The Serb, trying to become the first man in the professional era to win the title in four consecutive years, looked in ominously good form as he took his place in the last 16 without dropping a set.
“I feel better on the court as the tournament is progressing,” the second seed said afterwards. “I played in different conditions in the three matches. The roof was closed tonight and temperature dropped at least ten degrees and you could feel that. It affected the play. It was much slower.
“I needed to have very fast footwork and a precise first service, as high a percentage as possible, using every opportunity to take control over the rally. I’ve done really well.”
Djokovic cruised through the opening two sets and looked set to wrap it up when he served for the match at 5-4, only to be broken. The 26-year-old made no mistake second time round to set up a meeting with Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
“At 4-2, he asked for the crowd support and he got it,” Djokovic said.
“They lifted him a little bit and he started hitting the ball really well. Things got tense towards the end of the match and I made some double-faults. This is what happens. I could have easily got into a tiebreak and then it’s very even, very unpredictable who is going to win the third. I didn’t want to drop the third set, obviously, so I was very focused to get the job done in straight sets.”
Djokovic and Fognini know each other from their junior days and the second seed said he would not take anything for granted. “He’s a claycourt specialist, that’s where he made his best results,” Djokovic said of the Italian. “But lately he’s been performing really well on hard courts.
“Yesterday he beat Sam Querrey, who is a hard-court specialist, big serve, in form.”
Damir Dzumhur’s dream run is over but he will leave Melbourne with encouragement from the sport’s best ringing in his ears.
The 21-year-old came through qualifying to become the first player to represent Bosnia in the main draw of a grand slam and went all the way to the third round. That brought a meeting with seventh seed Tomas Berdych on Hisense Arena, and it was the Czech who prevailed 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Speaking on court, Berdych said he thought Dzumhur had a promising future, while one of the first people the beaten Bosnian spoke to when he came off court was Djokovic.
“He said congratulations and definitely you will have these matches more and more,” said Dzumhur. “He’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to, he’s one of the best players in the history of tennis and his words mean a lot to me. I’m proud of that.
“He told me that one day he hopes he will play against me and he will see me in the big tournaments again.
“They were nice words from Tomas, too, and thanks to him. I hope I will use this and definitely I will work more and work hard to get that nice future.”
Dzumhur has won many friends in Melbourne, not least a small but very loud band of local Bosnians who gave him raucous support. Next up for Berdych will be a fourth-round clash with South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who fought back from two sets down for the second straight match to defeat France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin. It will be the third straight time the pair have met in Australia and the fifth time in nine grand slams, with Anderson yet to win.
Third seed David Ferrer continued his smooth progress through the draw, although the Spaniard had to save three set points in the second set on his way to a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win over France’s Jeremy Chardy.
It was the end of the road, though, for 20th seed Jerzy Janowicz, who lost 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to Florian Mayer of Germany.
Janowicz then revealed he has been playing with a broken bone in his foot against the advice of his doctor.
The Pole was not able to practise during the off season, and he said: “Today I was completely kaput.”
Spain’s Tommy Robredo came from a set down to knock out ninth seed Richard Gasquet.