Nadal Beats Murray in 5, Blake Loses; Love in the Air at Aussie Open

Posted on January 22, 2007

Nadal Outlasts Murray, Blake Beat at Aussie Open

In a match lasting well past 1 a.m. in Melbourne, muscle-bound No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal physically broke down the lanky No. 15 seed Andy Murray in a first-time meeting in fourth-round play at the Australian Open, with the Spaniard running away with the fifth set in a 6-7(3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win.

Murray did an excellent job of mixing up the pace to keep the Spaniard guessing, but when Nadal turned it into a physical contest, the Brit could not keep up at the end.

No. 10 seed Fernando Gonzalez continued his dominance of No. 5 seed James Blake, earning a fourth consecutive win over the American 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(4).

"I'm sure there's a million reasons, a million excuses I could come up with," Blake said. "He played better than me today. Served better, returned better. There were a few points there I'd love to have over again, but that's the way it goes. He played great on the big points."

Blake was unable to convert on three sets points in the first and a break lead in the second, with the Chilean continuing the American's big-match woes.

"Maybe I am playing the best tennis of my life, but I can still improve," Gonzalez said. "(Going past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time) is the next step but I am ready."

Also into the quarterfinals were No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko who narrowly escaped a fifth set against No. 13 Tomas Berdych 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(5), and No. 12 Tommy Haas who continues to quietly make his way toward contention for a first Slam title, upsetting No. 8 David Nalbandian 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

"I am obviously very pleased to beat David again and being in the quarterfinals here once again," said Haas, an Aussie Open semifinalist in 1999 and 2002. "I was aggressive and I kept focused pretty well. As soon as I got that second set under my belt I felt pretty confident. I liked what I was doing in the second set and I was just trying to continue doing that."

Scheduled for Tuesday in Melbourne are quarterfinals (6) Andy Roddick vs. Mardy Fish in a battle of former high school roomates, (1) Federer vs. (7) Robredo, and in doubles (1) The Bryan brothers vs. unseeded Coetzee/Wassen, and (3) Knowles/Nestor vs. (6) Fabrice "The Magician" Santoro/Zimonjic.

Clijsters, Hingis Book Meeting at Aussie Open

Favorites Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis moved into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Monday, with Clijsters and Hingis setting up their ninth career meeting to see who can take the advantage in the 4-4 career tie.

Sharapova bested fellow Russian and No. 22 seed Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-4 while Clijsters beat No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 7-5, easing through the match until the Belgian got tight late in the second set.

Hingis had a more difficult time with No. 19 seed Na Li, dropping the first set against China's No. 1 player before storming back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win.

"She came out on fire, I've never played her before, I knew it was going to be a difficult match," Hingis said. "I knew I had to come up with the best -- after the first set I started playing better."

Clijsters has won all three meetings with Hingis since the Swiss made her comeback from retirement in 2006.

"It's always a pleasure to play her again here," Clijsters said. "She's just a great champion. Tomorrow is a completely different match from last year, she has beaten me before. You always have to be ready for your opponent to play their best tennis."

Also into the quarters Monday was Russian No. 12 seed Anna Chakvetadze who upset No. 8 Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-1 to set up a meeting with Sharapova.

Scheduled for the Tuesday quarterfinals in Melbourne are Serena Williams vs. (16) Shahar Peer, and (10) Nicole Vaidisova vs. Czech countrywoman Lucie Safarova.

"I believe in my game, and more than anything I believe in me," Williams said. "It doesn't matter what people say or people write. At the end of the day, I'm my biggest fan."

The Melbourne Sun reported that Anastasia Myskina is engaged to ATP player Jurgen Melzer...Two players who are also engaged, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters, will meet in the quarterfinals...While the Andy Roddick-Maria Sharapova speculation continues, Fernando Gonzalez has been hanging with WTA player Gisela Dulko...Tommy Haas comes to Melbourne with a new babe...Andy Murray is still with Nigel Sears's daughter, and of course there's Lucy Safarova and Tomas Berdych who have been dating now for four years...From Nina Rota of Sportingo: "I don't expect Serena to steal this Slam, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis are still going strong in the other half of the draw, but she should be able to get to the semifinals and that is pretty amazing. But it may not be a good thing for Serena and it's not good for the WTA. If Serena thinks she can drop in and get to a semifinal in a Slam, that won't exactly push her to hit the treadmill or spend hours on the court. Why should she if she can get so far with so little preparation? And it also doesn't say much about the WTA. When Hingis returned after a three-year layoff, she got into the top ten by August. And now Serena, after playing only 16 matches last year, is doing well in a Slam. That means the level of play hasn't improved much over the last three years and clearly the top ten players are not performing well in the big events."...From The Age: "The Next Big Thing in Australian tennis Bernard Tomic attracted a bigger-than usual crowd to court 19 today as he made short work of his seeded Bolivian opponent to advance to the second round of the boys' singles at the Australian Open. Tomic, at 14 the youngest-ever direct qualifier for the event, won the first set against sixth-seed Jose Roberto Velasco 6-2 and was up 4-1 in the second when Velasco retired hurt. Sporting a white head band, the lanky Tomic was targeted by court-side photographers and young autograph hunters after his grand slam debut. Journalists later crammed into one of the smaller interview rooms at the Open to make their own assessment of Tomic, who some have branded cocky for expressing a desire to become the world's No. 1 player before he enters his 20s."...From Daniel Stern of at the Australian Open: "While at the Prince booth on Saturday, I asked a rep about Jennifer Capriati, expecting him to give me the usual "she's injured, not playing yet" response. Instead, I was told that Capriati recently ordered some new racquets to test out, supposedly planning to start hitting again. This information was repeated by another Prince rep on Sunday, but then denied by a third rep today. So no change there -- the Capriati outlook is unknown. She did, however, tell a Las Vegas conference last week that she's "still trying to come back."...Another man has been detained for trying to take "upskirt" photos of women at the Australian Open, lots of problems this year in Melbourne. Also from Reuters: "Fears of race clashes on Monday led organisers of Australia's biggest outdoor rock concert to bar fans from carrying the national flag, sparking a furious reaction from the country's prime minister and war veterans. After fights between ethnic Croatian and Serbian fans outside the Australian Open tennis tournament last week and 2005 race clashes on Sydney's beaches, Big Day Out concert organisers said Australia's flag was a "gang colour" which could incite hatred. "It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it," event producer Ken West told Australian newspapers. The concert Web site said the flag was not banned outright, but security staff were "discouraging its use."