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Djokovic routs birthday boy Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1

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POSTED January 20, 2012 11:44 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic gave Nicolas Mahut one lousy birthday present.

The top-seeded Djokovic routed the Frenchman 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 on Saturday to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open. He needed only 1 hour, 14 minutes to dismiss the newly 30-years-old Mahut, who lost the longest match in Grand Slam history over 11 hours, 5 minutes against John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010.

"I wish him happy birthday and hopefully tonight he can enjoy it," Djokovic said.

The defending champion is aiming to become the fifth man in the Open era to win three consecutive major titles. He will play the winner of a later match between Milos Raonic and Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whom Djokovic beat at Melbourne Park for his first Grand Slam title in 2008, also hardly broke sweat in beating Frederico Gil of Portugal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

On the women's side, two Wimbledon winners — Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova — advanced, but two top 10 players went out.

Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva was beaten 7-6 (7), 6-1 by fellow Russian Ekaterina Makerova. No. 9 Marion Bartoli lost 6-3, 6-3 to Zheng Jie of China, a former Australian Open semifinalist.

Sharapova was tested for the first time and still came out with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Germany's Angelique Kerber.

The 2008 champion won her first two matches 6-0, 6-1 and has lost five games in reaching the fourth round, but though the scoreline on Saturday made it look easy enough, Sharapova was given a full workout in a 56-minute second set, with many games going to deuce.

After clinching the victory with a forehand winner, Sharapova showed her relief by clenching her fist and screeching "come on!"

"She certainly stepped up in the second set," Sharapova said. "She reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year so she's been on the big stage before and I knew she could produce some really good tennis."

She next plays No. 14 Sabine Lisicki, who beat two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Sharapova and Kvitova both have a chance of claiming the No. 1 ranking at the end of the tournament. They could play each other in the semifinals, although Kvitova insisted she hasn't looked that far ahead.

"I don't know who lost and who win," the Wimbledon champion said. "No, really, for me doesn't care."

Kvitova reached the Round of 16 when Maria Kirilenko retired with a left thigh injury while trailing 6-0, 1-0 after 38 minutes of their third-round match.

Kvitova next faces Ana Ivanovic, who beat unseeded American Vania King 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for the first time since she reached the final here in 2008.

That was the same year the 24-year-old Serb won the French Open for her only Grand Slam title, and also claimed the top ranking.

"I still believe I can do well," Ivanovic said. "I'm just enjoying competing again. It's going to be tough (against Kvitova), but I love challenges."

King's loss left Serena Williams as the only American player left in the singles draws after John Isner's loss on Friday ended any hope of a men's champion from the United States.

Five-time champion Williams, hoping to win her 17th straight match at Melbourne Park, was up against Greta Arn of Hungary in a later match Saturday.

Djokovic was ruthless against Mahut, whose movement was hampered by a left leg injury. When the Frenchman won his first game early in the second set, he stretched his arms out to welcome a huge cheer from the crowd as he walked back to the service line.

Djokovic hardly made a mistake as he won 11 of the next 12 games and finished with eight unforced errors. He has won 24 straight sets at the Australian Open, and has lost 10 games in his first three matches this time.

"I always played well in Australia. This is the only Grand Slam I won twice," he said. "The reason that I skipped the opening week of the season was because I wanted to get ready for Melbourne.

"The conditions are great. They're very suitable to my style of the game, day and night. I'm really looking forward to next week."

Like Djokovic, No. 4-ranked Andy Murray was also up against French opposition later Saturday in the shape of Michael Llodra.

In all, six Frenchmen reached the third round. Tsonga wasted hardly any time becoming the first of them to move into the Round of 16. The 2008 finalist took six of his seven break-point opportunities and saved all five against him.

"I had to take it seriously and this is what I did. I'm just really happy to go through," said Tsonga, who will face fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau or Kei Nishikori of Japan next.

Richard Gasquet, the fourth highest-ranked Frenchman at No. 18, knocked out ninth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. He will play fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who lost the first four games against Juan Ignacio Chela before recovering to win 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.

On the other half the draw, No. 2 Rafael Nadal had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Lukas Lacko on Friday and Roger Federer had a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-3 win over 6-foot-10 Croatian Ivo Karlovic. Federer will play Australian teenager Bernard Tomic on Sunday.

An early rematch of last year's women's final is already in place, with defending champion Kim Clijsters and Li Na both winning Friday night to set up a meeting in the fourth round.

Clijsters advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Daniela Hantuchova. Li didn't even finish four games before Anabel Medina Garrigues quit with a badly sprained right ankle.

The winner of the Clijsters-Li match will likely face a quarterfinal against top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who has not dropped a set in advancing to the fourth round as she continues her quest for a first Grand Slam title. She beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-2, 6-2, while third-seeded Victoria Azarenka defeated Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4.

Wozniacki will next play former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, who beat Christina McHale of the U.S. 6-2, 6-0.

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