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Nadal overcomes Murray; Clijsters, Hingis to meet in quarterfinals

Nadal overcomes Murray; Clijsters, Hingis to meet in quarterfinals

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal survived a relentless challenge from Scotland's Andy Murray, rallying twice from a set down Monday to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Murray's withering serve, winners from the baseline and crisp volleys repeatedly had Nadal off-balance. But the super-fit Spaniard had more left at the end of the four-hour match than the slender, 19-year-old Murray, taking a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory.
"It was very, very, very tough," Nadal said. "He is playing at an unbelievable level. All the time I was trying my best, trying to fight for every point. I needed one match like this against a big player."
He earned a matchup with No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who earlier ousted No. 5 James Blake 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in another display of high-energy, high-quality tennis.
Tommy Haas also advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over eighth-seeded David Nalbandian and next plays third-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who dropped a set for the first time before beating No. 13 Tomas Berdych 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
On the women's side, fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters beat No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 7-5. She next faces off-court friend Martina Hingis, the three-time champion here who struggled before dispatching 19th-seeded Li Na 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Top-seeded Maria Sharapova also had to work hard to get past No. 22 Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-4 in an all-Russian match and plays another Russian in the quarterfinals _ 12th-seeded Ana Chakvetadze, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over No. 8 Patty Schnyder.
Swinging for winners, Murray appeared to be in control early with a little help from technology. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, he got an ace by challenging a line call with the replay system. Then on set point, he successfully challenged a Nadal shot on the baseline that was called good, but TV monitors showed was out.
With nighttime temperatures dipping to 17 C (63 F), Murray pulled ahead 4-1 in the second set. Then Nadal ran off five straight games to level the match as Murray began grabbing and rubbing his right side in the ninth game.
He never sought treatment as he fell behind 3-1 in the third set, then pulled himself together just as quickly and rallied to break Nadal twice to take the set.
Running off nine consecutive games the tenacious Nadal withstood 10 break points in the last two sets while breaking Murray four times, taking the fourth set when the Briton double-faulted on set point. As his chances slipped away, Murray was yelling in frustration toward coach Brad Gilbert.
Nadal set up triple match point and won it on his second with a backhand pass at 1:50 a.m. He dropped to his stomach, got up and looked up to the sky and went to the net to congratulate Murray on his effort.
"Some of the points tonight were unbelievable," Murray said. "He came out with some great shots when he needed them. I felt like I played really, really well, near to the best that I can play. I probably played better today than the day that I won against (Roger) Federer."
Blake's first outdoor match after three stints with the roof closed due to weather was mostly power against power, only to see his serve let him down in key situations. He double-faulted on break point to let Gonzalez level the first set at 3-3, and another double fault contributed to the break that put Gonzalez ahead at 6-5, a lead he would never relinquish.
Gonzalez's shots were so hard, well placed and well disguised that Blake, one of the quickest players on the Tour, was often left flat-footed as he watched them zip past.
And Gonzalez got better as the match wore on. In the final set, he had 11 of his 18 aces, just five unforced errors and 24 of his 52 winners.
Blake raised hopes of a comeback as he fended off two match points while serving at 3-5.
"I told myself ... I want to give him the chance to get nervous. I want to see if he can serve it out," Blake said.
Gonzalez did indeed get tight in the next game, with four mistakes. The crowd, wanting more, erupted as Blake broke.
In the past, Gonzalez might have crumbled. But the Chilean forced a tiebreaker with a pair of aces, then finished off the match with another.
"I know that I have a really tough match on the next round, too," Gonzalez said. "But I trust in my game the way that I'm playing. I feel that I can beat anyone."
Hingis weathered an early challenge from Li and looked shocked after losing the first set.
"She came out on fire," Hingis said.
But as the match wore on, Li's unforced errors piled up to 69, while Hingis limited hers to eight.
Last year, the 23-year-old Clijsters, in her final season, ended Hingis' first run at a major since returning to the Tour. She has won their last two matches, too, tying their head-to-head record at 4-4.
"It's always a pleasure to play her again here," Clijsters said. "She's just a great champion."
Sharapova, who played in broiling heat her first match and in steamy conditions with the roof closed, had a cool evening this time.
She put constant pressure on Zvonareva's serve and finally cashed her 10th break point to pull ahead 6-5, then held serve to finish off the first set.
Zvonareva double-faulted twice on break points in the second set as Sharapova raced to a 5-2 lead. Sharapova faltered while serving for the match the first time and fell behind 0-40 the second, then double-faulted on her first match point. She finally took advantage on her third opportunity.
"I thought I played a lot better today than in the previous rounds," Sharapova said. "I had to. I was going for my shots a bit more. But I will definitely have to step it up again."


Updated : 2021-10-27 10:45 GMT+08:00