The self-appointed sports capital of Australia got a feast of tennis on a lazy, sun-drenched Saturday afternoon.
While top-seeded and three-time champion Roger Federer played Albert Montanes in a Rod Laver Arena crammed with 15,000 fans, top-ranked and defending champion Serena Williams took on Carla Suarez Navarro at the neighboring show arena with a retractable roof that seats 10,000.
Both Federer and Williams did not even need two hours to finish the games. Serena finished her match in under 90 minutes while Federer finished his in a shade under two hours.
“I feel good, I feel confident,” Federer said. “Pretty straightforward match. Physically I’m fine and mentally fresh and that’s the way you want to go into the second week.”
Williams, who beat Dinara Safina in last year’s final, needed a marathon final game of the opening set to clinch it, facing five break points, 13 deuces and won on her eighth set point. The final game lasted nearly 20 minutes — longer than the five previous games combined in the 37-minute set.
By that point, Federer and Montanes were in the fifth game of their second set.
“I think it was definitely the toughest 6-0 set, especially in the end because she was really fighting for it,” Williams said. “I thought, ‘OK, Serena, don’t put too much pressure on this. Worst-case scenario it will be 5—1.”’
Serena’s sister Venus also advanced when she beat Australian wild-card entry Casey Dellacqua 6-1, 7-6 (4), winning on her fourth match point with an ace. The Williams siblings could meet in the semifinals but Venus must first overcome Francesca Schiavone of Italy, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-2.
Venus is thinking final, which would mean beating Serena along the way.
“Of course I want to progress to the final, that is my goal,” Venus said. “So far, I’m getting closer. You know how it works. Just got to play well every match.”
No drama this time
Australia’s top player and former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, advanced when 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis had to retire with a right shoulder injury with Hewitt leading 6-0, 4-2 in a night match at the Rod Laver Arena.
The last time the pair met here, they started just before midnight and concluded the match — won by Hewitt — at 4:34 a.m. Hewitt now plays Federer in the fourth round.
This Hewitt-Baghdatis rematch lasted just 54 minutes.
“I just said to him, ‘mate you’ve got a lot of ticker (heart) to come back like you did today,”’ Hewitt said he told Baghdatis when the Cypriot player came to the net to retire.
Baghdatis had clutched his shoulder during changeovers and motioned to his coach that he was having difficulty breathing due to the pain.
“I just felt some pain on the shoulder ... I couldn’t hit the forehand,” Baghdatis said. “I couldn’t control the ball. I didn’t think that it would be this painful during the match.”
In completed men’s matches, sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 and will face Fernando Verdasco in the next round. Verdasco advanced when Stefan Koubek had to retire after losing the opening set 6-1 due to a virus.
World number three Novak Djokovic, who beat Federer in the semifinals en route to his 2008 title here, defeated Denis Istomin 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Earlier, Mikhail Youzhny withdrew from his scheduled third-round match against Poland’s Lukasz Kubot with a wrist injury. Kubot advanced in a walkover and will play Djokovic.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost the final to Djokovic in 2008, beat Tommy Haas of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a night match. Tsonga will play Nicolas Almagro of Spain, who beat Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
In women’s matches, U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat Shahar Peer of Israel 6-4, 6-0. Wozniacki will face Li Na of China, who equalled her best run at Melbourne Park when she advanced 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 over 2008 semi-finalist Daniela Hantuchova.
Sam Stosur beat Italian Alberta Brianti 6-4, 6-1, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus had a 6-0, 6-2 win over Italy’s Tathiana Garbin to set up a fourth-round match against Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who beat Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-1, 7-5.