Against 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer yesterday showed that his first two wins against qualifiers at the Australian Open really were warm-ups.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, seeded a low-by-his-standards 17th after spending six months on the sidelines last season, only needed 90 minutes to beat Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.
This was against a rival who played the Wimbledon final in 2010 and reached the quarter-finals or better in Australia the previous six years. And he had beaten Federer in six of their previous 22 matches.
Federer hit some vintage backhand winners, one that earned a hearty applause from the great Rod Laver — sitting in the crowd at the stadium named in his honor — in the second set. He had 40 winners and won 95 percent of points when he got his first serve into play.
He next plays fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori, who beat Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for a sixth straight year at Melbourne Park. Federer leads that matchup 4-2, winning the past three.
The winner of that has a potential quarter-final against top-ranked Andy Murray, who showed no signs of trouble with his sore ankle as he advanced to the round of 16 for the ninth straight year with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 31 Sam Querrey.
It was Querrey who ended then-No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s impressive Grand Slam run in the third round at Wimbledon last year. At the time, Djokovic had won four straight major titles — Wimbledon and the US Open in 2015 and the Australian Open and French Open last year.
Murray, who replaced Djokovic at No. 1 in November last year, said he was surprised at the six-time Australian Open champion’s second-round loss to Denis Istomin the previous night.
However, the five-time Australian Open runner-up did not think it changed anything for him, unless he reached the final.
“I wasn’t scheduled to play Novak today, so my job’s to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well,” said Murray, who lost to Djokovic in four of the five finals he has contested in Melbourne. “I did that.”
“Obviously, if you’re to get to the final, then it has an effect,” he added.
Murray next plays Mischa Zverev, who had a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Malek Jaziri.
Seven-time major winner Venus Williams routed Duan Yingying 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour to progress to the fourth round for the 10th time since her Australian Open debut in 1998.
“It’s good, [but] it’s never enough,” she said, looking ahead to her fourth-round match against Mona Barthel. “I’ve tasted it before and it’s always a great feeling, because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarter-finals. That’s what I’m going to go for.”
The last two Americans in the men’s draw lost within an hour of each other. After Querrey’s exit, No. 23-seeded Jack Sock lost 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-7 (10/8), 6-3 to No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
There are no more Australians in the men’s draw, either, after Daniel Evans beat Bernard Tomic 7-5, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3).
US Open champion Stan Wawrinka was twice broken while serving for the match before finishing off a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7) win over Viktor Troicki.
Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open winner, is next to play Andreas Seppi, who beat Steve Darcis 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/2).
Angelique Kerber had a straight-sets win for the first time in her first Australian Open title defense, 6-0, 6-4 against Kristyna Pliskova. Top-ranked Kerber is next to play 35th-ranked Coco Vandeweghe, who reached the fourth round in Australia for the first time with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over 2014 semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard.
Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova held off former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 5-7, 9-7 in three hours. She next plays No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat No. 11 Elina Svitolina 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and Polish partner Lukasz Kubot defeated Australian duo Daria Gavrilova and Luke Saville 6-3, 7-5 in their mixed doubles first-round match.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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