If the field was looking for any sign that Novak Djokovic's dominance at Melbourne would be slowing down, they wouldn't find it in his second-round match versus Leonardo Mayer.
The second-seeded Serb made slight work of Mayer, advancing 6-0, 6-4, 6-4 in a straight-sets romp that was seemingly over from the beginning of the match. With the sweltering heat belting down at temperatures well above 100 degrees, Djokovic employed a quick, efficient strategy meant to get him off the court as soon as possible.
Djokovic will face the victor of No. 30 Dmitry Tursunov and Denis Istomin, whose match was still ongoing as of match point. Istomin has lost all three of his matches against Djokovic, while Tursunov's only match against the world's second-ranked player ended in defeat.
If Djokovic continues playing the way he did on Tuesday, it's going to be awfully difficult to see either underdog pulling off the upset.
Playing a serve-and-volley game at least somewhat dictated by the heat, Djokovic forced the overmatched Mayer into 39 unforced errors. Never was the talent chasm more evident than in the 22-minute first set, when the 26-year-old Argentine hit only two winners and won only eight of the 33 points.
At times in the first set, it looked as if Djokovic would blank Mayer the entire way. Laser-focused from the opening point, he exhausted Mayer with a series of powerful shots, forcing eight unforced errors and needing only six winners on his 25 won points.
In the second set, though, Mayer showed that the size of someone's heart can't be measured by their world ranking. While the effort proved futile ultimately, Mayer came back after being embarrassed in the first six games and brought the match back into respectability.
Mayer hit a series of powerful serves, acing once and winning better than two-thirds of his first-serve points. He even got a nice moment after winning his first game of the match; the Rod Laver Arena crowd gave him a rousing ovation for the effort.
In the end, though, that's all it was. A rousing ovation for an effort, not a victory.
Though he would win four service points in the second set, Mayer's total futility against Djokovic's service game rendered him unable to mount a true comeback. Mayer captured only three second-set points on returns, despite Djokovic hitting a surprisingly low 13 of 23 of his first serves.
The story was much of the same in the deciding third set. Mayer, obviously with his confidence building with his serve, traded serve points until 4-4 before making a critical mistake that all but ended the match. Down 30-40 with his fifth serve, Mayer double-faulted for the third time and gave the serve back to Djokovic for a chance to win the match.
He did just that, winning his 23rd straight match at the Australian Open and 26th straight victory, dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Overall, Djokovic won 79.1 percent of his serve points and made only 11 unforced errors—a step in the right direction following an at-times sloppy opening-round victory.
For Djokovic to continue his push toward a fourth straight Down Under, he'll need to continue barreling through his matches the way he did Tuesday.
Much in the same way top-seeded Serena Williams on the women's side came out and tried to get through her match as quickly as possible, Djokovic has done the same. He's yet to drop a set through two matches and looks as comfortable as ever on his favorite surface.
The heat, at times unbearable, makes getting off the court and avoiding exhaustion key as the tournament goes along. For Djokovic, someone widely expected to win his side of the bracket, the one-hour, 47-minute match was key.
We'll have to see whether Djokovic can keep that up going forward. If history is any indication, that shouldn't be much trouble.
*Stats via the Australian Open.
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