MELBOURNE, Australia — His tennis attire now splashed with pink, Roger Federer was trying to recruit support for his next match.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem. Federer is one of the most popular athletes in Australia, where he has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles.
The only problem is this: His 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Nikolay Davydenko on Thursday night set Federer on course for a third-round match against Bernard Tomic, the last remaining Australian in the men’s or women’s draws.
The 20-year-old Tomic beat German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8) in the last afternoon match on the center court at Melbourne Park, keeping his cool on a long, searing day in which temperatures hit 106 degrees.
Federer praised Tomic’s play for the crowd, and later said he won’t mind for whom or how loud fans are cheering Saturday.
“I don’t think it matters whether he’s the last Australian or 10 more,” Federer said. “There’s always excitement about Aussies playing here. I played him here last year. The crowd was great. I expect something similar. If it’s not, if it’s totally for him, that’s fine, too. I’m always excited when the crowd gets into it.”
Federer has added a few flashes of color for the year’s opening Grand Slam event — neon pink shoelaces and trim on the back of his shoes, on the V-neck of his shirt and the swoosh on his black headband. This is quite a departure from the Swiss star’s usual hues and from the bright yellow that seems the predominant shade of choice for player clothes and accessories at this tournament.
“I like to play around with colors,” he said. “Fresh start to a new year. I wore a pink shirt a few years back. It was a best seller, so ....”
The day-time temperature got progressively hotter until late afternoon, meaning top-ranked Victoria Azarenka had it slightly easier in her second-round match — a 6-1, 6-0 win over Eleni Daniilidou, Greece — than third-ranked Serena Williams did in the very next match on Rod Laver Arena, a 6-2, 6-0 win over Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
There was concern after she hurt her right ankle Tuesday that an injury might ruin Williams’ run at a third consecutive major title. She said the ankle didn’t bother her as much Thursday as a split lip, which she did by accidently hitting herself in the face with the racket in the sixth game.
“It’s OK,” she said. “It’s a war wound.”
“I have never busted it wide open like that,” she added, “I was like, ‘Oh, no. I can’t have a tooth fall out.’ That would be horrible.”
She next plays Ayumi Morita, one of two Japanese women already in the third round. The other, 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, downed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 7-5.
Other women advancing included former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, No. 16 Roberta Vinci, No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer and Elena Vesnina, who beat No. 21-seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-4, 6-2.
After her singles match, Williams attempted to show there was no serious damage to her ankle by combining with sister Venus in a first-round doubles win later in the afternoon.
That was good preparation for Venus’ third-round match against No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, one of the highlights of Friday’s schedule. Novak Djokovic resumes his bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title when he takes on Radek Stepanek in the third round in the afternoon. No. 4 David Ferrer plays Marcos Baghdatis in the last match in what should be another late finish.
British teenager Laura Robson ensured that the Day 4 program ran into Day 5 when she rallied to oust No. 8-seeded Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, 2-6, 6-3, 11-9. After coming from a break down in the third set, she missed a chance to serve out the match at 6-5. She made no mistake the second time, in the early hours Friday.
“I never gave up, even when she went up a break twice in the third,” said Robson, who will turn 19 next week. “Today was pretty ugly, but in terms of how tough it was to close it out in the end, I think it’s right up there with one of the best wins.”
She will next play 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who beat Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-4, 6-3.
Robson won a mixed doubles silver medal with Andy Murray at the London Olympics, giving her the confidence to move up in the rankings.
The Olympic campaign was the tonic Murray needed to overcome his issues with converting Grand Slam finals into victories.
The Scotsman won the Olympic singles gold medal, avenging a Wimbledon final loss to Federer, then broke a 76-year drought for British men at the Grand Slam events by winning the U.S. Open. He arrived in Australia as a reigning major champion and won a title in a tuneup event in Brisbane before heading to Melbourne Park.
On Thursday, he beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round.
He played in the heat of the day, but said didn’t mind because it wasn’t humid. Players slung towels packed with ice over their shoulders or wore ice vests to keep their cool at the changeovers, and lingered in the shade if they could find any on a bright, nearly cloudless day.
Frenchman Gael Monfils was so exhausted by the end of his match that he tried to finish it off quickly with an ace, but double-faulted three times on match point, laughing almost deliriously at one particularly wayward serve. In the end, his 29 aces outdid his 23 double-faults in a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 0-6, 6-1, 8-6 win over Taiwan’s Yen-hsun Lu.
Among the other men advancing were 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, No. 13 Milos Raonic of Canada, No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and No. 21 Andreas Seppi of Italy.
James Duckworth lost a 4-hour, 52-minute 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 10-8 match to Slovenian Blaz Kavcic on an outside court, saying he was “sweating bucket loads,” was cramping badly and his feet were burning.
It was Duckworth’s loss in the longest match of the tournament this year that left Tomic as the lone Aussie.
Tomic earned plenty of kudos in a fourth-round loss to Federer in Australia last year, but his season spiraled downward after that. He redeemed himself with a win over top-ranked Novak Djokovic at the exhibition Hopman Cup in Perth this month, then won his first ATP World Tour title at Sydney in the week leading to the Open.
He is on a 10-match winning streak, has held 76 consecutive service games and is feeling good going into his match against Federer — despite letting a curse word slip in a live post-match TV interview.
“Ten out of 10 now with matches,” he said of his 2013 season to date. “I feel so confident. This is the perfect time to play him. I’ve got a good attitude to win. I’ve beaten a lot of good players over the last past two weeks, especially Novak.
“I think I can do it. ... I’m ready.”
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