Five-time champion Roger Federer defied 32-degree heat and crushing humidity to reach the U.S. Open tennis last 16 on Saturday as potential semifinal rival Andy Murray almost wilted in the New York sweatshop.
Top seed Federer, bidding to be the first six-time winner in 87 years, defeated Spanish 25th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in a shade over two hours to make the last 16 for the 12th successive year.
The Swiss next faces American 23rd seed Mardy Fish, who beat Gilles Simon, the French 16th seed, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Fish prevailed in a match which finished after 0100 local time on Sunday morning despite hitting 74 unforced errors.
In stark contrast, third-seeded Murray, the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up to Federer, needed almost four hours to clinch a 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4) victory over 30th-seeded Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez.
Olympic champion Murray will next face 15th-seeded Milos Raonic, who defeated American wildcard James Blake 6-3, 6-0, 7-6(3) on the back of 29 aces to become the first Canadian to make the last 16 in 24 years.
Murray, four times a Grand Slam runner-up, had lost only one set in six prior matches against Lopez but had to come back from trailing in all three tie-breakers on Saturday.
Federer only faced one break point against Verdasco, a player he has now defeated five times in five meetings.
Asian hopes doused
Croatian 12th seed Marin Cilic, a quarterfinalist in 2009, ended Asian hopes in the singles when he defeated Japanese 17th seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3.
Three-time women's champion Serena Williams went level with sister Venus on 61 U.S. Open career wins when she coasted into the fourth round.
Olympic and Wimbledon champion Williams won eight games in succession to claim a 6-4, 6-0 win over Russia’s world 42 Ekaterina Makarova, the woman who knocked her out of the Australian Open this year.
Williams, the fourth seed, fired 31 winners and eight aces and will next face unseeded Czech Andrea Hlavackova, who beat Maria Kirilenko of Russia, the 14th seed, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Polish second seed and Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska matched her best U.S. Open performance by also reaching the last 16 with a 6-3, 7-5 win over error-plagued Serb 30th seed Jelena Jankovic, the 2008 runner-up.
Sania Mirza and her American partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands entered the women’s doubles third round with a straight-set win on a mixed day for the Indians. The 13th seeded combination of Sania and Bethanie got the better of Croatian Darija Jurak and Hungary’s Katalin Marosi 6-4, 6-2.
Another Indian who enjoyed a winning day at the event was Leander Paes. Paes and his Russian partner Elena Vesnina, who are seeded third, defeated the American-Filipino combine of Raquel Kops-Jones and Treat Conrad Huey 6-4, 7-5.
But there was disappointment for Rohan Bopanna, who, along with his Chinese partner Jie Zheng, bowed out of the mixed doubles event after losing 2-6, 5-7 to the Australian-Dutch duo of Anastasia Rodionova and Jean-Julien Rojer.
Keywords: 2012 US Open