Former champions Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are on course for yet another semi final showdown at the Australian Open after both registered straight sets wins on Saturday, joining them are the fifth seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria and Fabio Fognini of Italy, while the German prodigy Alexander Zverev and the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro were surprisingly knocked out by the Korean Hyeon Chung and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic respectively. Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and the American Tennys Sandgren entered their maiden round of 16 in a grand slam tournament.
Five times champion in Melbourne, the second seed and defending champion Federer faultered only once in the third set as he did in his second round win over the German Jan Lennard Struff, but regrouped rightaway to beat the last remaining Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-2,7-5,6-4.
Federer improved his head to head record against the stylish 29th seeded Frenchman to 17-2 and now goes on to meet Marton Fucsovics of Hungary who continued his domination of the Argentine Nicolas Kicker with a thumping 6-3,6-3,6-2 win. The pair had met just a fortnight ago at the ATP Maharashtra Open where the 80th ranked Fucsovics beat the 93rd Kicker with the loss of only three games.
The six time champion Djokovic, who is playing his first tournament since Wimbledon, broke serve five times to beat the 21st seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2,6-2,6-3 to advance to the second week at Melbourne Park for the 11th time in his career. He extends his head to head record against the Spaniard to 5-0 having won all thirteen sets played between them. His next opponent will be the Korean Hyeon Chung who upset the fourth seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 5-7,7-6(3),2-6,6-3,6-0 in three hours and twenty two minutes.
The first set was decided after Zverev broke serve in the 12th game. Chung then won five consecutive points after trailing 2-3 in the tie-break. Zverev would regroup to win the third set but the Korean broke early in the fourth set and then held his serve in a marathon third game to open a 3-0 lead. Three more service holds were enough to force a decider in which the Korean bageled the German to win their second career meeting. Chung had also beaten the elder sibling Mischa Zverev in the first round in four sets.
Dominic Thiem who had rallied from a two set deficit in his second round match against the American Denis Kudla, had no problems in dispatching the 26th seeded Adrian Mannarino of France 6-4,6-2,7-5. He next meets the surprise package of the tournament Tennys Sandgren who ended the run of another German Maximilian Marterer 5-7,6-3,7-5,7-6(5). The 97th ranked Sandgren who had previously won only 2 tour level matches out of ten in his career, had upset the 2014 champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in straight sets in the second round has now won a total of three rounds in Melbourne.
The seasoned Czech Tomas Berdych, seeded 19th took full advantage of s fatigued Juan Martin Del Potro as he won with a one sided scoreline of 6-3,6-3,6-2. He will play the 25th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini who took out yet another Frenchman Julien Benneteau 3-6,6-2,6-1,4-6,6-3.
The following is the list of matches to be played on Sunday in the men’s round of sixteen with my pick mentioned first :-
Rafael Nadal (1) v. Diego Schwartman (24)
Marin Cilic (6) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (10)
Nick Kyrgios (17) v. Grigor Dimitrov (3)
Kyle Edmund (-) v. Andreas Seppi (-)
In the women’s section of the draw, the top seeded Romanian Simona Halep won a marathon 4-6,6-4,15-13 to start of the proceedings on the Rod Laver Arena against the gallant American Lauren Davis. He next faces Naomi Osaka of Japan who upset the 17th seeded Ashley Barty of Australia with a comprehensive 6-4,6-2 win. In an eagerly anticipated contest the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber routed the Russian five time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova 6-1,6-3. The sixth Karolina Pliskova beat fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 7-6(6),7-5.
The unheralded Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei beat Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2,7-5 just two days after her upset win over the reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain. The American Madison Keys, a former semi finalist in Melbourne was a 6-3,6-4 winner over the Romanian Ana Bogdan. Caroline Garcia of France won yet another three set match as she took out Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-3,5-7,6-2. Another Czech Barbora Strycova beat the American Bernarda Pera 6-2,6-2 to set up a meeting with compatriot Katerina Pliskova. Kerber meets Su-Wei Hsieh, while Madison Keys will play Caroline Garcia on Tuesday in the round of sixteen.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]