Australian Open: Djokovic safely through to fourth round in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts against Fernando Verdasco of Spain in their third round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on 24 Jan 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts against Fernando Verdasco of Spain in their third round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on 24 Jan 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Top seed Novak Djokovic overcame a nervous start and feisty Fernando Verdasco to safely negotiate his way into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

With the surprise loss of Roger Federer still hanging over the men's draw, Djokovic was well aware the danger the 31-year-old Verdasco, a former top-10 player posed.

The Spaniard had taken Rafa Nadal deep into the night in a five-hour, five set marathon during the 2009 semi-finals in Melbourne and only trailed the Serb 6-4 in their career head-to-head record.

Verdasco harassed Djokovic at the start but once the world number one sealed the first set tiebreak after an hour of the tense baseline battle he ran away with the match in the next two to win 7-6(8) 6-3 6-4 and set up a fourth round clash with Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.