Nadal''s best match at Open to oust Cilic

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Melbourne, Jan 24 (AFP) Rafael Nadal played his besthigh-intensity match of the Australian Open to see off MarinCilic and reach the quarter-finals today.

The world number one, bidding for a fourth straight majortitle to complete a non-calendar year Grand Slam, was toostrong for the 15th-seeded Croat, winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in 2hr31min on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal will now play close friend and Spanish seventh seedDavid Ferrer in Wednesday''s quarters. He leads Ferrer 11-3.

It will be Nadal''s fifth successive Australian Openquarter-final and he stretched his Grand Slam winning streakto 25 matches, his longest, but four off the record run of 29held by Rod Laver.

"Before tonight''s match I was a little nervous becauseCilic can play very aggressively and is very dangerous," Nadalsaid.

"I was able to play with high intensity, very goodrhythm, playing more inside the court. I play more aggressive,changing the rhythm with the slice and with the topspinbackhand. The serve worked better today.

"I feel I played my best match by far at this year''sOpen. In general, I think it was a very good match for me andvery important victory."

Nadal said he felt no effects of the virus which hebrought into the Open, and noticeably did not sweat anywherenear as much as he did in his third-round win over Australianteen Bernard Tomic.

"Today I felt very good. I didn''t sweat like the otherdays. So that''s fantastic news for me," he said. "The betternews is I played much better than the rest of the days."

Nadal broke Cilic''s serve five times and hit 26 winnersand 21 errors. Cilic only got two break point opportunities inthe entire match and failed to convert.

Nadal said he was anticipating a tough encounter withFerrer in the Australian Open''s first all-Spanishquarter-final in 14 years.

"We know each other well. We played a lot of timesagainst each other and have practised together a lot of times.

"I think he''s been a fantastic player for many yearsbeing in the top positions. That''s very difficult to do.

"I know it''s going to be a really difficult match."

Cilic was backing up after his marathon five-setter withAmerican John Isner over four-and-a-half hours on Saturday.

"I didn''t push him too much," Cilic said. "You couldn''tsee how much he does have in the tank and especially as Ididn''t play great. But definitely he''s got good confidence. Ithink conditions are a little bit slower this year and couldsuit him a little bit more."

Cilic recorded his best Grand Slam performance byreaching last year''s semi-finals, where he lost to AndyMurray, and will now lose ground in the next rankings afterthe Open. "I''m hoping that I''m gonna come back closer to top10. With this loss here, I''m going to drop a little bit in myranking. I was defending my semis points from last year," hesaid. (AFP) CM

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