Djokovic to take easy way to final
Nice draw: Novak Djokovic should sail into the final. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
SHOULD the men's event follow the seedings, Novak Djokovic will end up playing plucky Spanish base machine David Ferrer for a place in his third consecutive Australian Open final.
It no great insult to Ferrer to note that this does not shape as the most daunting of the semi-finals that the world No.1 has faced, Djokovic having been taken down by Roger Federer at the last Wimbledon and confronted Roger in an astonishing nine grand slam semi-finals over the journey and had his share of tough encounters against Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
This time, the Djoker's place ahead of the pack seems to have been helped greatly by the absence of Nadal, whose withdrawal means the Open had a triumvirate of rivals instead of the fab four, Murray having elevated himself into that company by dint of his US Open victory and Australian Open and Wimbledon final last year.
Whereas Federer entered this event with multiple dangers in the nasty quarter of the draw he found himself - he would play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters if results followed seedings, then Murray in the semis - Djokovic has no threats of that magnitude ahead of him, until the final.
The Djoker plays Stan Wawrinka next in the round of 16 tonight, a match he will be interest rate odds to win. Then, if events follow the rankings, he'd get Tomas Berdych in the quarter finals and Ferrer - a hustling, consistent and relentless baseliner, who, nonetheless, lacks the heavy artillery to worry the top weight.
Tomas Berdych beat Federer at Wimbledon a couple of years ago and is regarded as dangerous, but not to Djokovic, whose consistency disarms the erratic Berdych. This raises the point of former world No. 1 Mats Wilander, that Djokovic's half of the draw looks easy for him, because of Djokovic's ability to dispatch these players, whom even Federer and Murray find harder. ''The draw looks easy for Novak, not because of the draw, but because of Novak.''
Upsets have been relatively rare thus far. But whatever happens in the Djoker's half of the men's event, the names of Wawrinka, Berdych, Tipsarevic, Almagro, Nishikori and even Ferrer, don't shape as toxic to the top seed. The other half is much harder for those at the top.
Meanwhile, his timing was off, his frustration levels were up, but eventually Andy Murray got over determined Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis to make the Australian Open fourth round.
Third-seed Murray won 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday, but it was anything but a regulation straight-sets victory for the Scot.
World No.110 Berankis tested Murray's nerve - and at one point his anger management skills - before the Briton's quality prevailed.
Murray made a rare show of anger as he smashed his racquet on the court during the second set, in which he trailed by a break. But he then reeled off four successive games to win the set, though he had some nervous moments late in the third.
While serving for the set, Berankis broke him. But the response from Murray was instant, breaking back and serving out the match at his second attempt.
Murray admits there is plenty of improvement to make on his performance against Berankis if he is to advance towards a possible final with world No.1 Djokovic.
''I was struggling, and sometimes when you're struggling, you get frustrated,'' Murray said. ''I need to strike the ball better - my timing is off.''
No first-time men's grand slam winner in the Open era has gone on to win their next grand slam event - meaning last year's US Open winner Murray has a hoodoo to overcome at Melbourne Park.
Murray now plays the winner of the all-French clash between Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon in the fourth round on Monday.
Ninth seed Richard Gasquet overcame an early scare from Croatian Ivan Dodig on Saturday to move into the fourth round.
Dodig won the opening set, before the Frenchman blasted back to eventually win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 in two hours, 25 minutes.
Playing in the third round of a grand slam for the first time, Dodig held a 3-1 advantage in the second set before Gasquet launched his fightback.
All games went with serve in the third set, before Gasquet got the momentum to swing his way in the third set tie-break. He then ran riot in the fourth set to secure a place in the next round.