Melbourne: Novak Djokovic weathered a gallant challenge from a tenacious Lleyton Hewitt to send the last Australian in the draw packing and make the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday.
While most at the packed Rod Laver Arena hoped for a boilover, few expected it to materialise but 30-year-old Hewitt rode the crowd’s emotion to poach a set off the world number one before going down fighting 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3.
Dressed in black and prowling panther-like across the baseline, Djokovic was in no mood for sentiment as he motored through the first two sets.
Coasting at 3-0 up in the third set, Djokovic stumbled on serve to allow the gritty Australian to fight back, then take the match to a fourth, after the Serb netted on set point.
Djokovic captured the decisive break at 3-2 in the fourth and sealed the match with a booming backhand down the line. The top seed will play David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.
In women’s singles, Maria Sharapova used all her experience to overcome a determined Sabine Lisicki 3-6 6-2 6-3 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday.
The fourth-seeded Russian won the opening three games but suddenly lost her mojo as the German reeled off the next six games to seize the first set and seemingly all the momentum.
But Sharapova fought back in the second set and then scrapped tooth and nail in the third game of the third to hold serve before she broke 14th seed Lisicki in the sixth, which ultimately setting up her victory.
Sharapova will next meet countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova after the world number 56 caused the upset of the tournament by thrashing five-times champion Serena Williams 6-2 6-3.