MELBOURNE, Australia, January 22 – Rafael Nadal raced towards a mouth-watering Australian Open showdown with Roger Federer Sunday as he removed fellow Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez with surgical precision.
Nadal, seeking his 11th major victory and his second Open crown, shone in the afternoon heat as he notched a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win against his fellow Spanish left-hander to reach the quarter-finals without dropping a set.
As two of the brightest women’s stars took a big step towards their first grand slam wins, all eyes were on Nadal at sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena.
The muscular second seed kept Lopez at bay with serving accuracy of 80 percent and he piled on the pressure with nearly error-free tennis to stay unbeaten on hardcourts against his Davis Cup team-mate.
“It was a very hot day and I think it’s a positive to win in straight sets especially in these conditions,” said Nadal, who will play either Tomas Berdych or Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals.
The Spaniard remains on course to write the latest chapter in his epic rivalry with Swiss maestro Federer in the semi-finals. The all-time grand slam record-holder will face Australian teen Bernard Tomic on Sunday evening.
Meanwhile women’s third seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska will face each other in the quarter-finals on Tuesday after both enjoyed one-sided wins.
Azarenka defeated Czech Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2 before Radwanska brushed aside Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-1.
Azarenka has dropped only 12 games in her four matches and was quickly into her stride against her 46th-ranked opponent, breaking twice in the first set.
She maintained her firm grip on the contest in the second set, again breaking twice to wrap up the match in 1hr 17mins.
Azarenka, who is in contention to secure the number one ranking after the Australian Open, said she felt full of confidence after her win in Sydney earlier this month, which means she is still unbeaten this year.
“Of course I’d be a liar if I said I don’t care about it but it’s a little bit in the back of my mind,” she said of her chances of reaching the top spot.
Azarenka’s run to the quarter-finals equals her best result at the season’s opening grand slam, which she achieved in 2010.
Eighth seed Radwanska, 22, needed just 54 minutes to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second year in a row. She made just three unforced errors in the match as opposed to 27 from Goerges.