2021 Australian Open: Novak Djokovic fights off challenge of Frances Tiafoe
Photo: Paul Crock

Top seed Novak Djokovic won his 16th consecutive match at the Australian Open, but not before holding off a spirited challenge from Frances Tiafoe in their second round encounter with the world number one coming out on top 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-3.

In what was a well-played match, Djokovic struck 56 winners to Tiafoe's 49 while the Serb also fired 26 aces to the American's 23. The top seed moves on to face another young American. 27th seed Taylor Fritz, in the third round.

Eight-time champion made to work hard by American in high-quality match

Djokovic broke to love in the second game of the match after Tiafoe committed a forehand error to take a quick 2-0 lead. Rescuing a 0-30 deficit to hold, the Serb now led 3-0.

Tiafoe was hanging in the set, slamming down an ace on game point to stay within touch at 4-2. The American then broke to love to get the set back on serve, but he couldn't keep up the momentum.

The world number one stung a forehand to break again to go in front 5-3 and he wrapped up the set a game later with a winner. The second set saw Tiafoe pound a forehand of his own to go up 2-1.

From deuce, a Djokovic error and unreturnable Tiafoe serve kept the world number 62 in front 4-3. The set would eventually be decided in a tiebreaker that Tiafoe took control of, winning the final four points, to level the match.

Tiafoe reacts during his second-round match: Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Tiafoe reacts during his second-round match: Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

The momentum quickly shifted back to Djokovic as he seized an early break in the second game of the third set only to watch Tiafoe respond, breaking back in the fifth game. Back-to-back aces from the American close out a service game that takes the third set to 4-4.

After saving two more break points, Tiafoe forced a second straight tiebreaker which Djokovic gained an early minibreak in. took after a winner on set point to go ahead two sets to one.

At 30-30 in the third game of the fourth set, Tiafoe fired back-to-back aces to hold and keep his nose in front 2-1. After getting broken and trailing 4-3, the American was docked a point that cost him the game and serving to stay alive trailing 5-3, he double-faulted on match point, bringing an end to three and a half hours of excellent tennis.

Djokovic reaches for a forehand/Photo: Matt King/Getty Images
Djokovic reaches for a forehand/Photo: Matt King/Getty Images