January 18, 2014 4:51:37 am
Novak Djokovic’s bid for a fourth successive title at Melbourne Park shifted up a gear with an impressive 6-3 6-3 7-5 win over Uzbek Denis Istomin on Friday, booking the Serb a place in the Australian Open fourth round.
He joined other big names in Serena Williams, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka in making progress on a day where the weather eventually relented.
After a series of hot days at Melbourne, with play on Wednesday getting called off in the middle, Friday even saw a spot of rain, late in the day. Ana Ivanovic was battling local star Sam Stosur when the rains came down and the roof was put in place. It proved welcome relief for both players and fans during an unusually hot Australian summer.
The second seed Djokovic was a model of controlled aggression under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, punishing Istomin’s lack of court speed before picking him off with 31 crisp winners.
With new coach Boris Becker watching from the player’s box, Djokovic was ruffled when broken for the first time serving for the match at 5-4 and threw a few icy stares at a rowdy pocket of fans.
But he roared in triumph after breaking back immediately and closed it out on the second match point when Istomin pushed a shot wide. Djokovic will play Italian 15th seed Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarter-finals.
With the win, Djokovic extended his winning streak to 27 matches and stayed on track for a fourth consecutive Australian Open title, a feat that hasn’t been achieved in the modern era. He has won all three matches so far in straight sets and his major threats — top-seeded Nadal, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer — are in the other half of the draw. “I have to be satisfied … as the tournament progresses I’m playing better and better,” Djokovic said.
Before rain cooled things off at Melbourne Park, Serena Williams persevered through a fourth day of searing temperatures to also advance. Five-time champion Williams equaled Margaret Court’s Australian Open mark of 60 match wins with her second-round win, and beat that in the third round when she also matched Lindsay Davenport’s record of 69 main-draw matches here in the Open era.
On Sunday, she’ll play former No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic, who beat 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-2. Williams withdrew from the doubles with her sister Venus, avoiding any extra exposure to the blazing sun during the once-in-a-century heat wave.
Ferrer’s attritional win
Super-fit third seed David Ferrer’s attritional style was made for hot conditions and he survived a second set wobble to wear down Frenchman Jeremy Chardy to reach the fourth round at a 15th consecutive grand slam with a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory. Ranked and seeded third after Murray missed the back end of last season, Ferrer next faces Florian Mayer with Tomas Berdych or Kevin Anderson waiting in the quarter-finals.
Kevin Anderson came from two sets down for the second time in four days to reach the last 16, outlasting Edouard Roger-Vasselin 3-6 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 in just under four hours. The tall South African trailed 0-4 in the fourth set and 3-5 in the fifth before winning on Margaret Court Arena. “It was a lot of emotions at the end,” said Anderson. “Just a lot of excitement. A little bit of disbelief as well.”
Berdych, by contrast, eased into the fourth round without having dropped a set all week courtesy of a 6-4 6-2 6-2 victory over Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur on Hisense Arena. Even without the accordion that serenaded his victory over Ivan Dodig on Wednesday, Dzumhur once again attracted lively support from his compatriots but Berdych smashed 13 aces and 32 winners to silence them.
With Nadal, Federer and Murray in the other half, Berdych knows he will rarely have a better chance to reach a first semi-final at Melbourne Park. “You know, it’s always about the draw,” said Berdych, “Really, if I’m going to have it once pretty good, yes, I take it.”
Yuki in doubles upset
Wild card entrants Yuki Bhambri and Michael Venus created a big upset by dumping 10th seeded Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau out while Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek scored an easy straight sets win.
Yuki and Venus shocked the experienced Dutch-Romanian pair 6-4 6-4 in the second round in just 64 minutes. Yuki and Venus, playing their first Major, did not face a single breakpoint in the contest and broke their rivals once in each set to move to the next stage.
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