Defending champion Novak Djokovic eased past Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in straight sets to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The Serbian top seed crushed the 81st-ranked Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to set up a round of 16 encounter against either Canadian 23rd seed Milos Raonic or former finalist Lleyton Hewitt.
Djokovic broke Mahut's serve eight times and made only eight unforced errors in the 20 games, but Mahut was inconvenienced by a left knee injury on his 30th birthday.
"Credit to Nicolas. Obviously, he had some strapping around his knee and I felt sorry for him," Djokovic said.
"Evidently he was not moving well, he was not able to perform his best, but he didn't want to retire and he wanted to stay all the way so I wish him happy birthday."
Djokovic leads Hewitt 4-1 and has yet to play Raonic in an official match.
"I've played Lleyton on different kinds of surfaces and he's one of the biggest competitors around, obviously playing in front of his crowd reaching the third round now he's definitely motivated to perform well," he said.
"Milos is one of the up and coming tennis stars, he's very young, he has a big serve so it's going to be tough."
The world number one reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the sixth straight year and is bidding to become the fifth man to win three consecutive grand slams after winning Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer, a semi-finalist last year, saw off Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 and will play Richard Gasquet in the next round after the Frenchman defeated ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.
Former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also advanced to the fourth round with a straight-sets win over Portugal's Frederico Gil.
The French sixth seed took only 1hr 31 min to blast out a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over the 107th-ranked Gil, who was the first Portuguese man to reach the third round at a grand slam.
Tsonga, who lost to Djokovic in the 2008 Melbourne final, will play either compatriot Julien Benneteau or Japan's 24th seed Kei Nishikori in the round of 16 on Monday.
The athletic Frenchman, who performed his trademark victory jig on court after his win, broke Gil's serve six times and fought off six break points against his own service.
"Today I played well, I felt good on the court. For much of the match I played better and I hope it will continue and I can go far in this tournament," Tsonga said.
Tsonga is unbeaten in eight matches this season after winning his eighth ATP singles title in Doha on the way to Australia.
AFPTags: sport, tennis, australian-open, melbourne-3000, australia, vic First posted January 21, 2012 13:45:12