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Australian Open day four: Djokovic battles past Popyrin, Andreeva stuns Jabeur

Australian Open day four: Djokovic battles past Popyrin, Andreeva stuns Jabeur
© Reuters
Novak Djokovic reaches the third round of the Australian Open with a four-set win over Alexei Popyrin, while 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva stuns Ons Jabeur.

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic came through another taxing four-set battle with home favourite Alexei Popyrin to reach the third round of the Grand Slam tournament on Wednesday.

The Serbian particularly struggled on the forehand side throughout the early stages of the contest and also came to verbal blows with a member of the crowd, but in a tale as old as time, he held his nerve to triumph 6-3 4-6 7-6[4] 6-3.

After losing a set to Croatian teenager Dino Prizmic in his first-round battle, Djokovic - plagued by an illness and his ongoing wrist concern - earned the first break of the match in the eighth game but quickly fell 4-1 down in the second as Popyrin upped the ante.

Despite earning one break back while Popyrin was serving for the set, Djokovic briefly lost his mettle before regaining it in the third, saving four set points before bringing his timeless quality to the fore in the tie-breaker.

The big-serving Popyrin - who hit 23 more winners than Djokovic over the course of the match - managed to save four match points to delay the inevitable, but on Djokovic's fifth, the Australian overcooked a forehand to ensure that the holder would continue his title defence against Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Aryna Sabalenka reacts at the Australian Open on January 14, 2024© Reuters

Women's defending champion Aryna Sabalenka was also in second-round action on day four, tackling 16-year-old Czech protege Brenda Fruhvirtova, and the world number 2 made light work of her teenage foe.

Sabalenka took a mere 67 minutes to stroll to a 6-3 6-2 win, although she did not have it all her own way in the opening set, as Fruhvirtova immediately broke back after losing serve in her second game.

Sabalenka's pressure eventually told again in the eighth game, though, and the Belarusian's tremendous power overwhelmed Fruhvirtova in the second set, where she failed to recover from losing the opening four games and fell on Sabalenka's first match point.

The second seed - who blasted 30 winners past Fruhvirtova on the day - will now face Lesia Tsurenko in round three, but even her victory was not as emphatic as Mirra Andreeva's, as the 16-year-old left Ons Jabeur dumbfounded with an exceptional 6-0 6-2 win.

With an unforeseen first-set bagel, Andreeva became the youngest women's singles player in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam set 6-0 against a top-10 opponent, while she also strung together a five-game winning streak in the second set against the sixth seed, whose 23 unforced errors proved fatal.

Mirra Andreeva reacts at the Australian Open on January 17, 2024© Reuters

Former champion Caroline Wozniacki was also among the notable eliminations from Thursday's second-round matches, losing 6-1 4-6 1-6 to Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva, while 16th seed Caroline Garcia was beaten 4-6 6-7[2] by Magdalena Frech.

US Open winner Coco Gauff avoided an upset, though, defeating compatriot Caroline Dolehide 7-6[2] 6-2 to set up another all-American affair with Alycia Parks, who got the better of 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez 7-5 6-4.

Elsewhere in the men's singles, Jannik Sinner was a convincing 6-2 6-2 6-2 victor over Jesper de Jong, but his fellow Italian Matteo Arnaldi was no match for Alex de Minaur, who won 6-3 6-0 6-3.

Stefanos Tsitsipas came through a tricky tie against home favourite Jordan Thompson, succeeding 4-6 7-6[6] 6-2 7-6, but Andrey Rublev needed just three to sink Christopher Eubanks 6-4 6-4 6-4.

American success did arrive in the shape of Taylor Fritz, Ben Shelton and Sebastian Korda, but Frances Tiafoe was beaten in straight sets by Tomas Machac.

> Click here for a summary of day three's action

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Novak Djokovic reacts at the Australian Open on January 14, 2024
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