Djokovic cruises into Aussie fourth round

Djokovic cruises into Aussie fourth round

Published Jan. 21, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Novak Djokovic is living the simple life. Winning tennis matches. The world No. 1 wasted little time in winning another one Saturday in the third round of the Australian Open when he crushed a half-fit Nicolas Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1.

Djokovic won his opening match with the loss of just two games as well and defeated Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in his second. So it’s been just about perfect for the man who took the tennis world by storm last year, winning every tournament he entered in the first seven months of the year except the French Open. That means he will be defending a lot of ATP rankings points every time he steps on court in the coming weeks.

But that does not worry the Serb.

“I don’t want to spend my time and energy thinking about dropping points, you know,” he said, shrugging off any suggestion of pressure. “I’m really thinking about improving my game, staying focused. The bottom line is that I’m 24. I’m at the peak. So I should use every moment and enjoy my tennis.”


But Djokovic stressed it is not a one-man effort. “The team of people around me is helping perform my best on court,” he continued. “They help me to keep a very simple style of life — to keep the concentration for every season for the past five years. It hasn’t changed, even this year.”

Djokovic recognized that Mahut was struggling with a left-leg injury and was certainly in no condition to challenge the record he set for the longest match in history while losing to John Isner at Wimbledon two years ago. Eleven hours? No — this one sided affair last just 1 hour, 14 minutes.

“My opponent evidently could not move properly on court,” Djokovic observed. “I think most people expected him to retire. But he managed to stay, so all credit to him and happy birthday.”

Not such a Bon Anniversaire for the Frenchman, but he certainly has plenty of compatriots around if he wants to celebrate in Melbourne. Mahut was one of six Frenchmen still in the singles at the start of the play Saturday — all in the top half of the draw — with Marion Bartoli in the women’s singles. But Bartoli was outplayed by China’s Zheng Jie, who was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2008 and also here in 2010. The 6-3, 6-3 score was a fair reflection of the match.

“I never had the chance the step up and dictate,” said the ninth-seeded Bartoli, who never gives up without a fight. “The feeling I got was that I could never really hurt her. She was hurting me all the time with her forehand crosscourt or her speed.”

Vania King, who is coached by Andy Roddick’s old mentor Tarik Benhabiles in Boynton Beach, Fla., did her best against former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic but went down 6-3, 6-4. There were moments when King’s ability to retrieve and hit penetrating shots off both wings suggested that she might worry a player who has been mentally fragile in the past, but Ivanovic is more confident now and King wasted too many opportunities with poor shot selection.

Ivanovic has been working with British coach Nigel Sears (whose daughter happens to be Andy Murray’s girlfriend) and is feeling better about her game now. “Before, I had a big team of people around me but now it’s just Nigel and a physio working on lots of little pains and niggles,” Ivanovic said. “Now I do my fitness work with Nigel on court and I am feeling very good.”

So is Maria Sharapova, who breezed past Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2. Kerber was a surprise semifinalist at the US Open last year, and Sharapova was ready for her.

“I never faced her before, but I knew she’d been on the big stage,” Sharapova said. “Last Grand Slam she did pretty well. I felt I was aggressive enough even though it became a bit more of a battle in the second set when she broke back and played with more confidence.”

Petra Kvitova had an easy ride into the fourth round when Russia’s Maria Kirilenko was forced to retire with a leg injury down 6-0, 1-0. The No. 2 seed plays Ivanovic next.


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