Photo: David Ferrer
Spain’s David Ferrer overcame a slow start to rout Juan Ignacio Chela 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 Saturday and join three of his countrymen in the round of 16 of the Australian Open.
Chela’s defeat, meanwhile, left fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro as the only Latin American left in the first Grand Slam tournament of the tennis season.
The early part of the match, in which Chela raced off to a 4-0 lead thanks to his strong returning and erratic play by the Spaniard, provided no inkling of what was to come later.
From the fifth game of the first set onward, Ferrer brought his unforced errors down to a minimum and began dictating the baseline rallies with his forehand, reeling off five straight games and even holding a set point with Chela serving at 4-5.
Chela managed to get out of trouble on that occasion, but he dropped his serve for a third time two games later to cede the set to the Spaniard.
Ferrer had managed to turn the match around completely by getting more depth on his forehands and backhands, creating angles and racking up numerous clean winners.
His relentless return game also was a constant source of frustration for Chela, a player with solid ground strokes but an unimposing serve that doesn’t win him many easy points.
In the second set, the Argentine found himself behind early after dropping serve at love in the fourth game and he could find no way to reverse the momentum.
Chela’s woes then continued in the third set when he was unable to hold his serve a single time.
Ferrer told reporters that after a shaky start his performance against Chela was an improvement over his first- and second-round matches, when he defeated Portugal’s Rui Machado and American Ryan Sweeting, respectively.
“I don’t start really good. I start a little bit nervous. He ... play very, very good the first games. And after, when I won the first set, it was more easy ... I play better with my shots. I play with more confidence,” Ferrer said.
“The first two matches here I don’t play really good. I don’t need my best game. But today in third round, the last two sets, I feel good.”
With the win, Ferrer joined countrymen Rafael Nadal, Feliciano Lopez and Nicolas Almagro in the round of 16 and on Monday will square off against talented Frenchman Richard Gasquet, a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 winner over Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic.
In other men’s third-round action Saturday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia crushed France’s Nicolas Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to set up a match with Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who thrilled the home crowd with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Scotland’s Andy Murray cruised to an easy 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 win over France’s Michael Llodra to set up a match with Kazakhstan’ Mikhail Kukushkin, who upset France’s Gael Monfils 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 1-6, 6-4.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori and France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will meet in another round of 16 encounter on Monday after recording respective wins over France’s Julien Benneteau and Portugal’s Frederico Gil.
Men’s fourth-round singles action will kick off on Sunday, with Nadal, Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Del Potro the headliners.
The Australian Open is regarded as the fourth-most prestigious tournament on the tennis calendar after Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the French Open.