21 Jan 2018

Wins for Federer and Djokovic, Sharapova out

8:33 am on 21 January 2018

Roger Federer eased into the second week of the Australian Open for the 16th time after beating Richard Gasquet 6-2 7-5 6-4 in just under two hours to remain on track for a 20th grand slam title.

Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

Roger Federer at the Australian Open. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Gasquet played a fine match, studded with his trademark occasional moments of shot-making brilliance, but a tally of 27 winners against 16 unforced errors was still not enough to put sustained pressure on the Swiss master.

Watched from the stands by his hero Rod Laver, Federer shifted up the gears as and when required to outwit his French opponent on the main showcourt named in honour of the Australian 11-times grand slam champion.

The 36-year-old second seed was rather fortunate to clinch the match with a backhand winner after Gasquet had fired his shot off the net cord but he was undoubtedly a worthy winner, reaching the fourth round without conceding a set so far.

He will next face his first career meeting with Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a place in the quarter-finals.

Novak Djokovic allayed fears over a muscle strain in his lower back after overpowering Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-3 6-3 to reach the fourth round.

After holding serve to lead 2-1 in the second set, the 14th seed took a medical time-out and lay down at the Margaret Court Arena as a trainer worked feverishly on his lower back.

The injury did little to restrict the six-times Australian Open champion as the Serb returned to break the 21st seed in the next game before claiming victory in two hours and 21 minutes.

"Nothing major," Djokovic told reporters after setting up an intriguing inter-generational battle with South Korea's young gun Chung Hyeon, 21, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Maria Sharapova's hopes of a title-winning return to the Open were unceremoniously crushed by Angelique Kerber as the battle of the former champions ended 6-1 6-3 in the German's favour.

Angelique Kerber celebrates her win over Maria Sharapova.

Angelique Kerber celebrates her win over Maria Sharapova. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Rod Laver Arena evening clash between the only two grand slam winners left in the women's draw had the feel of a showpiece final rather than a third-round match-up but only 21st seed Kerber rose to the occasion.

Unseeded Russian Sharapova, back in Melbourne after testing positive for a banned substance following her quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams here in 2016, which resulted in a 15-month ban, had looked menacing in the opening two rounds.

But the form she showed in beating 14th seeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova deserted her.

Kerber, who plummeted down the rankings last year after finishing the previous campaign at number one, broke Sharapova's serve in the first game of the match and that set the tone.