know how to handle this type of circumstance.”
He will next play another American, Taylor Fritz who beat his countryman Reilly Opelka in another marathon 4-6 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-2.
Meanwhile a former AO champion Stan Wawrinka saw his own fightback fail against Hungary’s Marton Fuscovics.
The Swiss star, seeded 17. clawed his way back into the match from two set to love down only to see his gargantuan efforts evaporate in the fifth where he held a huge lead in the tie-break squandering three match points before his unseeded opponent snatched victory after nearly four hours on his first opportunity with a big first serve 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6(9).
It was Fuscovics’ second consecutive five set win to earn himself the tournament’s ‘Marathon Man’ tag and no doubt he will hope it will be shorter match when he faces the 14th seed from Canada, Milos Raonic, a 6-7(1) 6-1 6-1 6-4 winner over France’s Corentin Moute, in round three,
“Right now I feel like I’m dying, I’m really tired,” said Fucsovics, world ranked 55,
“It was a long match. I knew he was going to come back, he’s a strong player — physically and mentally.”
Third seed Dominic Thiem on the other hand, had little difficulty in progressing past German Dominik Koepfer dropping just six games on the Margaret Court Arena to set up a prospective meeting with the controversial Aussie Nick Kyrgios or the 29th seed from France, Ugo Humbert, who are playing in the night session.
Throughout the match Koepfer, ranked 70, provided some resistance in the opening set but then found himself out of his depth as the US Open champion romped past him 6-4 6-0 6-2 in just 99-minutes.
“It was great, to be honest,” Thiem, who lost a tight match to Djokovic in last year’s Melbourne final, said of his own performance.
“I really love this court and have pretty good stats on it, so super happy to be back.
“Today was good,” he added. “My best match so far in Australia (this year).”
In other matches Denis Shapovalov, the 11th seed from Canada, scored a 6-1 6-3 6-2 victory against Australia’s Bernard Tomic who has slipped down to 233 in world terms and is best known as being a bit of a rebel.
The 21-year-old Canadian finished the 107-minute match with 37 winners to Tomic’s 17.
Earlier in the day, another young Canadian dispatched a second Australian when the 20-year-old Felix Auger-Alliasime defeated James Duckworth 6-4 6-1 6-2 hitting 20 aces and 38 winners.