Serena Williams stepped up her drive for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam Thursday by swatting aside Eugenie Bouchard, as world number one Novak Djokovic won an emotional 2008 Australian Open final rematch with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
But women’s top seed Simona Halep and young gun Alexander Zverev had to dig deep to make the third round on a day of epic battles and the latest start to a match ever at the tournament.
American great Williams followed up her first-round 49-minute romp by spending just 70 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to dispose of the Canadian 6-2, 6-2.
Serbian top seed Djokovic is also looking to make history by winning a seventh title.
He was too good again for France’s Tsonga, rolling through 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
In contrast, world number one Halep staggered through against American Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 -- her second three-set test in a row.
The French Open champion, who now meets Venus Williams after the 38-year-old rolled back the years to beat France’s Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
In another titanic battle, Canadian Milos Raonic ousted 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in four tightly-contested sets that all went to tie-breaks. The Swiss, unseeded for the first time since his debut in 2006, fell 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (7/5).
Eighth seed Kei Nishikori was stretched to a draining five sets against Ivo Karlovic. Asia’s top-ranked men’s player Nishikori needed an energy-sapping 3hr 48min to get past big-serving Croat Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (10/7) in humid conditions.
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem limped out when he retired while losing 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 to young Australian wildcard Alexei Popyrin.
Zverev also struggled against veteran world number 36 Jeremy Chardy, before putting him away 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1.
Amid rain delays and drawn-out matches, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza and Britain’s Johanna Konta didn’t get on court until half-past midnight - the latest start to a match in the event’s history.
US Open champion and fourth seed Naomi Osaka had it relatively easy, sweeping past Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-4 with the roof closed on Margaret Court Arena due to the rain.
The 21-year-old’s breakthrough at Flushing Meadow over Serena Williams last year made her a new standard bearer for tennis in her Japanese homeland and Asia, and she is working hard on living up to the hype.
Despite being seeded six and seven respectively, neither Elina Svitolina or Karolina Pliskova has progressed further than the last eight at the Australian Open.
But self-assured Svitolina is bubbling with confidence after dismantling Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-1, while Pliskova woke up after losing the first set to race past Madison Brengle 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.
Other women through included Italy’s Camila Giorgi and China’s impressive Wang Qiang.
Men still in the hunt included Croat Borna Coric and Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta.
Garbine Muguruza claimed a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Johanna Konta early on Friday to reach the third round and etch in her name into the record books as the winner of the latest starting match in the tournament's history.
With a log-jam in scheduling caused by two men's five-setters earlier on Thursday, 18th seed Muguruza and Briton Konta were kept from playing their first point until 12:30 am local time (1330 GMT) in front of a smattering of fans at Margaret Court Arena.
Results (prefix denotes seeding): Second round: men’s singles: 8-Kei Nishikori (JPN) bt Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (10/7); 11-Borna Coric (CRO) bt Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; 23-Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP) bt Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7); 12-Fabio Fognini (ITA) bt Leonardo Mayer (ARG) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5); Joao Sousa (POR) bt 32-Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4; Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) bt 24-Chung Hyeon (KOR) 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4; 16-Milos Raonic (CAN) bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (7/5); 25-Denis Shapovalov (CAN) bt Taro Daniel (JPN) 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3; 21-David Goffin (BEL) bt Marius Copil (ROU) 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4; 15-Daniil Medvedev (RUS) bt Ryan Harrison (USA) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3; Filip Krajinovic (SRB) bt Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/2); Alexei Popyrin (AUS) bt 7-Dominic Thiem (AUT) 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 retired; Alex Bolt (AUS) bt 29-Gilles Simon (FRA) 2-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4; 28-Lucas Pouille (FRA) bt Maximilian Marterer (GER) 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (10/8), 5-7, 6-4; 1-Novak Djokovic (SRB) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; 4-Alexander Zverev (GER) bt Jérémy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1.
Women’s singles: 27-Camila Giorgi (ITA) bt Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-2, 6-0; 21-Wang Qiang (CHN) bt Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 6-2, 6-3; 6-Elina Svitolina (UKR) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-4, 6-1; 7-Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 4-6, 6-1, 6-0; 13-Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) bt Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2; 12-Elise Mertens (BEL) bt Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-1, 7-5; 28-Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3, 6-4; 17-Madison Keys (USA) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4; Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) bt Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) 6-2, 7-5; 4-Naomi Osaka (JPN) bt Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-2, 6-4; Zhang Shuai (CHN) bt Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 6-3, 7-5; 1-Simona Halep (ROU) bt Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4; Venus Williams (USA) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-0; Dayana Yastremska (UKR) bt 23-Carla Suarez (ESP) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; 16-Serena Williams (USA) bt Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) 6-2, 6-2.