The two players who between them have picked up 13 Australian Open titles over the past decade or more, remain on course to meet in the semi-finals of this year’s edition.
That's definitely one of the best service matches I have had lately Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic, gunning for an eighth AO crown, was barely yested as he eased comfortably past Yoshihito Nishioka to reach the fourth round while Roger Federer, aiming to equal his rival’s total in Melbourne, struggled through a tough five-setter to make the last 16.
The Serbian defending champion swept past his Japanese challenger 6-3 6-2 6-2 in just 85 minutes on Rod Laver Arena while the Swiss required four hours and 5-minutes to beat John Millman 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (8).
“That’s definitely one of the best service matches I have had lately,” said the world No 2 Djokovic after firing down 17 aces, along with 40 winners.
“I was inspired by my coach Goran (Ivanisevic) who came out here today. He brings a lot of insight.”
He will next play 14th seed Diego Schwartzman for a place in the quarter-finals after the Argentinian beat Djokovic’s countryman Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-4 7-6(7).
“Diego is definitely one of the quickest on tour. Hopefully if I serve as good as I did today, I feel I have a decent chance,” said the second seed.
Djokovic is seeking to become only the third man to win eight or more titles at the same Grand Slam after Rafael Nadal (12 at Roland Garros) and Roger Federer (eight at Wimbledon).
Meanwhile Federer, seeded three and playing on the Night Schedule, struggled throughout his match as Millman not only kept pace with him, but on several occasions outplayed him.
“It was tough. Thank God it’s a super tie-breaker otherwise I would have lost this one,” Federer said after stringing together six consecutive points to snatch the deciding tiebreak from Millman who stood 2-points away from causing a major upset.
“I think John played a great match. It came down to the wire, a bit of luck maybe. I had to stay so focused, take the right decisions. He kept on coming up with the goods.
“I thought, ‘OK, I didn’t play too bad’. I was getting ready to explain myself in the press conference. What a match. John deserved over half of this one.”
Millman had in fact knocked Federer out of the US Open so the 38-year-old knew what to expect. He made 82 unforced errors, 48 of them off his forehand but despite that, it was fighting spirit and competitiveness which kept him alive in his quest fro 1 21st grand slam title.
He faces Hungary’s Marton Fucsovic next who continued his fine run with a 6-1 6-1 6-4 victory over Tommy Paul while Tennys Sandgren, who reached the quarter-finals two years ago, defeated fellow American Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4 6-4.
Next up for Sandgren will be a rematch with 12th seed Fabio Fognini, who was a straight-sets winner over Guido Pella.