Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams underlined their status as title favorites by cruising into the fourth round of tennis’s Australian Open with straight-set victories. Li Na and David Ferrer also advanced in Melbourne as yesterday’s temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) for the fourth consecutive day.
No. 2 seed Djokovic of Serbia beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in straight sets in a match that ended at 12.10 a.m. this morning on Rod Laver Arena. The only blemish came when he lost his serve when trying to close out the match, allowing Istomin, the world No. 49, to level at 5-5. The comeback didn’t last long as Djokovic immediately broke back and served out for a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory.
“It’s never going to be easy. Denis is a quality opponent,” Djokovic, who’s seeking a fourth straight Australian Open title and a fifth in total, said in a televised interview.
Djokovic, 26, lost the No. 1 ranking to Spain’s Rafael Nadal last year. He’s the bookmakers’ favorite to win the season’s opening Grand Slam after winning four straight tournaments at the end of 2013, including victory against Nadal at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
The early-hours win extends his unbeaten run to 27, a statistic that appeared to please his new coach, a grinning Boris Becker.
“It’s been great. We have a great understanding for each other,” Djokovic said of the German, who won six Grand Slams singles titles in his career. “I can’t wait to get Boris on court and hit a few balls with him.”
Djokovic, who’s won six majors himself, will play Italian Fabio Fognini in the next round after the 15th seed beat American Sam Querrey in straight sets.
France’s Richard Gasquet became the second top-10 men’s player to exit, following No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro’s defeat a day earlier. Gasquet, seeded ninth, was beaten in four sets by No. 17 Tommy Robredo of Spain.
Top-ranked Nadal, who missed last year’s Australian Open through injury, plays his third-round match this evening in the second of two night matches on Rod Laver Arena. Nadal faces No. 25 Gael Monfils of France, a player he’s beaten nine times out of 11.
Defending women’s champion Victoria Azarenka, seeded two, precedes Nadal on the showpiece court. The Belarusian’s match against Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Maria Sharapova, the third seed from Russia, plays French 25th seed Alize Cornet for a place in the quarterfinals. With play scheduled to start at 11 a.m. today, Sharapova’s match is the first on Rod Laver, followed by Roger Federer’s clash with the unseeded Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Federer, seeded sixth at this year’s event, is vying with Djokovic for a fifth Australian Open title, an unprecedented feat since tennis turned professional in 1968.
Britain’s Andy Murray, a three-time finalist who is seeded fourth, plays Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, the 26th seed, on Hisense Arena.
Five-time champion and top seed Williams advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova, the 31st seed. The American captured the Australian Open title in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
“I just look forward to some cooler weather,” Williams, who hasn’t lost a set in her three matches, said in a news conference.
The victory was Williams’s 61st at the Australian Open, breaking the record she shared with Margaret Court for the most wins in the tournament during the professional era that began in 1968. Williams is now 61-8 in Melbourne.
Williams, 32, will tie with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 Grand Slams singles titles if, as bookmakers expect, she wins in Melbourne.
“In life, 32 is young, in sports it’s old,” she told reporters. “But for whatever reason, I feel like I just never was really able to reach my full potential, and I feel like recently I just have been able to do a little better.”
China’s Li, a year younger than Williams, had a tougher time before coming back in 107-degree heat to defeat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in three sets yesterday.
Forecasters say temperatures today will only reach the low 70s, with a chance of rain.
“At least I’m still in the tournament so I can enjoy the cool day,” Li said in a news conference.
A two-time finalist in Melbourne and the fourth seed this year, Li faced a match point when serving at 5-6 in the second set against Safarova. The 26th seed squandered the opportunity, hitting a backhand just long, enabling Li to take command. She completed her 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 victory in two hours 37 minutes.
“I think the five centimeters save my tournament,” Li added. “If she’d hit it in, I think, my whole team would have been on the way to the airport.”
Li will play Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round after the 22nd seed defeated Monica Niculescu of Romania in straight sets. Williams’s next opponent is Serb Ana Ivanovic, the 14th seed, who ended Australian hope Sam Stosur’s chances with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win.
“We had really tough matches in the past,” Ivanovic, a former world No. 1, said of her forthcoming clash with Williams. “I look forward to the challenge.”
The exit of 17th seed Stosur means Australia’s hopes now rest with the unseeded Casey Dellacqua. The 120th ranked player beat China’s Zheng Jie in straight sets and is the only home player left in either of the singles draws. She’ll play Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard for a place in the quarterfinals.
Bouchard, 19, became the first Canadian to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open since Maureen Drake in 1999. The 30th seed beat American Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2.
No. 9 Angelique Kerber of Germany also made the round of 16, with a 6-3, 6-4 win against unseeded American Alison Riske.
Men’s third seed Ferrer of Spain moved into the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory against No. 29 Jeremy Chardy of France. Next he’ll play Florian Mayer, the unseeded German, who ousted No. 20 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in straight sets.
No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic also advanced without losing a set. His next opponent is South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, seeded 19, who fought back from two sets down to defeat France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 in just under four hours.
Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded eight, progressed without hitting a ball after his opponent, Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, failed to recover from a back injury that forced him to pull out of a doubles match a day earlier.