Tsonga leads French foray into fourth round, women stroll

Melbourne: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga put the first French feet into the fourth round of the Australian Open Saturday, while Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova continued the stroll down `easy street` for the leading women at Melbourne Park.

Tsonga could be joined in the next round by five of his countrymen Saturday, with Gael Monfils, Nicolas Mahut, Richard Gasquet, Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra all waiting in the wings for their chance to advance.

However, with big guns such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic providing the opposition, and Marion Bartoli struggling against China`s Zheng Jie in the women`s draw, Tsonga could be the only French face left by the end of the day.

Heavy-hitter Tsonga delivered a typically power-packed performance on Hisense Arena, swatting the startled Frederico Gil out of his path 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in just over 90 minutes.

The world number six needed four sets to see off Denis Istomin in the first round, was pushed hard in three by Ricardo Mello in the second but looked sharp and strong against Portugal`s Gil.

"Every year and every tournament it`s a bit of the same story for me. I play better and better every match," the 26-year-old said. "Today I played well and didn`t spend a lot of time on court, and it`s good for the rest of the tournament."

Women`s world number two Kvitova kicked off the action on Rod Laver Arena but barely 38 minutes later she had booked her place in the next round after Russian Maria Kirilenko retired hurt.

The 24-year-old Kirilenko had dropped the first set 6-0 and was broken in the first game of the second before retiring.

Wimbledon champion Kvitova will play Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round after she beat American Vania King.

King`s defeat leaves Serena Williams as the only American player left fighting at Melbourne Park.

Former champion Sharapova continued to sweep majestically through the draw with a display of controlled aggression in a 6-1, 6-2 victory over German Angelique Kerber.

Sharapova, who won the last of her three grand slam titles in Melbourne in 2008, has lost just five games in three matches in reaching the last 16 and will face either compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova or German Sabine Lisicki next.

Bureau Report