MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Top seed Novak Djokovic routed birthday boy Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 15 minutes to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open.
“I wish him happy birthday and hopefully tonight he can enjoy it,” Djokovic said.
“Well, it felt great. Obviously I feel for my opponent, who evidently could not move on the court. He could not get over, you know, into the rally two, three strokes.
“You know, I think most of the people expected him to just retire the match and walk out of the court. But he managed to stay. So all the credit for him and happy birthday.
“Well, considering the fact that I lost two games the whole match, I think I’ve played really, really well. You know, I’m not taking his situation right now in matter. But looking just of my game was really well, really fantastic from serve, the return, all the shots, going to the net.
“I’m happy with the way my first week went here in Australia, and hopefully I can continue the same way in the second one.
“Well, obviously the goal for every player who’s taking part in this Grand Slam is to do as best as he can and to start off the 2012 season in the best possible way.
‘I think to all of us, especially the top players, it’s important to go far here in Melbourne and feel that, you know, we have enough confidence that we are in the right shape and just start off this season the way we want to.
“I always played well in Australia. This is the only Grand Slam I won twice. As I said before, the reason that I skipped the opening week of the season was because I wanted to get ready for Melbourne.
“The conditions are great. They’re very suitable to my style of the game, day and night. I’m really looking forward to next week.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dismissed Frederico Gil of Portugal 6-2, 6-2.
“You know, every year and every tournament it’s a bit same story for me. I play better and better every match,” said the Frenchman.
“Yeah, today I played well and didn’t spend a lot of time on court, and it’s good for the rest of the tournament. Anyway, I’m confident, yeah.”
On the women’s side Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova had easy victories to advance to the fourth round. Kvitova’s opponent Maria Kirlenko retired with a thigh injury after Kvitova while Sharapova shut down Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2.
“Yeah, this one became pretty tough in the second set,” said Sharapova. “She certainly stepped it up, got that break back, got more confidence, started going for her shots.
I never faced her before, but knew she’s been on the big stage. Last Grand Slam she did pretty well. She’s been on that stage, has beaten good players.
“Yeah, I felt like I was aggressive enough. In the first set I didn’t give her a chance to do what she likes. In the second set, it became a bit more of a battle. But I felt like I stepped it up when I had to here and there. It ended up being 6‑2, so…”
Two seeds were knocked out of the women’s draw during the day – seventh seed Vera Zvonareva and No. 9 Marion Bartoli. Zvonareva was ousted by fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-6(7), 6-1 and Bartoli was topped by Zheng Jie 6-3, 6-3.
“Yeah, I think this year is a good start because I win Auckland and right now I win three match in Australian Open,” said Zheng.
“So it probably give me the big confidence. But I know every match is tough. So I don’t think too far. I just want step by step.”
Bartoli gave credit to her conqueror, “She played extremely well, first of all. I really thought that I was under pressure right away. I never get a grip on the match.
She was either doing the mistakes or hitting winners, but I never had really the chance to step up and dictate. That’s pretty unusual.
“I think either my ball was not going fast enough or she was extremely fast. I don’t know what was going on. But I really felt I couldn’t penetrate and I couldn’t hit winners, which usually I can do quite easily.
“So she was just much better than me today on the court and she deserved to win.”
“Yeah, the feeling that I got was really I couldn’t hurt her. I mean, she was hurting me all the time with either her forehand cross‑court or the speed she was having on her legs moving side to side.
“But I never felt like I was hitting hard enough to really push her back and me be inside the court. I was taking, I felt, too much risk to go for a lot more than usually what I felt on the court.
“I really committed too many unforced errors. It was really due to the way I was feeling on the court today.”
Ana Ivanovic defeated Vania King 6-3, 6-4.
No. 18 Richard Gasquet upset ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. He will play No. 5 David Ferrer in the fourth round. Ferrer dropped the first four games against Juan Ignacio Chela before rallying to win 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.
“I broke him early in the match,” said Gasquet. “I think it was important for me. I served well. I won 6‑3, 6‑3.
“After, he lost a little bit his confidence. I felt well, as I said. No, I played a good match. It’s good for me to win in three sets. I’m very happy to be in fourth round.”
“I don’t start really good,” said Ferrer. “I start a little bit nervous. He was play very, very good the first games. And after, when I won the first set, it was more easy, no? I play better with my shots. I play with more confidence. I did a good game, no?
Finally the second and the third set, I play good.
“It’s good. I won Auckland. I play really good. I am with very confidence. The first two matches here I don’t play really good. I don’t need my best game.
“But today in third round, the last two sets, I feel good. I feel good with my game.
“I want to focus with the next match against Richard Gasquet. Is going to be very tough and difficult match. Last year I made the semifinal. But every year is different. Now is different. I will play with different players and nothing else, no?
Always I go step to step.”
Kei Nisikori has made it to the fourth round of Melbourne, in fact he is the first Japanese player to make it that far.
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News