Tennis: Novak Djokovic made to work for Australian Open second round victory, Aryba Sabalenka cruises

Novak Djokovic fought off another feisty challenge to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after women's champion Aryna Sabalenka made more serene progress and Ons Jabeur crashed out at the hands of a schoolgirl.

Top 10 seeds Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas all got through their second-round contests in varying conditions as Melbourne lived up to its reputation for changeable weather.

Rain washed out more than three hours of play on the outer courts at the start of the day but the skies had long cleared by the time Djokovic took to the court where he has won 10 of his 24 Grand Slam titles.

Aryna Sabalenka cruised into the second round in Melbourne.
Aryna Sabalenka cruised into the second round in Melbourne. Photo credit: Getty Images

As in his four-hour first round clash against qualifier Dino Prizmic, the 36-year-old Serbian looked in full pomp in the opening set against Australian Alexei Popyrin but lost the second.

The aggressive Popyrin, backed by a crowd in full voice, had set points in the third set but Djokovic saved them and, riled by an exchange with a fan in the crowd, ran out a 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) 6-3 winner.

"I haven't been playing my best but I'm still trying to find my form," Djokovic said.

"I think both my first and second round opponents were really, really great quality tennis players and I managed to find a way to win four. That's what counts in the end."

The neighbouring Margaret Court Arena was also rocking in the evening session as locals backed Jordan Thompson as the gutsy Australian plotted an upset of Tsitsipas. 

Thompson took the first set but the Greek seventh seed gritted his teeth and battled back to win 4-6 7-6(6) 6-2 7-6(4) after a thrilling match where the final 13-minute game and fourth-set tiebreak were alone worth the admission.

His compatriot, women's eighth seed Maria Sakkari, will probably sleep less well after she was bounced out 6-4 6-4 by Russian Elina Avanesyan in the final match of the day.

Sabalenka made short work of 16-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova with a 6-3 6-2 in the early evening match on Rod Laver Arena - a second dominant victory over a qualifier for the Belarusian in her first Grand Slam title defence.

Jabeur's match against 16-year-old Russian Andreeva was played under the closed roof on the main showcourt but the Tunisian sixth seed could hardly blame the conditions given the one-sided nature of her 6-0 6-2 defeat.

"It was probably my best match," said Andreeva. "I'm super happy with the level that I showed today on the court."

Brazilian 10th seed Haddad Maia later had little trouble in her encounter with a talented teen, easing past a third 16-year-old, Russian Alina Korneeva, 6-1 6-2.

Sinner was delighted that the inclement weather forced the roof of Margaret Court Arena to be closed for his match against Jesper de Jong.

The fourth seed hit a rich vein of form at the end of last season on indoor courts and dominated the Dutch qualifier 6-2 6-2 6-2.

After the rain finally relented, the roof was back open for U.S. Open champion Gauff's second-round clash with fellow American Caroline Dolehide.

Initially, it looked like the women's fourth seed would ease through but Dolehide dragged her into a real scrap and Gauff was forced to fight until her fourth match point to prevail 7-6(2) 6-2.