Lleyton Hewitt moved closer to becoming the first home-grown Australian Open champion for 27 years today as girlfriend Kim Clijsters stayed on course for a showdown with Serena Williams. World number one Hewitt trounced Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. The victory puts the top-seeded Hewitt into the last 16 for only the second time in seven attempts. He faces 18th seed Younes El Aynaoui in Monday's fourth round.

Hewitt's chances of reaching next Sunday's final received a boost earlier today when Russian third seed Marat Safin was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a wrist injury. Safin blamed too many tournaments on the crowded tennis calendar after failing to recover from torn left wrist ligaments in time for his meeting with Rainer Schuettler of Germany. "Everybody is getting injured and tennis is becoming too physical," he said. Safin's withdrawal means Schuettler advances to a last 16 meeting with James Blake, the American 23rd seed having too much class for Alberto Martin in his third round match, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Swiss star Roger Federer worked his way into the second week to set up a revenge match with Argentina's David Nalbandian in the fourth round. Sixth-seed Federer accounted for Swedish qualifier Andreas Vinciguerra 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Federer faces his first crunch match of the Open on Monday against Wimbledon finalist and 10th tournament seed Nalbandian in the fourth round. Nalbandian got a saloon passage into the fourth round when his opponent Xavier Malisse retired during the match with an arm injury.

In the women's draw, world number one Serena Williams and Belgian fourth seed Clijsters enjoyed easy wins to romp into the last 16, both recording victories inside an hour to ensure their presence in week two. Williams overwhelmed Thailand's 26th seed Tamarine Tanasugarn with an exhibition of power tennis on her way to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Clijsters emphatically overcame Belarus' Tatiana Poutchek 6-2, 6-1. Williams' win sets her up for a fourth round meeting with Greece's Eleni Daniilidou, who defeated French 16th seed Nathalie Dechy 6-4, 6-3. Clijsters now faces Amanda Coetzer of South Africa on Monday. Coetzer defeated Israeli Anna Pistolesi in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.

Filed by James Boylan.