- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Novak Djokovic’s third-set wobble against Lleyton Hewitt spoiled a neat statistic. Had the defending champion won in three sets, the top three men would all have reached the quarterfinals without dropping a set.

The top-seeded Djokovic eventually won 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 Monday to join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the last eight.

No. 4 Andy Murray lost the first set against first-round opponent Ryan Harrison and hasn’t conceded one since. He beat Mikhail Kukushkin on Friday when the Kazakh retired while trailing 6-1, 6-1, 1-0.

The Big Four have reached the quarterfinals at five straight majors, underlining a gap between them and the rest of the field. Djokovic says it’s an attention to detail that makes the difference.

“Nowadays it’s very physical so you have to work very hard, you have to be dedicated, you have to take care of the smallest details off the court as well, how you organize your life, you have to be emotionally balanced,” he said. “All these kind of things play a very significant role in your performance on the court.”

Djokovic hasn’t been out of the top four since the middle of 2007. He did admit, though, that he’s still getting used to sitting at the top of the pack after a standout 2011 in which he won three of the four majors and overtook Nadal and Federer for the No. 1 ranking.

“I have to accept this life as simple as possible because you can easily get carried away,” the 24-year-old Serbian said. “There is a lot of temptations, especially when you’re at the top. Obviously you get more attention and more temptations to do some things that can affect your performance in a negative way.”

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GLORY DAYS: Maria Sharapova is already starting to talk like her career has peaked.

Sharapova won her first major at Wimbledon in 2004, added the U.S. title in 2006 and the Australian in 2008, a year after losing the final at Melbourne Park. She had surgery on her right shoulder later that year and hasn’t added to her Grand Slam collection since.

Asked about how she feels after spending about one-third of her life on tour, Sharapova said she felt “fortunate to be sitting in this position and saying that I achieved great success at 17.”

“Obviously maybe if I had achieved it a few years later, I wouldn’t feel like I’ve been on the tour for so long. But I’m certainly not complaining for that because that will probably be the highest note of my career.”

Why?

“Because I never had expected that that would come to my career. I was so naive,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think at that point, when I had won Wimbledon, I understood what it meant.

“I thought it was just an incredible feeling, and it’s Wimbledon, but I don’t think I actually logically knew what I had done.”

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