The seeds started to meet on Friday at the Australian Open, where the men’s top seeds advanced in business-like fashion, and the lower seeds started packing for the long flights home.
In Top 10 play, No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 4 David Ferrer, and No. 5 Tomas Berdych all advanced in straight sets, while No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic barely survived an encounter with French No. 32 seed Julien “United Colors of” Benneteau, needing to take the final two sets to win 6-3 in the third.
The world No. 1 Djokovic said it was not easy against the net-rushing, chipping-and-charging game of No. 31 seed Radek “The Worm” Stepanek, but in his post-match interview the Serb was more passionate about ripping former cycling champ Lance Armstrong.
“I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,” said Djokovic of Armstrong’s appearance on the Oprah Show. “He cheated the sport. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story. I think they should take all his titles away because it’s not fair towards any sportsman, any athlete. It’s just not the way to be successful. So I think he should suffer for his lies all these years.”
Made to suffer Friday were No. 28 Marcos Baghdatis, beaten 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 by Ferrer, and No. 26 Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer, subdued 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 by Berdych.
South African Kevin Anderson was the only unseeded player to advance in the eight men’s matches Friday, into round 4 after dispatching of No. 22 seed Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.
Other seeds into the fourth round were No. 15 Stan Wawrinka defeating No. 20 Sam Querrey 7-6(6), 7-5, 6-4, making a Week 1 exit for the American men; No. 10 Nicolas Almagro past No. 24 “Not From” Jerzy Janowicz 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 6-1; and No. 16 Kei Nishikori dismissing unseeded Russian Evgeny Donskoy 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-3.
Wawrinka will next face Djokovic, and Querrey will next head back to the U.S. to prepare to likely represent the U.S. in Davis Cup play against Brazil in Jacksonville, Fla.
“He played really well,” Querrey said of Wawrinka. “These courts are quick and he has a nasty slice. But I feel good where my game is at and have had a good start to the year.”
On the women’s side it was also a tough day for Americans as teen Madison Keys choked away an opportunity to take No. 5 seed Angie Kerber to a third set, losing 6-2, 7-5, and the blockbuster meeting between former No. 1s Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova was anything but, with the Russian blowing out the elder Williams sister 6-1, 6-3.
Keys looked to have three set points on Kerber’s serve in the second set when a shot spot challenge by Kerber showed the ball barely clipping the line. So instead of 0-40 and three set points, the point was replayed and Keys’ mental defenses fell, not winning another point in the game en route to losing three straight games and the match.
The No. 2-seeded Sharapova looked nearly as dominant as she did in recording two double bagels in the first two rounds, easily bouncing Venus Williams from the event.
“Since the draw came out, I was really looking forward to that match-up,” said Sharapova, who ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first set, and 3-0 in the second set. “I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis that she’s capable of producing and playing. Despite what she’s ranked or seeded, it doesn’t matter when you go out on the court. She’s been there. She’s experienced enough to know no matter if you’re playing the third round, the quarters, or the final, you have to be ready. I certainly was.”
In other Top 10 play, No. 4 Aggie Radwanska eased past Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-1, and No. 6 Li Na defeated No. 27 Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-1.
“After he start teaching me, I’m always asked about him in press conferences. So, Carlos — you stay here and answer some questions,” Na said about her new coach, Carlos Rodriguez, who guided Justine Henin to fame. “He’s not only a teacher about tennis. It’s not only about technique. He’s also about making my mind more stronger on the court. I feel more relaxed working with him. He never gives me pressure.”
Radwanska tried to explain her 12-match winning streak to the press after defeating Watson.
“Of course, I was practicing hard in the off-season, a lot of fitness, but just feeling good on court,” Radwanska said. “I’m very confident from the beginning and just happy that I can play really my best tennis from the beginning of the year.”
Other seeded winners were No. 13 Ana Ivanovic victorious in the all-Serb match-up against No. 22 Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-3; No. 18 Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges outlasting China’s Zheng Jie 6-3, 1-6, 7-5; and No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova upsetting No. 11 Marion Bartoli 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4.
Ivanovic improved to 8-3 career against Jankovic, and will next face Radwanska.
“She’s definitely matured a lot as a player,” Ivanovic said of Radwanska, who has yet to lose a match in 2013 in her third event. “She was always a very tough competitor. She has style of game that she doesn’t give you much and you really have to work for your points. Being patient is going to be a key…It’s going to be a balance of being aggressive enough and then still patient enough.”
In the only all-unseeded meeting of the day, Belgian Kirsten Flipkens defeated Russian Valeria Savinykh 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
Matches to look out for Saturday in Oz include (1) Victoria Azarenka vs. surging American Jamie Hampton, (3) Serena Williams vs. Japanese sacrifice Ayumi Morita, (3) Andy Murray vs. former junior phenom Ricardas Berankis, (1) Roger Federer vs. Aussie Bernard Tomic “The Tank Engine,” (6) Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, an all-French meeting in (14) Gilles Simon vs. Gael “Force” Monfils, (29) Sloane Stephens vs. Brit comer Laura Robson, and (13) Milos “Big Baby” Raonic vs. (17) Philipp Kohlschreiber.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Neither Roger Federer nor Bernard Tomic have lost their serve through two rounds…Maria Sharapova has lost just four games in three matches. Sharapova’s game streak was halted at 28 by Venus Williams… No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber celebrated her 25th birthday by beating up on American 17-year-old Madison Keys to reach her first career Australian Open
fourth round…There are no American men left in the fourth round at the Australian Open (again). Bring back Andy Roddick, that’s 37 straight Slams without an American man winner since Andy won the 2003 US Open…All three of Janko Tipsarevic’s wins have gone over three hours…Former ATP Top 20 doubles star Andrew Florent is reportedly battling cancer. According to a story in the Melbourne Herald, the prognosis for the 42-year-old is “dire”…Bernard Tomic gets another go at Roger Federer, can he back up all the talk?…Janko Tipsarevic hasn’t lost a match this year…Kevin Anderson is the first South African to reach a Grand Slam R16 since Wayne Ferreira at the 2003 Australian Open…So why didn’t the tournament play a men’s singles early in the day on Friday?…Sloane Stephens and Laura Robson are the last two teens left in the singles tournament. The last teen to reach the final 16 at the Australian Open was Caroline Wozniacki in 2010…Is Milos Raonic even playing this event? Haven’t heard a peep…David Ferrer will be the top-ranked Spaniard after the tournament…Serena Williams has won 18 straight matches, and 37 of her last 38…Andy Murray has won his last 9 Grand Slam matches…Roger Federer is looking to become the first man to win 250 Grand Slam matches. He already holds the record for the most Grand Slam match wins in history, ahead of Jimmy Connors (233) and Andre Agassi (224).
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