Novak Djokovic makes good ground for a forehand return to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open. Photo: Aaron Favila/AP

MELBOURNE – World number one Novak Djokovic blasted past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 7-5 6-4 at the Australian Open on Thursday in a repeat of their 2008 Melbourne final, also won by the Serb.

The top seed vanquished his old French foe for the 17th time in 27 tour meetings stretching back 11 years, and advances to face Canada’s 25th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round.

Djokovic, 31, won the first of his 14 Grand Slams in that final against Tsonga over a decade ago, and he said the memories came flooding back as the pair walked back out on Rod Laver Arena.

“You could feel the tension on court at the beginning. We felt a lot of emotion, but we tried to play a great game,” said Djokovic as both players took a trip down memory lane.

That occasion remains world number 177 Tsonga’s sole Grand Slam final.

The 33-year-old is on the comeback trail after missing seven months of the 2018 season following left knee surgery, that saw his ranking plummet outside the top 200.

Back in 2008, Djokovic had won in four sets, and despite the easier-looking scoreline the Serb said Tsonga remained a hard opponent.

“It’s always tough to play Jo. He has struggled with injury, and his ranking doesn’t do him justice in my eyes.”

Rain delays earlier in the day meant that the second-round showdown began at 10.37pm on Thursday and finished at 12.41am local time on Friday after two hours and four minutes of play.

Djokovic thanked the fans for staying for the match. “It’s almost 1am,” he said. “But I don’t feel like sleeping.”

AFP