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Djokovic passes the del Potro test

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UNSTOPPABLE:Novak Djokovic completed a four-set win over Juan Martin del Potro in a potentially tricky third-round encounter on Saturday, making it 40 wins in a row this year.— PHOTO: AP
UNSTOPPABLE:Novak Djokovic completed a four-set win over Juan Martin del Potro in a potentially tricky third-round encounter on Saturday, making it 40 wins in a row this year.— PHOTO: AP

A relentless Novak Djokovic shrugged off Juan Martin del Potro while Andy Murray overcame a nasty ankle injury as the second and fourth seeds joined champion Rafa Nadal in the fourth round at Roland Garros on Saturday.

An impromptu night's rest after Friday's match was suspended because of bad light at the end of the second set allowed Djokovic to swing the momentum back his way and take his 2011 winning streak to 40 matches with 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph.

Murray thrashed Germany's Michael Berrer 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 despite turning his ankle when trying to slide on the clay to reach a ball early in the second set. The Briton, yet to win a Grand Slam title having lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final in January, had extensive strapping and was able to carry on despite continued winces and an immediate loss of serve.

“We will have to wait and see what happens. I just don't know if I will be able to play my next match. I don't know if I will be 100 per cent fit,” said Murray.

If fit, Murray next meets Serbia's 15th seed Viktor Troicki, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Nadal has it easy

Champion Nadal stuttered through his first two matches but was all smiles in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 win over Croat qualifier Antonio Veic with his recent vulnerability only in evidence on first serve in the first set and when broken twice in the second.

“I felt things were much better than the previous days. I'm happy about that, I've got to continue that way,” Nadal said.

Robin Soderling, the fifth seeded Swede who has lost the last two finals here, won through 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 win over Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.

Djokovic faced his toughest test since those finals when coming back out onto a packed and sunbaked court with 2009 U.S. Open champion and 25th seed del Potro threatening to upset all the pre-tournament predictions of more Djokovic success.

Big point

But any belief the Argentine has picked up by levelling late in Friday's gloom evaporated when Djokovic broke for 4-2 in the third set having earlier fought off two break points including with one tremendous slugging rally of 23 shots.

del Potro then double-faulted to hand the World No. 2 one of the three breaks in the third game of the fourth as he nears John McEnroe's record of 42 wins since the start of a year.

Djokovic now locks horns with Richard Gasquet, who won through on Friday.

“Richard is playing some of the best tennis of his life,” Djokovic said of his next opponent. “He has a lot of confidence and self-belief and he will have the crowd behind him. It seems like he is striking the ball better than ever — more consistent mentally. It's an open match.”

Women's seventh seed Maria Sharapova, whose best performance remains a 2007 semifinal place, comfortably reached the last 16 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Taiwan qualifier Chan Yung-Jan.

China's Li Na earlier wrapped up a 6-2, 6-2 third-round victory over Romanian Sorana Cirstea, before Djokovic and del Potro took the stage.

Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus easily got the better of Italy's Roberta Vinci with a 6-3, 6-2 win which further highlighted her strong title credentials.

“I think I played very well. I was serving well, dominating, and trying to be as aggressive on her serve,” Azarenka said.

With top seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters crashing out and several players missing with injury, any woman left could realistically triumph in next Saturday's final and Azarenka has continued her good form from the build-up events.

Czech ninth seed Petra Kvitova, who won the hardcourt Paris Open in February, is another contender and beat American Vania King 6-4 6-2 as Ekaterina Makarova and Andrea Petkovic also won.

Paes & Bhupathi lose

Third seeds Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi crashed out of the men's doubles event with a 7-6(7), 6-4 defeat to the unseeded Stephen Huss and Ashley Fisher.

There was only one breakpoint in the whole second-round match, which Fisher and Huss converted in the second set.

Paes found consolation in mixed doubles though as he and Iveta Benesova, seeded seventh, made it through to the third round with a 6-4, 7-6(1) win over Chia-Jung Chuang and Marcin Matkowski. — Agencies

Men: Third round:Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) bt 16-Fernando Verdasco (Esp) 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-4; Alejandro Falla (Col) bt Lukasz Kubot (Pol) 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4; 5-Robin Soderling (Swe) bt Leonardo Mayer (Arg) 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

2-Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt 25-Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; 1-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Antonio Veic (Cro) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0; 4-Andy Murray (GBR) bt Michael Berrer (Ger) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2; 15-Viktor Troicki (Srb) bt 21-Aleksandr Dolgopolov (Ukr) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; Juan Ignacio Chela (Arg) bt Lukas Rosol (Cze) 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5); 18-Gilles Simon (Fra) bt 10-Mardy Fish (USA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Doubles: Second round:Stephen Huss & Ashley Fisher (Aus) bt 3-Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) 7-6(7), 6-4.

Women: Third round:7-Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Yung-Jan Chan (Tpe) 6-2, 6-3; 12-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) bt 21-Yanina Wickmayer (Bel) 6-4, 6-4; 15-Andrea Petkovic (Ger) bt 24-Jarmila Gajdosova (Aus) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3;

6-Li Na (Chn) bt Sorana Cirstea (Rom) 6-2, 6-2; 9-Petra Kvitova (Cze) bt Vania King (USA) 6-4, 6-2; Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) bt 16-Kaia Kanepi (Est) 6-4, 7-5; 4-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt 30-Roberta Vinci (Ita) 6-3, 6-2.

Mixed doubles:Leander Paes (Ind) & Iveta Benesova (Cze) bt Chia-Jung Chuang (Tpe) & Marcin Matkowsk (Pol) 6-4, 7-6.

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