Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates defeating Venus
Williams of the US in their women's singles match at the
Australian Open in Melbourne. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A welcome wind blew away the stifling heat at Melbourne
Park on Friday but there was no diverting Novak Djokovic or
Maria Sharapova from their paths to the last 16 of the
Australian Open on day five of the tournament.
Djokovic remained on course for his third straight title as
he marched into the fourth round without giving up a set
after successfully negotiating a tricky tie against Radek
Stepanek with a 6-4 6-3 7-5 win.
Sharapova was even more impressive and, although denied a
third successive 6-0 6-0 win of the week, looked every inch
the title contender in her 6-1 6-3 demolition of seven-times
grand slam champion Venus Williams.
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska also continued her red-hot
start to the year, notching up win number 12 with a 6-3 6-1
victory over Britain's Heather Watson in their third round
Playing with the roof closed on Rod Laver Arena because of a
few drops of rain that accompanied the cooler weather,
Djokovic had to work for every point against Stepanek, who
charged the net 67 times.
It was little more than a good workout for the world number
one, however, and before launching a broadside at disgraced
cyclist Lance Armstrong, he complimented the 34-year-old
Czech on his contribution to the match.
"He loves the big stage," the Serbian said. "You saw how much
fun he had. I also had a lot of fun playing. It was a very
entertaining match. He's very skilful, comes to the net,
never gives you the same ball twice."
Sharapova's flurry of fist pumps after she wound up her match
against Williams showed how much the victory meant to the
second seed, who has been in ruthless form this week despite
missing her one warm-up tournament with a collar-bone injury.
"I think the reason I started so well in this tournament is
because I knew that I had to," said the Russian 2008
"I knew I was coming in without any match play. It's tough. I
hadn't played a professional match, a real match, in over two
The absence of the injured world number four Rafa Nadal has
left a gaping hole in the top half of the draw and fourth
seed David Ferrer eased further into it with a 6-4 6-2 6-3
win over another entertainer, 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
The Spanish baseliner showed more than a few decent touches
of his own - most notably a sumptuous backhand lob - as he
set up a fourth-round contest against Japan's Kei Nishikori.
Big-serving Tomas Berdych was a 6-3 6-2 6-2 winner over
Jurgen Melzer and will face Kevin Anderson in the next round
with a likely quarter-final meeting with Djokovic on the
"Kevin Anderson has a huge serve so it could be like playing
against myself," the Czech fifth seed said of the South
African, who upset 22nd seed Fernando Verdasco 4-6 6-3 4-6
Djokovic must first get past Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, who
ended the 2013 challenge of the American men at Melbourne
Park when he beat Sam Querrey 7-6 7-5 6-4.
Eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic outlasted Frenchman Julien
Benneteau 3-6 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3 in a second successive five-set
match but Melbourne's changeable weather seemed to trouble
him as much as the length of his contests.
"The weather in Australia, I have to say it's crazy," he
said. "Today was beautiful, but it was really, really windy.
Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow? Probably we'll
have rain and we're going to end up playing indoors."
The Serbian will next face Spanish 10th seed Nicolas Almagro,
who ended Jerzy Janowicz's maiden Australian Open with a 7-6
7-6 6-1 win in a match that was free of the histrionics that
accompanied the Pole's second round victory.
Janowicz's compatriot Radwanska claims she is not
superstitious, which might be a good thing as she will face
13th seed Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round as he looks to
extend her winning streak to 13 matches.
"I just hope I keep going," last year's Wimbledon finallist
said. "Of course now it is going to be harder and harder
playing against seeded players."
Ivanovic won the battle of the Serbian former world number
ones against Jelena Jankovic 7-5 6-3 and was later joined in
the fourth round by another former French Open champion, Li
China's Li, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-1, reached the
final in 2011 and will fancy her chances of going deep again
this year, especially as Kim Clijsters, who beat her in both
the last two years, has now retired again.
American teenager Madison Keys was knocked out by German
fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the opening match on Rod Laver
"I'm taking away some positives. But right now, it kind of
sucks," the 17-year-old said after her 6-2 7-5 defeat.