Novak Djokovic not perfect again but survives Alexei Popyrin at Australian Open

Djokovic moves on to the third round.

Daniel Pockett/GettyImages
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In the 2023 Australian Open, Novak Djokovic won his 10th title in Melbourne and he dropped just one set all tournament. That came in the second round against Enzo Couacaud. Possibly, getting closer to defeating Novak Djokovic is easier in the early part of the tournament. But that is likely not the truth. Either way, through two rounds of the 2024 Australian Open, Djokovic has already lost more sets than he did in the 2023 version.

In the second round, Djokovic beat Aussie Alexei Popyrin 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) 6-3. Djokovic is clearly better than his first two opponents in this year's Aussie Open, but he has still found ways to struggle. Whether his recently injured wrist is still bothering him or possibly he still feels under the weather, Djokovic just has not been his normally dominant self.

Even as great as Djokovic has been throughout his career, he has still struggled with his first serve from time to time. This happened again versus Popyrin as Djokovic landed only 61 percent of his first serves and he won just 59 percent of his second serves. He was broken twice. Had Djokovic played a better returner than Popyrin, the match might have turned out differently.

Novak Djokovic gets past Alexei Popyrin at the Australian Open

Popyrin was by far the more aggressive player as well. He likely needed to be because simply trying to outhit Novak Djokovic from the baseline would be a mistake. The Australian had 52 winners compared to Djokovic's 31, but Popyrin also had 58 unforced errors. Again, had Djokovic played a player a notch better than Popyrin, we might have seen a major upset in the second round.

Djokovic is set to next play 30th-seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry. Etcheverry is a tricky player but he should not be the kind that gives Djokovic too many issues as he simply doesn't have the power needed to beat the Serb in a best-of-five-sets match. Maybe Djokovic will get back to his old ways in the third round and win in straight sets.

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