MELBOURNE, Australia: Roger Federer showed against 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych that his first two wins against qualifiers at the Australian Open really were warmups.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, seeded a lowly-by-his-standards 17th after spending six months on the sidelines last season, only needed 90 minutes to beat Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Friday night.
This was against a rival who played the Wimbledon final in 2010 and reached the quarterfinals or better in Australia the previous six years. And he’d beaten Federer in six of their previous 22 matches.
Federer hit some vintage backhand winners, one that earned a hearty applause from the great Rod Laver — sitting in the crowd at the stadium named in his honor — in the second set. He had 40 winners and won 95 percent of points when he got his first serve into play. He didn’t face a breakpoint.
“Crazy how quick I got out of the blocks — I did surprise myself,” Federer said of his almost flawless performance against Berdych. “I did feel like I struggled a bit in the first two rounds.”
He next plays fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori, who beat Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for a sixth straight year at Melbourne Park. Federer leads that matchup 4-2, winning the last three.
The winner of that has a potential quarterfinal against top-ranked Andy Murray, who showed no signs of trouble with his sore ankle as he advanced to the Round of 16 for the ninth straight year with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 31 Sam Querrey.
It was Querrey who ended then No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic’s impressive Grand Slam run in the third round at Wimbledon last year. At that time, Djokovic had won four straight major titles — Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 2015 and Australian Open and French Open in 2016.
Murray, who replaced Djokovic at No. 1 last November, said he was surprised at the six-time Australian Open champion’s second-round loss to Denis Istomin the previous night.
But the five-time Australian Open runner-up didn’t think it changed anything for him, unless he reached the final.
“I wasn’t scheduled to play Novak today, so my job’s to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well,” said Murray, who lost to Djokovic in four of the five finals he has contested in Melbourne. “I did that.
“Obviously, if you’re to get to the final, then it has an effect.”
Murray injured his right ankle in the second round, and said he was hesitant at first but warmed into the match against Querrey.
“I felt better and better as the match went on in terms of my movement,” Murray said. “I was moving well at the end — it was very positive.”
Murray next plays Mischa Zverev.
Seven-time major winner Venus Williams routed Duan Yingying 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour to progress to the fourth round for the 10th time since her Australian Open debut in 1998.
“It’s good (but) it’s never enough,” she said, looking ahead to her fourth-round match against Mona Barthel. “I’ve tasted it before and it’s always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That’s what I’m going to go for.”
The last two Americans in the men’s draw lost within an hour of each other. After Querrey’s exit, No. 23-seeded Jack Sock lost 7-6 (4), 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3 to No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
There are no more Australians in the men’s draw, either, after Daniel Evans beat Bernard Tomic 7-5, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3).
U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka had 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over Viktor Troicki to move into a fourth-round match against Andreas Seppi.
In the last match of day five, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza closed out with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Anastasia Sevastova.
Top-ranked Angelique Kerber had a straight-sets win for the first time in her first Australian Open title defense, 6-0, 6-4 against Kristyna Pliskova. She next play 35th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe, who reached the fourth round in Australia for the first time with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard.
Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova held off former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 5-7, 9-7 in 3 ½ hours.
Australian Open organizers were briefed by Victoria state police over an incident in downtown Melbourne where a man deliberately drove into a street crowded with pedestrians, killing three people and injuring 20. Police said the incident, about three kilometers (two miles) from Melbourne Park, had no links to terrorism.
“Be assured there is no threat to the precinct,” Australian Open organizers said in a statement.