Nadal storms into Aussie Open quarters

Melbourne, Jan 24 (AFP) Rafael Nadal stormed pastCroatia''s Marin Cilic into the Australian Open quarter-finalstoday in his bid to unite the Grand Slam titles, as KimClijsters and Andy Murray also went through.

World number one Nadal was in devastating touch againstthe 15th seed, who struggled throughout and double-faulted onmatch-point to go down 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 after 2hr 31min on a coolevening at Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal, who caught a virus this month and sweated bucketsin Saturday night''s encounter with Australian teen BernardTomic, said he was now feeling "perfect" just three matchesaway from a non-calendar year Grand Slam.

"I didn''t sweat as much tonight," he smiled. "Two daysago I was sweating like crazy and I felt tired, but today isthe first day that I felt perfect physically."

With the win, Nadal moves to 25 consecutive Grand Slammatch victories, equalling runs by Jimmy Connors and PeteSampras in the 1970s and 1990s. Only Rod Laver (29) and RogerFederer (27, twice) have longer streaks.

Nadal will meet David Ferrer on Wednesday in theAustralian Open''s first all-Spanish quarter-final in 14 years.

The French Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion can become thefirst man to hold all four major titles since 1969.

Earlier Murray barely gave Austria''s Jurgen Melzer a lookin his 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win which maintained British hopes ofending a men''s Slam drought dating back to Fred Perry''s 1936US Open victory.

The world number five, beaten by Federer in last year''sfinal, said he was surprised by the easy win over the 11thseed which, like Nadal, puts him into the last eight withoutdropping a set.

"I''ve played Jurgen in the Slams a few times, includinghere two years ago, and I was expecting a tough match and Iwas surprised by beating him in three sets," Murray said.

"I hit the ball well from the start of the match and Iplayed some of my best tennis (here) last year. I don''t wantto get carried away as I haven''t won this kind of thing(major) before." MORE (AFP)CM

Murray avoided a quarter-final with Soderling when the in-form Swede was on the receiving end of the men''s draw''sbiggest upset, falling in four sets to Ukrainian AlexandrDolgopolov.

Dolgopolov fought back from a set down to win 1-6, 6-3,6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in what he called the performance of his life.

Two-time Slam finalist Soderling was unbeaten this year andconsidered a contender for his first major title.

While world number 46 Dolgopolov extends a giant-killingrun which also includes the scalp of 2008 finalist Jo-WilfriedTsonga, Soderling was left to rue an Australian Open jinxwhich also includes three first-round failures.

"I''ve struggled many times in this tournament," Soderlingsaid. "And I think, I never had a good first month (of theyear) in my career."

Meanwhile Canada''s Milos Raonic, 20, was stopped byFerrer, ending a career-breakthrough streak in which he beatseeds Michael Llodra and Mikhail Youzhny and delivered thetournament''s fastest serve.

US Open champion Kim Clijsters remained firm favouritefor the women''s title after battling past Russia''s EkaterinaMakarova 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, setting up a quarter-final date withPole Agnieszka Radwanska.

"I started the tournament off well (against DinaraSafina) but from then on it has been tough because I have beenplaying players I''ve never played before," she said, addingthat she was "not Superwoman".

"It was the same tonight. I didn''t feel my best out therebut I fought back."

Women''s second seed Zvonareva recovered from a slow startto ease past Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1 andmove towards her third straight Grand Slam final, as shetargets a maiden major win.

Zvonareva will next face the Czech Republic''s PetraKvitova, who downed Italian 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta 3-6,6-3, 6-3.

Polish 12th seed Radwanska saved two match points beforedefeating Peng Shuai in three sets, leaving Li Na as China''slone hope for a first Grand Slam singles title. (AFP) CM

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