Defending champion Novak Djokovic shook the sleep from his eyes to reach the US Open last 16 on Sunday while low-key fourth seed David Ferrer ended Lleyton Hewitt’s latest attempt to roll back the years.
Djokovic coasted past French 30th seed Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 despite being forced to open up play on day seven at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Ferrer, a semi-finalist in 2007, clinched a 7-6 (11/9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Australian wildcard Hewitt, the 2001 champion who is now ranked 125th.
Second-seeded Djokovic did not face a single break point in his 97-minute victory, his fourth on the trot against Benneteau, firing 13 aces and 41 winners.
The 25-year-old has not dropped serve since the first game of his first-round match and has made the last 16 for a sixth successive year by losing just 14 games in three rounds.
He goes on to face either Swiss 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka or 14th-seeded Ukrainian Alexander Dolgopolov for a spot in the quarter-finals.
“It was an early match for me. Usually I don’t like to play the first match,” said Djokovic.
“So it was important to stay strong and commit to every point.”
Spanish fourth seed Ferrer, a semi-finalist already this year at the French Open and a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, has five titles to his name in 2012 – second only to world number one Roger Federer.
“I’m having the best season of my career and I think it’s the right time. I’m 30 years old,” said Ferrer, who will next face either French 13th seed Richard Gasquet or 245-ranked reigning US college champion Steve Johnson.
Hewitt, 31, and Ferrer were two of eight players 30-or-older to reach the third round, the most since 1974.
The former world number one Hewitt, who has not reached the last 16 at the US Open since 2006, and has been plagued by groin and foot problems, committed 72 unforced errors and squandered five set points in the first set tie-breaker.
“All in all, I’m happy. It takes a quality player to beat me,” said Hewitt.
Argentine seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro, the champion in 2009, tackles compatriot Leonardo Mayer later.
Del Potro’s win in New York three years ago was the only occasion in the last 30 majors that the champion wasn’t Federer, Rafael Nadal or Djokovic.