Rafael Nadal has declared his illness dead and gone. For now. The Spaniard made the revelation after whipping Marin Cilic to advance to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Monday night in Melbourne.
“Today I felt very good,” Nadal said. “I didn’t sweat like the other days. So that’s fantastic news for me. The better news is I played much better than the rest of the days.”
Nadal, who admitted to have been battling flu-like symptoms, should no signs of any ailment during a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 dismantling of Cilic who had beaten the Spaniard in their only prior meeting 16 months ago in Beijing.
“I was able to play with high intensity, very good rhythm, playing more inside the court,” Nadal added. “So play more aggressive, changing rhythms with the slice and with the topspin, backhand. The serve worked better today. So, in general, I think it was a very good match for me and very important victory. So very happy for everything.”
Not everyone at the top was happy at the “Happy Slam”. The upset of the day came thanks to Alexandr Dolgopolov who, for the second straight match, stunned a top seeded player in five sets. On Saturday, Dolgo eliminated JW Tsonga in five, today he shocked Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 to reach his first career Grand Slam final eight.
Soderling was sharp early and it looked like the Swede would sail away with the match. But the 22-year-old from the Ukraine wasn’t intimated in the least by the moment and matched power with power and much more to turn back Robin.
“Well, I started not really well,” said Dolgopolov. “I was serving really bad. I mean, with a player like that on the baseline, he’s really good. So, I mean, the first set I was struggling, and a break down in the second. I came back somehow and started to play better and better with every set. I’m really happy I’m through to the quarterfinal.”
Frankly, the way Soderling had been playing – serving especially – I did not see that upset coming, and neither did Robin.
“I think I struggled throughout the whole match,” Soderling said. “I won the first set, yeah, but I didn’t win it because I played well. You know, he wasn’t on it at the start. Then he started to play much better, which I didn’t. Then, you know, he played much better.
“He’s a good player,” he said of Dolgopolov. “You know, he has a great backhand and he’s moving very well. He’s a great counter puncher. He has a good chance to do really well.”
While Dolgo got through, his future running mate Milos Raonic was cut down. The imposing 6-foot-5 Canadian stole the first set before David Ferrer settled in and got a read on his serve. In the end it was Ferrer 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 advancing to meet Nadal in the quarterfinals Wednesday night.
I have a hunch this could be the last time Raonic will be unseeded at the Australian Open. The kid is that good.
Andy Murray continues his quiet yet effective progress at the Australian Open. The Scot destroyed his fourth straight opponent today virtually humiliating the No. 11 player in the world Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.
“I feel good,” Murray said. “The matches are definitely going to get tougher. I’m not expecting to go through, you know, the tournament winning matches like that, with that score line. So, you know, I’m ready for that mentally when it does get tough.”
In four matches Murray has surrendered just 22 games and with Soderling now out of the tournament, could we see a Murray-Nadal rematch in the semifinals? I think so.
As for tomorrow, Roger Federer hooks up with his buddy Stan Wawrinka and then in the evening it’s Tomas Berdych vs. Novak Djokovic.
First to the night match which I think Djokovic will win. Berdych has been playing great tennis and he crushed Fernando Verdasco in the last round. Whatever issue he had during the last half of 2010 he seems to be over. The Czech has somehow instantly returned back to that French-Wimbledon form.
And remember at Wimbledon it was Berdych who beat Djokovic in the semifinals. So that’s why I like Novak here. I think he’ll have revenge on his mind and I just think he’s playing better and with more focus than Berdych. Novak won the Australian Open a few years ago so he also has that in his memory bank whereas I recall Berdych chocking a two-set lead to Federer in what may have been his last match on Rod Laver before tomorrow.
In the earlier quarterfinal, I still favor Federer, though Wawrinka is going to be a very tough out. I know it’s easy to say that “Stan will rollover for Roger” but this time Stan is playing about as well as anyone right now, Federer included!
But again, beating Roger in Monte Carlo, which Stan did, is much different than taking him down in a best-of-five stage with the world watching. And tactically, Roger will work Stan’s forehand and take advantage of that weaker side. That said, if Fed’s off and Stan’s on, it could spell a very long afternoon for Roger.
My picks for the women tomorrow are Wozniacki to beat a tired Schiavone and Li Na over Andrea Petokovic.
Matches will on TV at 7pm on the Tennis Channel then at 9pm on ESPN2.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Andrea Petkovic (GER) v. Na Li (CHN)
Not Before:12:30 PM
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30 PM Start Time
Tomas Berdych (CZE) v. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
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