Top women’s seed Caroline Wozniacki and No. 3-seeded Victoria Azarenka kept on track for a semifinal matchup by winning third-round matches in straight sets yesterday. Defending champion Kim Clijsters beat 20th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-2 to set up a rematch of last year’s final against French Open champion Li Na of China.
Nadal, seeking his 11th Grand Slam singles championship and second at Melbourne Park after taking the 2009 title, ousted Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena. The Spaniard has won his first three matches in straight sets playing with a taped right knee after experiencing pain on eve of the tournament. He next faces another Spaniard, No. 18 seed Feliciano Lopez.
“The knee is fine, that’s the important thing,” Nadal said in a news conference. “I’m very happy about my game. Being in the fourth round without losing a set, it’s fantastic.”
In third-round action today, former champion Maria Sharapova of Russia plays Germany’s Angelique Kerber, while defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia meets France’s Nicolas Mahut. Serena Williams faces Hungary’s Greta Arn, and Andy Murray of Britain, twice a runner-up, plays Michael Llodra of France.
Lopez’s five-set win against the 16th-seeded Isner left the U.S. without a male player in the round of 16 at the tournament for the first time since 1973, when no American men entered. At last year’s French Open, American men failed to advance to the fourth round for the first time since 1968.
Ten U.S. men, led by No. 8 seed Mardy Fish and 15th-seeded Andy Roddick, started in the 128-player main draw. Roddick is the last American male to have won a major, at the 2003 U.S. Open. Williams, a five-time champion in Melbourne, and Vania King are the country’s remaining representatives in women’s singles.
“That’s not a good effort from the Americans this tournament,” Isner told reporters after his 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6- 4, 6-7 (0-7), 6-1 loss. “It’s very ugly, to be honest, to have no one in the round of 16. We’ve got to try to rectify that next time the big tournaments roll around.”
Federer, the winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, saved a set point against Ivo Karlovic before getting past the service-speed record holder 7-6 (8-6), 7-5, 6-3.
Karlovic, who had a 251 kph (156 mph) serve in a Davis Cup match last year, led 6-5 in the opening tiebreaker when Federer hit a lob that the 6-foot-10 Croatian, the tallest player on the men’s tour, could only get the frame of his racket to with both players at the net. The Swiss right-hander then ripped a cross- court backhand to bring up a set point of his own, which he converted with a service winner.
“I got the angle right and was able maybe to surprise him, we were that close to each other,” Federer said of the lob. “Then I had a great return after that. I was almost home. It was a good turn of events for me then.”
Federer took the second set with his first service break and broke again for a 3-1 lead in the third with a backhand service return that dipped in by inches. He’ll next play 19- year-old Australian Bernard Tomic, who ousted No. 13 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine in five sets.
No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and 10th- seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain set up a fourth-round meeting with straight-set wins. Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, the No. 11 seed, beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan and will play Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Azarenka, who tuned up for the season’s first tennis major by winning her ninth career title in Sydney, advanced to a last- 16 matchup against Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic by beating unseeded German Mona Barthel, who won her first WTA title at an Open warm-up tournament in Hobart.
Wozniacki, who needs to reach the quarterfinals to have any chance of keeping the No. 1 ranking, defeated Romanian Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-2. The Dane will next play No. 13 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who defeated American Christina McHale 6-2, 6-0. No. 8 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and 22nd-seeded German Julia Goerges will meet in Round 4 after wins.
Clijsters of Belgium took 75 minutes to defeat Hantuchova of Slovakia and will next face Li, whom she beat in last year’s final to win her fourth Grand Slam title. The fifth-seeded Li advanced when Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain quit in tears in the fourth game after twisting her ankle.
Li said she had good memories of her meeting with Clijsters last year.
“After that match I was feeling I really can win the Grand Slam,” said Li, who became the first Chinese player to win a major singles title at the French Open in June.
It was Clijsters’s first match at Melbourne Park’s No. 2 showcourt since losing 6-0, 6-1 to Nadia Petrova of Russia two years ago, her worst defeat at a major.
“I wanted to play well, to really focus and not let that happen again,” Clijsters said.
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