Second seed Daniil Medvedev, aiming to become the first Australian Open men’s singles champion from Russia since Marat Safin in 2005, remains on target.
A finalist at Melbourne Park last year, the 25-year-old made a triumphant return to Rod Laver Arena with a 6-1 6-4 7-6(3) defeat of Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in one hour and 54 minutes.
Laaksonen, 29, elicited murmurs of surprise from an appreciative crowd by breaking the second seed in the opening game, but the Russian immediately regained control of the match. Medvedev reeled off the next six consecutive service games, saving four break points to close out the set.
Laaksonen, yet to notch a win over a player ranked in the top five in three attempts, repeatedly flashed his big forehand and garnered plenty of support as the obvious underdog.
But Medvedev, as he often does, turned defence into offence and, demonstrating superb court coverage, secured a crucial break in the fifth game which he retained to earn a two-sets-to-love lead.
A masterclass in fine footwork and deft use of slice backhands ensued in the third set, which was a tighter affair as Laaksonen held his own to force a tiebreak.