MELBOURNE, Australia — Frances Tiafoe rolled up his sleeve, flexed and slapped his biceps muscle five times to celebrate the biggest victory of his career, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback against two-time Grand Slam finalist and No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson in the Australian Open’s second round.
Tiafoe, 20, trailed by a set and 3-0 in the second Wednesday before turning the match around as Anderson’s big serve slowed down because of problems with his right arm. Anderson was repeatedly visited by a trainer during changeovers and he lost about 5 mph on his first serves as the match progressed.
Anderson was the runner-up at Wimbledon last year and at the U.S. Open in 2017 and had won all three previous matchups against Tiafoe, who’s is ranked 39th.
Now, Tiafoe is into the third round at a major for the second time, equaling his best showing.
Defending champion Roger Federer’s strong run against qualifiers at Grand Slam tournaments continued with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3 win over Daniel Evans in the second round.
Federer also maintained his 100 percent record of reaching the third round at the Australian Open — 20 times in a row.
The six-time Australian Open champion has lost just once in 27 matches against qualifiers in majors, and that came to Mario Ancic at Wimbledon 17 years ago.
After two tougher-than-expected sets, Federer broke Evans’ serve to take a 3-1 lead in the third set and served out the match.
Federer, 37, will play either Gael Monfils or Taylor Fritz in the third round.
Marin Cilic capped a 25-ace performance with a pair to serve out a second-round victory, beating 81st-ranked Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S. 7-5, 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4.
Cilic was the runner-up here to Federer last year and is seeded No. 6 this time.
Sloane Stephens advanced at the expense of her former doubles partner Timea Babos in a second-round match the women’s tour billed as a meeting of the so-called “frenemies.”
Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, dominated the Rod Laver Arena opener 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday but Babos kept her working by saving 18 of the 23 break points she faced.
The two combined to win three junior Grand Slam doubles titles, the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, in 2010.
Stephens said she knew what to expect from Babos but that didn’t make it any smoother.
“I just had to hang in there and be patient,” she said.
Stephens will next play No. 31-seeded Petra Martic, who beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 7-5.
This is the first time since 2014 that Stephens has put back-to-back wins together at Melbourne Park. She reached the fourth round in 2014, a year after making a run to the semifinals.
“It’s tough getting back into the swing of things,” Stephens said of her preparation for the season-opening major, which this month included first- and second-round losses in Brisbane and Sydney. “It’s a little bit toasty, but a beautiful place to play.”
In other early women’s matches Wednesday, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova eliminated ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of a major for the first time since her quarterfinal run here in 2017, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat 20th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova eliminated ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of a major for the first time since her quarterfinal run here in 2017, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat 20th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3. No. 19-seeded Caroline Garcia advanced 6-3, 6-3 over Zoe Hives.
Howard Fendrich is an Associated Press writer.
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