Federer marches on, Djokovic beats the heat but Wawrinka bows out
Roger Federer thrilled Rod Laver Arena on Thursday with a straight-sets victory over Jan-Lennard Struff as other top names made early Australian Open exits.
Federer comfortably saw off the challenge of Struff in day four's final game, the second seed only pushed in the third set as his German opponent forced a tie-break.
Victory was assured in less than two hours, Federer marching on to a match with Richard Gasquet as another former champion – Stan Wawrinka – bowed out in the second round.
Novak Djokovic had the toughest of the sweltering conditions in Melbourne as he saw off Gael Monfils, while there were also wins for Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev.
David Goffin joined Wawrinka in departing, though, as Julien Benneateau's final year on the ATP Tour got off to a marvellous start.
FABULOUS FEDERER MARCHES ON
Federer already has five Australian Open crowns to his name and he looks in fine fettle as he goes in search of a sixth - which would see him equal Djokovic's record in Melbourne.
The 36-year-old belied his age to ease past Struff, saving two of the three break points he faced - all of which came in the final set of his 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win.
Next up is Gasquet in what will be a must-see for fans of a one-handed backhand, both men fine exponents of the art.
And it is a clash Federer is relishing, saying in his on-court interview: "I love playing against one-handed [backhand] guys because we need to keep it alive for as long as possible."
TENNYS IS THE BIG WINNER
Former champion Wawrinka only returned from a knee injury in Melbourne and there was plenty of rustiness in his game against the appropriately named Tennys Sandgren, the American taking full advantage to continue his best grand slam performance.
Sandgren had never won a match at a major event before this week, but has now beaten a three-time grand slam winner and will meet Maximilian Marterer - who ousted Fernando Verdasco in five sets - in round three.
Wawrinka was not the only big name to depart on day four with Goffin and 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey also suffering surprise defeats to Benneteau and Marton Fucsovics respectively.
"I only had surgery five months ago, five months and three days," said a philosophical Wawrinka. "I think I'm way ahead of what I should be, that's for sure. That's why I need to be positive.
"Today was extremely tough, but I need to take what I can to be positive with everything, with the big picture."
DJOKOVIC AND MONFILS QUESTION "BRUTAL HEAT"
From the scoreline, Djokovic's victory over Monfils looked relatively straightforward, the Serbian coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-3 in just under three hours.
However, the numbers did not tell the full story as both players battled extreme heat in Melbourne, the mercury rising to 42 degrees Celsius at times on Rod Laver Arena, conditions they were critical of post-match.
"The conditions were brutal, that's for sure," Djokovic told a media conference. "I mean, we both struggled."
Monfils added: "It was tough to breathe. I think it was the hardest I have [played in]. I got super dizzy, I think I had small heat stroke for 40 minutes. I couldn't feel fresh. I tried to cool down, but even with the ice towel, the water [I could not]. I think my body was super warm."
DON'T STOP BELIEVING
Fifth seed Dominic Thiem would have been expected to brush aside qualifier Denis Kudla on Margaret Court Arena, but the Austrian found himself two sets down to the American after two hours on court.
Thiem was not to be denied, though, as he rallied to edge a five-set thriller 6-7 (6-8) 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-3, a feat he never gave up on despite his early problems.
"Of course, it's very tough [being two sets down]," he said. "Not easy mentally, but from when I was a break up in the third set, the mind was again positive. I always knew that if I play well and if I keep it up that I could turn it around."