London: Defending champion Novak Djokovic and 2004 winner Maria Sharapova swept into the Wimbledon fourth round Friday as controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios bolstered his reputation as the next generation's brightest star.
Top seed Djokovic made the last 16 for the seventh successive year by routing Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on the back of 15 aces and 38 winners.
Novak Djokovic returns to Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
The Serb then faced a different challenge as he walked off Centre Court when he was asked to autograph the prosthetic leg of a wheelchair-bound fan. "The gentleman gave me his artificial leg...I want to be politically correct about it," smiled the 29-year-old Djokovic who next faces South Africa's Kevin Anderson.
"I gave him my signature. I hope it will make him feel better." Fourth seeded Sharapova made the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu and goes on to tackle either Germany's 14th seed Andrea Petkovic or unseeded Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan for a spot in the quarter-finals.
"What everyone at this stage of the tournament expects is to go further and expect more, better things from yourself. As the matches get tougher, you have to raise your level," said five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova. Kyrgios, who famously defeated Rafael Nadal in 2014 when he was ranked 144 in the world, avenged his quarter-final loss of 12 months ago to seventh seed Milos Raonic with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 victory.
The 20-year-old Kyrgios hit 34 aces and blasted 61 winners past the 2014 semi-finalist as he booked a fourth round clash with Frenchman Richard Gasquet. "I lost my focus a bit towards the end of the first set, but I knew what my game plan was and I stuck to it. I toughed it out," Kyrgios said.
Kyrgios, seeded 26, faces another rematch in the fourth round against Gasquet after beating the Frenchman in a dramatic five-setter in the second round last year. Gasquet, a 2007 semi-finalist and seeded 21, beat 11th seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for the fifth time in five meetings thanks to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 stroll.
Dimitrov had defeated 2013 champion Andy Murray on his way to the semi-finals last year, but Friday's defeat extended a disappointing Grand Slam season for the 24-year-old who was beaten in the fourth round at the Australian Open before a first round exit at Roland Garros.
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka reached the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Fernando Verdasco for his first win over the Spaniard in 10 years. The French Open champion will take on Belgium's David Goffin for a place in the quarter-finals.
Goffin, the 16th seed, became only the fourth Belgian man to make the fourth round in the Open Era by defeating 2006 semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Friday's programme began in sombre mood at the All England Club where thousands of fans joined officials and players in observing a minute's silence for the victims of last week's Tunisia beach massacre, most of whom were British.
Coco Vandeweghe, one of six American women in the third round, reached the last 16 at a Slam for the first time with a 6-2, 6-0 win over 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia. It was a second Grand Slam win of the season for world number 47 Vandeweghe against Stosur after also coming out on top at the Australian Open in January.
Stosur has yet to get beyond the third round at Wimbledon in 13 years of trying. Vandeweghe will next face Czech sixth seed Lucie Safarova, who beat Sloane Stephens of the United States 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Teenager Belinda Bencic became the first Swiss woman into the fourth round since Patty Schnyder in 2007 when she defeated American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 7-5.
Fresh from her first career title at Eastbourne last week, the 18-year-old 30th seed, revitalised after a medical time-out following the fifth game, came back from 5-1 down in the first set. Former world number one and two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka made the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over France's Kristina Mladenovic and next faces Bencic. Serena Williams continues her bid for a sixth Wimbledon and 21st major title by taking on Heather Watson, the last remaining British woman in the tournament.
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