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Federer keeps hunt for Slam number 20 on track

Djokovic downplays injury as he makes 11th round-of-16 appearance

Image Credit: AP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer makes forehand return to France’s Richard Gasquet during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Gulf News

Melbourne: Defending champion Roger Federer continued his dominance over Richard Gasquet to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open on Saturday and keep his quest for a 20th Grand Slam title on track.

The Swiss star beat the Frenchman 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in just under two hours in a night match on Rod Laver Arena.

Novak Djokovic earlier sought a medical timeout for a lower back injury as he claimed his 11th round-of-16 appearance on Saturday. The six-time champion advanced with a clear-cut 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Spanish 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Federer has unheralded Hungarian and one-time training partner Marton Fucsovics up next and a potential quarter-final with Tomas Berdych, who upset Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets earlier.

Federer, rated the favourite to win his 20th major even at the venerable age of 36, progressed to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the 16th time.

The Swiss has only lost twice to the stylish Frenchman in their 19 meetings, winning all their four Grand Slam encounters.

Significantly, Gasquet hasn’t won a set against Federer since 2011, a run of 22 sets to the Swiss.

“I was able to stay more on the offensive than he was and maybe I was protecting my own serve better than him,” Federer said.

“The second set was tight. The match was close. Tough games. The end could have gone to a tie-breaker, and then you never know.

“I am coming in this year very fit and well equipped where five-setters was not an issue where last year was a question mark.”

Federer, who did not face a break point in 26 games, lost his only serve in the match late in the third set on his second break point, such was his dominance.

The Swiss legend broke Gasquet’s serve five times and hit 42 winners with 30 unforced errors.

He improved his Australian Open record to 90-13.

There was some concern in Djokovic’s camp when the former world No.1 sought a medical timeout early in the second set for treatment to his lower back.

Djokovic later played down the extent of the problem, saying “it’s okay, nothing major.”

The Serb, looking for matches after a six-month lay-off with right elbow trouble, will face South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in Sunday’s fourth round after he shocked fourth seed Alexander Zverev.

The injury was a fresh worry for the 12-time Grand Slam champion, whose ranking has slipped to 14 after an inactive second half of 2017.

“It’s okay. Nothing major. I knew I wanted to use the medical timeout because I needed it,” he said.

“But at the same time I knew it was nothing major that can potentially raise a question mark on whether I can continue playing or not. It was fine.

“Look, I haven’t played for six months. We have to take that in consideration.

“I played a long match against Gael Monfils a few days ago. I have maybe some tensions in the muscles or whatever, some kind of physical challenges.

“It’s nothing major to be concerned about. I’ll deal with it. It’s fine.”

Djokovic, who was upset by Denis Istomin in the second round of last year’s tournament, was workmanlike as he broke the Spaniard’s serve five times, although his errors outnumbered his winners 40-37.



(Seedings in parentheses)

Men’s singles

Third round

Dominic Thiem (5), Austria, def. Adrian Mannarino (26), France, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.

Tennys Sandgren, US def. Maximilian Marterer, Germany, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Novak Djokovic (14), Serbia, def. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (21), Spain, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

Hyeon Chung, Korea, def. Alexander Zverev (4), Germany, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Fabio Fognini (25), Italy, def. Julien Benneteau, France, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Tomas Berdych (19), Czech def. Juan Martin Del Potro (12), Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

Marton Fucsovics, Hungary, def. Nicolas Kicker, Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

Roger Federer (2), Switzerland, def. Richard Gasquet (29), France, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

Women’s singles

Third round

Simona Halep (1), Romania, def. Lauren Davis, US 4-6, 6-4, 15-13.

Naomi Osaka, Japan, def. Ashleigh Barty (18), Australia, 6-4, 6-2.

Barbora Strycova (20), Czech def. Bernarda Pera, United States, 6-2, 6-2.

Karolina Pliskova (6), Czech def. Lucie Safarova (29), Czech Republic, 7-6 (6), 7-5.

Su-Wei Hsieh, Taiwan, def. Agnieszka Radwanska (26), Poland, 6-2, 7-5.

Angelique Kerber (21), Germany, def. Maria Sharapova, Russia, 6-1, 6-3.

Madison Keys (17), US def. Ana Bogdan, Romania, 6-3, 6-4.

Caroline Garcia (8), France, def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Belarus, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.