Next came another illustrious 34-year-old, world No1 Serena Williams, who took on a woman almost 16 years her junior in 18-year-old Daria Kasatkina, with the six-time and defending Australian Open champion done and dusted in just 44 minutes for the loss of two games.
Then came the third match to pitch players born in different decades against one another, the Czech No6 seed, Tomas Berdych against the 20-year-old No29 seed Nick Kyrgios.
This opposed one of the most consistent, and most consistently powerful, men on the tour in Berdych against the young firebrand tipped for the top, an Australian with all the shot-making firepower and personality to trouble the very best when he can string it all together. He was already twice a Grand Slam quarter-finalist, Wimbledon 2014 and the Australian Open last year, he had beaten Andy Murray on his way to Hopman Cup victory this year, beaten Federer in Madrid in three tie-breakers last year, and beat Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon 2014.
Berdych, though, has resided in the top 10 for five and half years, is one of the few men on tour to reach all four Grand Slam semis, and in Australia in particular, he has thrived: Not since 2010 had he fallen short of the quarters, and he made the semis here for the last two years.
He did not even have any qualms about the one-sided crowd he would face: “Whatever the crowd’s going to be, it’s just about myself and how I’m going to be focused.”
And right from the start, Berdych used his easy, consistent power to keep Kyrgios in check. A break in the fourth game of the first set threw down the gauntlet and he resisted break points in seventh as Kyrgios stepped in to take the ball early on every serve. In 35 minutes, Berdych was a set up, 6-3.
The second set brought more of the same. Berdych was clinical in firing heavy forehands and backhands to alternate corners, and serving wide to finish with a one-two punch. He broke in the seventh game, and calmly ignored the distracted Kyrgios, who began to complain of noises off through the remainder of the set. An ace tied up it up for Berdych, 6-4.
In the third set, though, Kyrgios showed just what explosive tennis he can produce. He fired down ace after ace, grinning at the excited crowd as he closed out the third set, 6-1 with 13 winners to just four errors.
Still Berdych was unmoved, and he opened the fourth set with an ace, holding to love with his 34th winner of the match. Krygios remained the flamboyant one, notably in an explosive sixth game to come back from two break points with two aces and a lunging touch volley winner.
But serving at 4-5, he was the one blitzed by first a forehand winner down the line and then by a cross-court backhand winner. Facing 15-40, Kyrgios double faulted, and Berdych advanced, 6-4.
The Czech was quick to praise the packed arena: “Difficult match. I already played quite a few of those and have experience of Davis Cup matches, so I was trying to stay calm and focused and not look over the net—just to try and see the ball. I succeeded with that.
“[But] I think the crowd is amazing here. I think it is really fair, and I’ve really enjoyed playing here.”
He does not, however, play his scheduled seed for a place in the quarters but the No24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat No12 Marin Cilic, 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-5.
Cilic hit 15 aces among his 46 winners, and won an impressive 23 out of 28 points at the net, but 55 errors gave Bautista Agut too many openings. Cilic gave up a 5-2 lead in the second set, and then a mini-break in the ensuing tie-break. In the third set, one final forehand error handed the break and match to the Spaniard, after 2hrs 33mins.
Bautista Agut, who is the only non-top-16 player among the eight in the top half, is on an eight-match winning streak, having won in Auckland last week.
No1 Novak Djokovic beat No28 Andreas Seppi, 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6)
He now faces:
No14 Gilles Simon beat Federico Delbonis, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1
No3 Roger Federer beat No27 Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
He now faces:
No15 David Goffin beat No19 Dominic Thiem, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5
No7 Kei Nishikori beat No26 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 He now faces:
No9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Pierre Hughes-Herbert, 6-4, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
No1 Serena Williams beat Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 6-1
She now faces:
Margarita Gasparyan beat Yulia Putintseva, 6-3, 6-4
No4 Agnieszka Radwanska beat Monica Puig, 6-4, 6-0
She now faces:
Anna-Lena Friedsam beat No13 Roberta Vinci, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4
No5 Maria Sharapova beat Lauren Davis, 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0 She now faces:
No12 Belinda Bencic beat Kateryna Bondarenko, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
No10 Carla Suarez Navarro beat Elizaveta Kulichkova, 6-4, 2-0
She now faces:
Daria Gavrilova beat No28 Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 4-6, 11-9
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