Federer too strong for Dimitrov

Roger Federer

Federer won his most recent Australian Open title in 2010

Roger Federer reached the last 16 at the Australian Open after proving too strong for Grigor Dimitrov in their highly-anticipated third-round match.

The Swiss third seed won 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 under the Rod Laver Arena roof as rain halted play on the outside courts.

It brought four-time champion Federer his 300th Grand Slam match win.

Former champion Maria Sharapova was able to progress, with top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams featuring in the night session at Melbourne Park.

Sharapova needed three sets to beat unseeded American Lauren Davis, the Russian fifth seed dominating the latter stages to win 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0.

Switzerland’s seventh seed Belinda Bencic beat Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 4-6 6-2 6-4, while men’s seventh seed Kei Nishikori saw off Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4 despite requiring treatment on his wrist.

“It was a little bit sore in the beginning, but after the treatment it was fine,” said the Japanese player.

French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won in three tight sets against compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert, triumphing 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4).

Nishikori played down concerns about the wrist that has troubled him in the past

Federer finds his clinical edge

The 34-year-old Swiss had won a tight battle against Dimitrov in Brisbane in the build-up to the Australian Open, but was a more comfortable winner on the bigger Grand Slam stage.

Both men displayed the elegant shot-making for which they are known, but had Federer been more effective on break points in the second set, he might have won it in three sets.

Federer failed to recover an early deficit in the second set and had converted only one of eight break points going into the third, only to step on the gas and leave Dimitrov in his wake.

“Grigor was playing well and I thought I was struggling a little bit,” said Federer, who plays Belgian David Goffin in round four.

“It was an important start to the third set. Thankfully I got the early break and was able to stay in the lead.”

Sharapova breaks new ground

It took two hours and 14 minutes for five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova to see off Davis, the world number 103, and claim the 600th victory of her 15-year career.

“Wow. I’ve won 600 matches?” said the 28-year-old. “Is this like a friendly reminder that I’m getting old? Might be.”

Sharapova was presented with a cake by tournament director Craig Tiley after her 600th singles win

Sharapova next faces a tough test against 18-year-old Bencic, with the winner earning a potential quarter-final against Williams.

Bencic, coached by Melanie Molitor, mother of Martina Hingis, has won her last 15 three-set matches dating back to the 2015 French Open.

“That’s good,” said the Swiss. “Because I was losing a lot, and then my dad and my coach were like, ‘You don’t have any fitness.’ I don’t know if it’s only fitness, it’s more the focus and confidence.”

British duel falls foul of weather

Among the many matches postponed on a day of rain in Melbourne was the all-British doubles meeting between Johanna Konta and Heather Watson, and Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith.

With all four players in the GB Fed Cup squad, and team captain Judy Murray sure to be courtside, it could yet prove significant in terms of planning for next month’s qualifier in Israel.

The postponements mean a packed schedule on Saturday, with Johanna Konta up against Czech Denisa Allertova first on Hisense Arena at 00:00 GMT, and fellow British number one against Portugal’s Joao Sousa first in the Margaret Court Arena night session at 08:00.

Ball boys and members of staff did their best to keep things dry underfoot

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