MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Defending champion Novak Djokovic banished the ghosts of past wildcards by sending Japan's Tatsuma Ito 6-1 6-4 6-2 to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action against the Japanese Tatsuma Ito REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach
Number two in the world was pushed out of the second round by Melbourne's Uzbek Denis Istomin three years ago.
He had no such problem against Ito, who won his place in the draw with the win in the Asia Pacific wildcard playoffs.
Djokovic fought in his opener against the non-seeded German Jan-Lennard Struff in four sets and was back in top form when he fired 16 aces and won 31 winners in a 95-minute game in a gusty Rod Laver arena.
"I got into the match and played very well in the beginning," Djokovic told reporters after getting a 5-0 lead in 15 minutes.
"Overall, I'm just happy with the performance.
"It's only the second round. I have to keep going. I feel comfortable and safe playing in Australia. The history of my results here has been very positive."
Ito, a 31-year-old journeyman in 146th place in the world, trained Djokovic properly in the second set, but the Serb opened the game with an inspired passage.
He struggled to get a drop shot and put a cross-court forehand winner in the right position to set the set point, then converted it with an ace.
Ito promptly crumbled 4-1 in the third run, and Djokovic, who clinched a record-breaking eighth title at Melbourne Park, marched to victory with a shot of throbbing.
In Yoshihito Nishioka he meets another Japanese player who knocked out the Dan Danans, the 30th seed, in two sets from the tournament for a place in the fourth round.
"I play against all Japanese players on the field," laughed Djokovic on the pitch.
"He (Nishioka) is very fast, probably one of the fastest on tour."
Djokovic beat Nishioka 6-1 and 6-2 at the Davis Cup final in November in Spain.
"I know where his strengths and weaknesses are and I hope that I can run the game plan," added the Serb.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Edited by Tom Hogue / Peter Rutherford