MELBOURNE, Australia – A huge crowd tried in vain to catch even a glimpse of Novak Djokovic a couple of courts over.
But Stan Wawrinka had a more manageable, but still impressive, crowd on Court 23 as he warmed up for an expected tough clash with American John Isner.
Isner, the No. 19 seed, had a good draw the first two rounds. He faced two South Americans – Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, and qualifier Alejandro Tabilo of Chile (via Canada).
The American served 46 aces in a four-tiebreak win over Monteiro. Against Tabilo, a straight-set win that took just an hour and 24 minutes, he added another 32.
So what do you do?
Assuming you can’t find Ivo Karlovic or Milos Raonic hanging around willing to hit you a few serves? You cheat a little.
Here’s what it looked like.
Short day at the office for Wawrinka
Wawrinka and his coach had the kid who was warming him up move up near the service line to hit serves, to mimic the speed and height from whence it would spring from Isner’s racket.
As well, even though the space behind the baseline on Court 23 was a little limited, Wawrinka backed his butt practically up to the fence to return.
In the end, Wawrinka didn’t have to do much; Isner retired down a set and 4-1 with a foot injury.
In 36 service points, Isner had seven aces. But of the 29 other points on the American serves, Wawrinka put the return in play 21 times.
The 2014 champion has made the semifinals in Australia twice since then. But he’s lost in the second round the last two years.
Now, he’s in the second week, to likely play No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev.
“You never want your opponent to pull out and to get injury. Then when it happen, you need to look from my side. I think I was playing well again today. I was really happy the way I was moving, the way I was playing. That’s very positive,” Wawrinka said. “It’s great to be back in the second week, that’s for sure. Feeling way better.”
Medvedev has beaten him twice in two meetings. Both have come in Grand Slams – in the first round of Wimbledon in 2017, and in the quarterfinals at the US Open last year.