A FLAWLESS Roger Federer powered towards a 14th Grand Slam title but Ana Ivanavic slumped out of the Australian Open yesterday as ethnic violence again overshadowed the tournament.
Federer floored fellow former champion Marat Safin in straight sets, hitting sparkling form as he overwhelmed his old rival 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to stay on course for a semi-final match-up with Djokovic.
“It’s special to play Marat, we go way back. I think we like playing each other. It doesn’t matter who wins, it is always a good contest,” said the Swiss great.
Safin’s sister Dinara Safina continued to bulldozer through the draw while young guns Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro set up an enticing fourth-round men’s match.
The fifth seeded Ivanovic tumbled to Russian teenager Alisa Kleybanova 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, continuing her miserable run of form since winning the French Open last year.
Her upset came hot on the heels of American sixth seed Venus Williams being dumped on Thursday, throwing the season-opening Grand Slam wide open.
“I gave 100 per cent but she was better and played some unbelievable shots,” said the 21-year-old.
“It’s disappointing. I’m very, very sad because I felt physically fit and felt I could do well here.”
While Ivanovic flopped, fellow Serbs Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, and Jelena Jankovic, the women’s number one, scrapped through.
Third seed Safina whipped Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 6-2 and is in fine form after a breakthrough 2008, making good on her stated intention of playing a more aggressive game.
”Finally I played my game. Compared to my first two matches, I reached my level,” said Safina, 22.
Top seed Jankovic was made to work against Japan’s Ai Sugiyama, 10 years her senior, before grinding out a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“I have always had tough matches against her, she has a lot of experience and is a very solid player so I really had to work for every point,” Jankovic said.
In other highlights, Australia’s former world number four Jelena Dokic continued her fairytale comeback, beating Danish 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
But attention will inevitably focus on the violent clashes which followed Djokovic’s four-set win over Bosnian-American Amer Delic.
Dozens of Bosnian and Serb youths hurled plastic chairs and other missiles at each other, leaving one woman with minor injuries. About 30 people were thrown out as skirmishes continued outside.
“A number of people got into a chair-throwing contest between two groups with the result that 30-odd people were ejected from Rod Laver,” said Inspector Chris Duthie of Melbourne East Police.
“We’re charging two on summons and one will be receiving an on-the-spot fine.”
A male streaker also invaded one court and danced around, naked from the waist down, in another security lapse.
Friday’s incidents took the gloss off Djokovic’s hard-fought 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory.
”I’m really sad to hear about it,” said Delic when told of the violence.
”As I said a couple of days ago, there’s absolutely no place for that here. This is a tennis match.”
While Djokovic went through, Spain’s 11th seed David Ferrer crashed out to Croatia’s Cilic 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4. — AFP