Off serve


MELBOURNE, Australia — The bravado he built by holding serve for 76 games dissolved in six points. It was Roger Federer on the other side of the net this time, in a major, and he gave 20-year-old Bernard Tomic an instant reality check — a kind of ‘Welcome to my place, Mate.’

“I elected to serve, considering I was serving really well the last few weeks,” Tomic said. “Yeah … that first service game was important. I lost it. Then I was like, ‘Oh, no!’”

The last Aussie exited the Australian Open on Saturday night, with Federer beating Tomic 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the third round.

“It’s not my favorite part of the job beating up on the hometown heroes,” Federer said. “But it’s nice that you guys sort of invite me back every year.”

Federer earned his 250th win at a Grand Slam event, the milestone sprinkled with some of his classic crisp volleys and trademark one-handed backhands. Federer won the first point of the match with a forehand winner, the first of three in that game, and Tomic only won two points before the Swiss star converted a service break in the first game.

Federer will face Canadian Milos Raonic, who had 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in a battle of two big servers.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka struggled at times before putting away injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in 2 hours, 9 minutes. No. 3 Serena Williams dropped serve early in the second set before winning the last six games in her 6-1, 6-3 victory against Japan’s Ayumi Morita.

Top-ranked Azarenka overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match. Hampton needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem immediately before she served out the second set, and winced in pain throughout the latter half of the match.

“She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place,” Azarenka said. “I was like, ‘Can I have a back problem?’ I’m feeling great, but I’m missing every shot.”

Azarenka next plays Elena Vesnina, who beat 16th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Williams is aiming for a third consecutive Grand Slam title. She rocketed another serve at 128 mph, equaling a career best that she hit earlier in the tournament.

She later combined with older sister Venus to win a second-round doubles match, more preparation for her fourth-round singles match against No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who beat No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Former U.S. and French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro and will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, who had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Ukraine qualifier Lesia Tsurenko.

Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup between the only teenagers left in the women’s draw.