MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal stormed past Croatia’s Marin Cilic into the Australian Open quarter-finals in his bid to unite the Grand Slam titles, as Andy Murray went through and Robin Soderling crashed. The world number one was in devastating touch against the 15th seed, who struggled throughout and double-faulted on match-point to go down 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 after two hours and 31 minutes.
The Spaniard broke Cilic’s serve five times and hit 26 winners and 21 errors. Cilic got two break points in the entire match and failed to convert.
Nadal, who caught a virus this month and struggled in Saturday night’s encounter with Bernard Tomic, said he was now feeling “perfect” just three matches away from a non-calendar year Grand Slam. “I didn’t sweat as much tonight,” said Nadal. “Two days ago I was sweating like crazy and I felt tired, but today I felt perfect physically.”
With the win, Nadal moves to 25 consecutive Grand Slam match victories, equalling runs by Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras in the 1970s and 1990s. Only Rod Laver (29) and Roger Federer (27, twice) have longer streaks.
Earlier, Murray barely gave Austria’s Jurgen Melzer a look in his 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win that puts him into the last-eight without dropping a set. But Soderling was on the receiving end of the tournament’s biggest upset, falling in four sets to Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dolgopolov fought back from a set down to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.
Third-seeded Belgian Kim Clijsters downed a feisty Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in a high-quality match to move into the quarter-finals. The tournament favourite battled through a tight first set then raced away with the second to set up a showdown with 12th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
It is the sixth time Clijsters has reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, although she has yet to go on and win it. She has made the semi-finals four times and got to the final in 2004, losing to fellow countrywoman Justine Henin. “I started off well but from then on it has been tough because I have been playing players I’ve never played before,” said Clijsters. “It was the same tonight. I didn’t feel my best out there but I fought back.”
Meanwhile, world number two Vera Zvonareva dispatched Czech Iveta Benesova 6-4, 6-1 with minimum fuss in only 76 minutes. AFP
Aisamul Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna were defeated in the third round. Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonijic overpowered them 3-6, 7-6 (7/6), 7-6(7/3) in a match that lasted more than two hours. Qureshi and Czech Republic’s Kveta Peschke lost the mixed doubles match in the first round to Rennae Stubbs and Chris Guccione 6-3, 3-6, 5-10.
“I’ve played Meltzer in the Slams a few times and I was expecting a tough match and I was surprised by beating him in three sets. But I don’t want to get carried away as I haven’t won this kind of thing before.”
“If I perform well and I win matches, you know, I think people will respect me, but it’s not something I really think about. There are a lot of people that always underestimated me but it doesn’t really matter to me.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2011.