LONDON – Roger Federer moved into the Olympic quarterfinals with minimum fuss on Wednesday, while his rivals Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had to dig deep to avoid third-round exits.
After securing a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title, Federer is desperate to complete a career “Golden Slam” by winning singles gold for the first time.
The 17-time grand slam singles champion saw the defense of his doubles title with Stanislas Wawrinka fall apart with a 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 loss to Israel’s Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
But Federer stayed on course for the singles with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin on Wimbledon’s Court One.
Federer, 30, will play John Isner for a place in the semifinals after the American 10th seed defeated Serbian seventh seed Janko Tipsarevic 7-5, 7-6 (16-14).
“I started really well and went into the lead 3-0. But he came back and I was a little bit shaken up I guess,” Federer said.
“I got a bit lucky obviously, saving a couple of set points. Then I think I was able to play a bit more aggressively, I relaxed and I played a good match in the end.”
World No. 2 Djokovic, on course to face Federer in the Olympic final, endured a much tougher test as he came from behind to beat Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Djokovic was pushed to the brink in a gruelling clash on Centre Court before finally overpowering the gritty Hewitt in 1 hour and 56 minutes.
Next up for the 2011 Wimbledon champion is French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
“It was great, it was a really good test for both of us,” Djokovic said.
“I thought he was the better player for half of the match. He was returning exceptionally well and serving quite precisely.
“I was in trouble, especially in the second set when I didn’t serve out the set at 5-3. But I managed to compose myself and play my best when I needed to.”
Britain’s Andy Murray also survived a stern examination from Cyprus’s Marcos Baghdatis before coming through 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Murray had started his bid for Olympic gold in superb form, but Baghdatis pushed him hard in the Wimbledon third round last month and the world No. 44 proved a tough opponent again at the same stage of the games.
In windy conditions on Centre Court, Murray looked in danger of a shock defeat as the world No. 4 was outplayed in the first set.
But the Scot, beaten in this year’s Wimbledon final by Federer, finally found enough momentum to edge through to a last-eight clash with Spanish 11th seed Nicolas Almagro, who defeated Belgium’s Steve Darcis 7-5, 6-3.
“I was struggling in the first set. Guys like Marcos, he’s ranked 40 or 50 in the world, but when he plays his best tennis, he’s so, so tough to beat,” Murray said.
“That’s why you can’t really afford slow starts. I was lucky to get away with it today.”
Meanwhile, Serena Williams hit 12 aces and repeatedly rocketed her ground strokes past No. 13-seeded Vera Zvonareva to win 6-1, 6-0 and reach the quarterfinals.
Swinging lustily with almost every shot, the No. 4-seeded Williams hit 32 winners to three for the Russian, who also lost when they met in the 2010 Wimbledon final. Williams swept the final 10 games and was done in only 51 minutes.
Nishikori ousts Ferrer
Kei Nishikori produced some fantastic tennis to progress to the quarterfinals of the men’s singles at the London Olympics, beating No. 4 seed David Ferrer of Spain 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 on Wednesday.
Nishikori raced out to take the first set before Ferrer began to find his feet and battled back to take the second in an epic encounter played in fading light at Wimbledon.
As the darkness approached with Nishikori up 5-4 in a thrilling final set, the match was moved to Centre Court and the No. 15 seed closed it out with a strong forehand down the middle, breaking Ferrer’s serve to win.
“I think I went really aggressive today,” Nishikori said. “I tried not to go back to the baseline because if I stay there, he doesn’t miss.
“It means a lot to beat top-10 guys especially because I lost to him last time. I’m very confident now, but it’s going to be a tough match tomorrow again. My serve was working really well and everything just seemed to go well today.”
In Thursday’s quarterfinals, the 22-year-old from Shimane Prefecture will face No. 8 seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina who beat 12th seed Gilles Simon of France 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.