Djokovic, Wawrinka roll on in Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia ( – Former champions Novak Djokovic and
Stan Wawrinka continued to plow through the top half of the draw at the
Australian Open with third-round wins Saturday.

The top-seeded Djokovic had his first minor test of the fortnight with a
first-set tiebreaker, then rolled from there to capture a 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-4
victory over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.

Wawrinka, the defending champion and this year’s fourth seed, cruised to a
6-4, 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen.

Djokovic has yet to lose a set in his first three matches. The four-time champ
barely broke a sweat this week before Saturday, dropping a total of 14 games
in his first two outings.

Verdasco, though, made him work in the first set. A semifinalist in 2009, the
31st-seeded Spaniard matched Djokovic for 60 minutes before finally faltering
in the first-set tiebreak. The Serb then broke once in each of the next two
sets to finish in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

“It was the turning point probably, winning the tiebreaker as close as it
was,” said Djokovic. “I thought it was a good match. It was a big challenge
for both of us. He was a former top-10 player. Somebody that loves playing on
the big stage, a powerful game. I’m glad to go through in straight sets.”

Verdasco slammed 10 aces in the opening set, but did himself in with 28
unforced errors. Djokovic had 12 unforced errors of his own in the first set,
but had just 12 more the remainder of the match.

Next up for Djokovic will be Gilles Muller, as the lefty from Luxembourg
ousted American John Isner in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.

Wawrinka ended Djokovic’s three-year run as Aussie Open champ last year in the
quarterfinals and went on to capture his first career Grand Slam title. The
Swiss veteran has yet to lose a set this week, as well.

On Saturday, Wawrinka blasted 55 winners to just 18 for Nieminen

“It was a really good match from me today,” said Wawrinka. “I was playing
great, tried to be more aggressive than normal.”

A familiar opponent awaits Wawrinka in the fourth round, as Spain’s Guillermo
Garcia-Lopez advanced Saturday with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 rout of Canada’s Vasek
Pospisil. Garcia-Lopez knocked off Wawrinka last year in the first round of
the French Open.

“He’s been playing really good,” said Wawrinka of his fourth-round foe. “I saw
him a little bit this tournament. I lost against him last year French Open
first round. We had some tough battles in the past. It’s never easy.”

Other winners Saturday included U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori, Spain’s
David Ferrer and Canada’s Milos Raonic.

The fifth-seeded Nishikori rallied after dropping the first set against
American Steve Johnson, pulling out a 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win. Next up
for the rising Japanese star will be the ninth-seeded Ferrer, who also went
four sets to eliminate France’s Gilles Simon, 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).

Losses Saturday by Johnson and Isner ended the American men’s hopes in

The eighth-seeded Raonic also eased into the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3
victory over Germany’s Benjamin Becker and will next play Spain’s Feliciano
Lopez. The 12th seed beat Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).

Fourth-round play starts Sunday with Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray among those
in action. The third-seeded Nadal will square off against South Africa’s Kevin
Anderson, while the sixth-seeded Murray will close the night session at Laver
Arena against 10th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Andreas Seppi of Italy will try to build off his monstrous upset of Roger
Federer, but will likely have the crowd against him when he takes on Aussie
Nick Kyrgios. Another unseeded Aussie favorite will also play Sunday when
Bernard Tomic faces seventh-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych.