Day six of the Australian Open saw some of the most entertaining tennis of the championship thus far in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic, the men’s top seed, was in sensational form as he swept aside the challenge of Nicolas Mahut. The Serbian made just eight errors in a dominant 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 victory. Saturday marked Mahut’s 30th birthday but the Frenchman was left with little more to celebrate than stretching his arms to the crowd following his opening game victory of the second set.
The victory marked the eight consecutive straight sets victory in Melbourne for Djokovic as he showed once again how determined he is to win his third Australian Open.
“I always played well in Australia. This is the only Grand Slam I won twice,” said Djokovic afterwards. “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.”
Andy Murray is one of the few players expected to keep pace with Djokovic and the two times runner-up, including last year, came through his test with Michael Llodra with flying colours.
The Scot hit 48 winners and looked very comfortable at the net during his 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 victory. Speaking afterwards it was clear just how much Murray enjoyed his match:
“Every point seemed to be a fun point. He was coming up with some unbelievable gets on the volleys and I was managing to dig up a lot at the net,” he said. Ivan Lendl would have preferred a few more bread and butter points, serve and forehand finish, but that was my style of tennis tonight.”
Murray will face Mikhail Kukushkin in the last 16 after the Kazakhstani knocked out Gael Monfils, the 14th seed. Kukushkin raced into a an early two set lead before Monfils found his feet and started to edge back into contention claiming the third set 7-5 before his opponent limped through the fourth set with an injury that required on court attention. It seemed that Monfils would ease through to fourth round for the second time in Australia before a back injury slowed him in the final set.
Speaking afterwards Monfils said:
“I mean, to be honest, I was lucky to be in the fifth. I was serving like 120, 130, a couple time maybe 200. But my second serve was 100,” said Monfils. “This one was tough because, you know, I had the sore back. But it was really cool. For sure the crowd help me. That’s why I choose to keep going, because I could easily give up.”
Day six saw a total of 13 French players take to the court with Marion Bartoli also joining her compatriots on the sidelines for the remainder of the opening Grand Slam of the year.
The ninth seed was defeated by Jie Xheng of China in straight sets.
There was however bright sparks for France on the middle weekend of the tournament with Jo Whilfried Tsonga who was a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victor over Frederocp Gil. He will face Kei Nishikori in the next round who eliminated another Frenchman, Julien Benneteau in four sets.
In the ladies draw Petra Kvitova availed of an injury to Maria Kirilenko at the beginning of the second set to move into the last 16 and a matchup with former finalist Ana Ivanovic. The Serbian has returned to form recently and now looks to be much more like the player she was when she won the French Open and ascended to the top of the world rankings in 2008.
The Serbian outplayed Vania King to win in straight sets. Speaking afterwards she said:
“I still believe I can do well,” Ivanovic said. “I’m just enjoying competing again. It’s going to be tough [against Kvitova], but I love challenges.”
While the results sheet would indicate that Maria Sharapova enjoyed an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Angelique Kerber the match played out in very different circumstances with a host of games going to deuce before Sharapvoa asserted her authority and power onto proceedings. Worryingly for the Siberian she struggled on second serve and made 22 unforced errors during the match.
Sharapova’s chances of winning this tournament depend on her ability to eliminate mistakes and serve well. She did this in her opening two matches but with a fourth round match against Sabine Lisicki, a former Wimbledon finalist, it is imperative that Sharapova finds her form once more.
Serena Williams had no such issues as she brushed aside Greta Arn. The 13th seed still appears somewhat rusty but her formidable forehand looked to be finding its range during this match. Speaking afterwards Williams said:
“I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m trying to play through it,” said Williams. “I’m really rusty. I’m just trying to play through the rust.”
Williams is, once again, the sole hope of American success in a Grand Slam and will play Ekaterina Makarova in the next round after the Russian defeated seventh seed, Vera Zvonareva in straight sets.