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June 28, 2017

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Djokovic, Ferrer move on to third round at Australian Open

MELBOURNE -- David Ferrer was stretched to four sets and five match points as Tomas Berdych had an easier path to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Spanish fourth seed Ferrer was extended by 125th-ranked American Tim Smyczek before clinching a 6-0, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win in 2 hours, 38 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

But Czech fifth seed Berdych had no such concerns, sweeping to a straight sets win over Frenchman Guillaume Rufin.

World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic continued his bid for a third straight Australian Open title with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 second round win over American Ryan Harrison on Wednesday night.

Djokovic will next play No. 31 Radek Stepanek, who beat Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Ferrer, looking to take advantage of compatriot Rafael Nadal's enforced absence to go deep into the second week of the tournament, will play 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis next up.

Baghdatis needed four sets before putting away Japan's Tatsuma Ito to reach the last 32.

Elsewhere on day three, Japan's Kei Nishikori powered on with a straight-sets win over Argentina's Carlos Berlocq, and Spanish 10th seed Nicolas Almagro went through in three sets.

Ferrer looked to be heading for a regulation straight-sets victory but the tenacious Smyczek broke him twice to take the set and keep Ferrer longer out on the court.

Smyczek chased down everything and Ferrer needed five match points before finally prevailing.

"I'm OK because I've won the match and he gave a good performance. I don't have any physical problems, so all's good," Ferrer said. "I will rest this afternoon and tomorrow and get ready for my next match."

It was Ferrer's ninth win in 10 matches this year after reaching the semifinals at Doha and successfully defending his title at Auckland last week.

Ferrer beat Nadal in the quarterfinals in Melbourne two years ago before going down to Andy Murray in the semifinals, his best performance at the Australian Open.

Berdych, coming off Czech Republic's Davis Cup victory over Spain in Prague last November, was too strong for the 92nd-ranked Rufin, winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in exactly two hours, and will next play Austria's Jurgen Melzer.

Melzer, the 26th seed, toiled for 3:49.00 before overcoming Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-2.

But Berdych was in little bother, breaking Rufin's service six times and hitting 30 winners to 19.

"I had to work hard to win in three sets. It was a better match for me from the first round and that's what I always like to do, improving one by one and not just bringing my best tennis for the first round," he said.

Nishikori has enjoyed strong form in Australia, reaching the Brisbane semis before retiring hurt and making the Australian Open quarterfinals last year, the best ever Grand Slam performance by a Japanese man.

"I feel so comfortable playing here, you know, playing last year with a lot of support. You know, it's one of the best Grand Slams for me to play, I think," he said.

Luckless American Brian Baker collapsed clutching his knee early in the second set and retired injured against compatriot Sam Querrey.

Baker, the world number 57, bravely returned to tennis in 2011 following a series of operations.

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