Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Jelena Jankovic scrapped to hard-earned victories as ethnic violence again overshadowed the Australian Open on Friday.
Russia’s Dinara Safina continued to bulldozer through the draw and young guns Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro set up an enticing fourth-round match in other tennis highlights. But attention will inevitably focus on the violent clashes which followed Djokovic’s four-set win over Bosnian-American Amer Delic.
Dozens of Bosnian and Serb youths hurled plastic chairs and other missiles at each other,leaving one woman with minor injuries. About 30 people were thrown out as skirmishes continued outside.
“A number of people got into a chair-throwing contest between two groups with the result that 30-odd people were ejected from Rod Laver,” said Inspector Chris Duthie of Melbourne East Police. “We’re charging two on summons and one will be receiving an on-the-spot fine.”
A male streaker also invaded one court and danced around,naked from the waist down,in another security lapse. The Australian Open was first marred by violence in 2007,when Serbian and Croatian fans attacked each other with flagpoles,bottles and boots.
Then last year,police used pepper spray to subdue rowdy elements of the crowd watching a match between Konstantinos Economidis of Greece and Chile’s Fernando Gonzales.
The latest incidents took the gloss off another engrossing day of tennis with defending champion Djokovic made to work by Delic on a hot day before running out a 6-2,4-6,6-3,7-6 (7/4) winner. “I’m really sad to hear about it,” said Delic when told of the violence.
“As I said a couple of days ago,there’s absolutely no place for that here. This is a tennis match.”
While Djokovic went through Spain’s David Ferrer,the 11th seed who was beaten by Djokovic in the quarter-finals last year,crashed out to Croatia’s Marin Cilic 7-6 (7/5),6-3,6-4.
Cilic will now meet dangerous Argentine eighth seed Juan Martin del Potro who came from a set down to beat Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-7 (5/7),7-5,6-3,7-5.
In a match lasting almost three-and-a-half hours,del Potro weathered some brilliant serving from Muller to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time,surpassing his third-round effort at the US Open in 2006.
America’s Andy Roddick made short work of Fabrice Santoro,36,while the giant-killing run of Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun came to an end at the hands of Spanish 21st seed Tommy Robredo.
Roger Federer is on court later Friday in a blockbuster evening match against Russia’s Marat Safin,the man who beat the Swiss in the semi-finals en route to the title in 2005. Safin’s sister Safina is running into form as the tournament progresses and whipped Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2,6-2 as she stayed on track to meet Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals.
The third seed came into the tournament after a breakthrough 2008 in which she snared four titles plus Olympic silver,and made good on her stated intention of playing a more aggressive game this year.
“Finally I played my game. Compared to my first two matches,I reached my level,” said Safina,22.
Top seed Jankovic was made to work against Japan’s Ayumi Morita,10 years her senior,before grinding out a 6-4,6-4 win.
“I have always had tough matches against her,she has a lot of experience and is a very solid player so I really had to work for every point,” Jankovic said.
Also into the fourth round is Russia’s Vera Zvonareva,with the seventh seed playing scintillating tennis. Tenth seeded Russian Nadia Petrova also went through.