MELBOURNE: World No.1 Novak Djokovic tussled with French teenager Quentin Halys in the third set before reaching the Australian Open third round in straight sets on Wednesday.
The 10-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion downed the 187th-ranked Halys 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) in one hour 40 minutes in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.
It was all plain sailing for the Serbian top seed as he reeled off the opening two sets for the loss of just three games in 56 minutes.
Djokovic looked set to wrap it up quickly heading into the final set before Halys got lucky with a net cord for his only service break of the Serb.
The Serb immediately broke back but Halys, 19, doggedly stuck to his task, making Djokovic fight for his victory in the tiebreak.
“Quentin is new on the tour but definitely today he hasn’t been playing like he’s been just on the tour for under a year,” Djokovic said.
“He’s a powerful player, big forehand. He’s being aggressive every time he had an opportunity. He was just firing shots from both corners, from back of the court.
“He played some great tennis and I want to congratulate him for fighting and especially in the third set.”
Djokovic finished with five service breaks and hit 42 winners with just 14 unforced errors.
It set him up with a third-round match against Italian Andreas Seppi, who stunned Roger Federer in the same round at last year’s tournament.
“He won against [Roger] Federer last year in third round. I think he deserves a lot of respect for the amount of years that he spent in top 30,” Djokovic said about playing Seppi.
“He’s not really overwhelmed by a big occasion, so I expect him to try his best to win.
“It’s going to be a tough one. I need to be ready for rallies. It’s going to be physical match. But the way I’ve been playing, I have a lot of faith and confidence in my game.”
The Serb’s bid for a calendar year Grand Slam fell just short during a brilliant 2015 season.
He wore down Andy Murray to win last year’s final at Melbourne Park, and finished with three Grand Slams among 11 tournament victories in a stellar season, with a win-loss record of 82-6.
Djokovic is projected to face Japan’s seventh seed Kei Nishikori in the quarters and 17-time major winner Federer in the semifinals.