Melbourne: Novak Djokovic bared his teeth to finish off Denis Istomin and extend the hottest winning streak in tennis to 27 matches in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday as a cool breeze brought respite to Melbourne after a four-day heat wave.
Serena Williams earlier made light of the last of the scorching temperatures, which again peaked around 42 degrees Celsius, to blast her way into the fourth round for the loss of only a dozen games.
China’s Li Na escaped defeat by a matter of centimetres in her third round match, while Spain’s David Ferrer continued carving his way through the men’s draw largely unnoticed.
While Li Na defeated Lucie Safarova1-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, Ferrer beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Ferrer’s compatriot Tommy Robredo caused the biggest upset of the day by edging ninth seed Richard Gasquet 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in an evening thriller disrupted briefly by rain.
Djokovic’s last defeat was against Rafa Nadal in the US Open final and Istomin never looked like stopping his winning run at 26 matches under the closed roof of the Rod Laver Arena. In the end, Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.
Looking to become the first man in the professional era to win four consecutive Australian Open titles, second seed Djokovic raced through the first two sets in 70 minutes before the Uzbek suddenly upped his aggression to break the Serbian as he was serving for the match.
“I feel better on the court as the tournament is progressing,” said Djokovic, who will take on his Italian friend Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarter finals.
Temperatures are forecast to plummet on Saturday, a huge relief to players and organisers alike after four days of rows over what constitutes dangerous conditions.
“I definitely look forward to playing in the cooler temperatures,” said Serena, whose 6-3, 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova was a record 61st at the Australian Open, taking her past local great Margaret Court’s 60.
The next hurdle in the 32-year-old’s path to a sixth Australian Open title is Ana Ivanovic after she ended Sam Stosur’s hopes of winning her home Grand Slam for another year with a 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena.