January 22, 2016
Maria Sharapova enjoyed the 600th win of her glittering career after she safely negotiated a rollercoaster ride against the unfancied Lauren Davis.
Meanwhile Roger Federer also dropped a set in a tense battle with Grigor Dimitrov, before notching his own admirable landmark of 300 victories in Grand Slams.
Popular Maria cruised through the first set against Davis 6-1, only to encounter a determined comeback from the underdog.
Davis edged the second 7-6 (7-5) and then astonished onlookers by scooping two spoonfuls of almond butter into her mouth , apparently seeking new energy for the decider.
‘I usually put the almond butter on a banana,’ she eplained without a hint of regret. ‘But I thought that was a little too much this time.’
As it turned out, even the two spoonfuls of butter were too much. Sharapova helped herself to a final-set bagel – the 6-0 decider a warning to any future opponents who might be willing to risk a digestion-busting energy fix.
Treated to a cake to mark that 600th win of her 15-year career, Sharapova wasn’t sure whether to celebrate or not.
‘Wow. I’ve won 600 matches? Is this like a friendly reminder that I’m getting old? Might be,’ she joked.
The remarkable Federer, no spring chicken himself, secured his 300th Grand Slam win after some rocky moments against the dangerous Dimitrov.
Roger looked comfortable as he took the first set 6-4 but began to berate himself as break points went begging and he suffered a 3-6 reverse in the second.
‘Grigor was playing well and I thought I was struggling a bit,’ the Fed confessed later. ‘It was an important start to the third set. Thankfully I got the early break and was able to stay in the lead.’
Federer closed out the match 6-1, 6-4. He plays David Goffin next, the man who conducted himself so admirably for Belgium during the Davis Cup final against Great Britain.
An even more fascinating match-up will come when Kei Nishikori faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last 16. Nishikori beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez despite needing treatment on a troublesome wrist, while Tsonga thrilled the Melbourne crowd during a 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4) win over his compatriot, Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Tsonga deployed an uncharacteristic single-handed backhand to conjure a sensational cross-court winner from the baseline, partly executed while the French entertainer was facing the wrong way. That piece of magic probably represented the highlight of an absorbing day.
Novak Djokovic also had it tough, considering he won in straight sets and began so impressively. The world number one eventually beat Andres Seppi 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), though he had to dig deep to dispose of the stubborn Italian.
There was no such test for Serena Williams, who took just 44 minutes to defeat Dana Kasatkina 6-1, 6-1 and faces another Russian, Margarita Gasparyan next.
Aussie bad-boy Nick Kyrgios battled patriotically against Tomas Berdych and launched a gutsy comeback when all seemed lost to take the third set of their exciting contest 6-1. That reverse certainly asked questions of Berdych, who had taken a two-set lead, 6-3, 6-4.
The Czech quickly recovered and had two break points to go 4-2 ahead in the fourth, which would have put him on the verge of closing out the match. But Kyrgios saved both break points and levelled for 3-3 in one of the best clashes on Day 5.
It was Berdych who finally prevailed 6-4, however, to make it a tough couple of days for the home fans, so soon after Lleyton Hewitt’s emotional farewell as a player.