Novak Djokovic can move on step closer to an eighth Australian Open title on Wednesday afternoon, where he faces Tatsuma Ito for a spot in the third round in Melbourne. The second seed could face Japanese players in back-to-back matches with Yoshihito Nishioka a possible opponent in the next round.
Ito, the recipient of a wildcard for the tournament, is in the the second round of a slam for the fourth time in his career and first time since 2014. Ito has been a constant on the Challenger Tour during his career with twenty finals to his name, of which he won seven. He has floated around outside the top 100 for much of the past few years, failing to get close to his career high of No. 60 – which he hit in 2012.
Djokovic had a tough test in his opener with Jan Lennard Struff, eventually seeing off the German in four sets. His 7-6 6-2 2-6 6-1 win was the 900th of his illustrious career but he is unlikely to have had many better serving days than this one. He hit a surprisingly high 14 aces, bettering his opponent’s total of 13. “Goran (Ivanisevic) is influencing me a little bit,” Djokovic said. “Of course we talked about [my] serve a lot and some other parts of my game where I can improve and maybe get some more free points if possible. I think throughout my career, my serve was maybe a little bit underestimated because of the quality of the return and baseline play.”
The defending champion is feeling good this week and is feeling no effects of a physically and emotionally tough ATP Cup win. “I don’t feel it to be honest. I was exhausted right after, but I had seven days to recover and I kept my training sessions nice and short and intense, did what I needed to do to maintain the level and I’m pleased,” Djokovic said. “I’m pleased with the way I played, I’m pleased with the way I feel. The great thing about Grand Slams is that you always have a day off in between matches, and it’s not the first time I’m in this situation, so I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
This should be a fairly straight forward evening for Djokovic, who will likely be focused on tougher matches to come in the second week of the tournament.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets