Federer, Nadal Reach Australian Open Last Eight; Sharapova Out

Roger Federer, bidding to become the first man to win five Australian Open singles titles since tennis turned professional in 1968, reached the quarterfinals yesterday with a straight-sets win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

Top seed Rafael Nadal also reached the last eight in three tight sets in Melbourne, while Britain’s Andy Murray took four to book his place in the next round of the season’s first Grand Slam. Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka won easily to reach the women’s quarterfinals, while third seed Maria Sharapova was upset by Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova.

Federer, whose ranking has slipped from one to six in the last 15 months, never looked in trouble in a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Tsonga, the world No. 10. Playing last night on Rod Laver Arena, he won 80 percent of points in his service games and hit 43 winners to Tsonga’s 29.

“I’m extremely happy how things went for me tonight,” the record 17-time Grand Slam singles champion said in a news conference. “I was able to play my game, offensive, mix it up, come to the net. So this is nice being back in the quarters, because I haven’t been in one, you know, for two now, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.”

Today’s Schedule

Two women’s and two men’s quarterfinals take place in Melbourne today. Fourth seed Li Na of China faces No. 28 Flavia Pennetta of Italy in the first match, scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on Rod Laver Arena. Serb Ana Ivanovic, who knocked out Serena Williams, plays Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the 30th seed, in the other women’s match.

In the men’s draw, third seed David Ferrer of Spain plays Czech No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych for a place in the semifinals. The night match, starting at 7 p.m., sees men’s favorite Novak Djokovic take on No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. Djokovic, the second seed, has like Federer won four Australian Open singles titles.

Djokovic named six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker as his head coach in December, while Federer added Stefan Edberg, also a six-time major winner, to his coaching team.

“It’s just a different perspective,” Federer said yesterday when asked about the influence of the Swedish serve-and-volley specialist. “He did things his way back in the day. I’m sure things were different back then. But still you can take so many things from his experience. I want to maybe try out a few things that worked for him, try out a few things that he thinks would work out for me this time around.”

‘Ups and Downs’

Last year Federer, 32, took five sets to beat Tsonga in the quarterfinals, and then lost to Murray in a match that also went the distance. The pair will meet again tomorrow with the Scot leading their encounters 11-9.

“Here we are again. I’m looking forward to the match, I must say,” Federer said. “It will be interesting, because we had an interesting year last year with some ups and downs. It’s a good start to the season for both of us already.”

Nadal, a Spaniard who won the event in 2009, needed three hours, 17 minutes to get past Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the No. 16 seed, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-3).

“I was close to losing every set,” Nadal, 27, said in a televised interview following yesterday’s match on Rod Laver Arena. “I had to run a lot today.”

The 13-time Grand Slam singles champion will play 22nd seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. The Bulgarian was a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

Azarenka Advances

Azarenka, the women’s second seed from Belarus, won 6-3, 6-2 against 13th-seeded American Sloane Stephens in a rematch of their Melbourne semifinal last year in which Azarenka took a controversial injury timeout late in the match.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Azarenka said in a news conference. “I just felt that I managed to pick it up in the important moments and really control the game.”

Azarenka will next play fifth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-3.

Sharapova, a Russian who won the tournament in 2008, lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to 20th-seeded Cibulkova. She said after the match that she was bothered by a hip strain.

“I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through the last two matches,” Sharapova said in a news conference. “Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.”

Cibulkova will play Simona Halep of Romania in the last eight after the 11th seed won 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 against No. 8 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

Defeat for Sharapova

Sharapova’s exit was the second by a top-three women’s player in less than 24 hours. Top seed Williams, an American who was seeking her sixth Australian Open title, lost in three sets on Jan. 19 to Ivanovic, the 14th seed.

Fourth-seed Murray progressed even though he lost his first set of the tournament. The Wimbledon champion, a three-time finalist in Melbourne, won 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2 against French qualifier Stephane Robert.

The Scot, who lost in the final in 2010, 2011 and 2013, looked to be cruising to victory when serving for the match at two sets to love and a break up in the third. Robert, 33, broke back and went on to win the resulting tie-break, but couldn’t stop Murray from closing out the match in the fourth set.

In the doubles competition, Bob and Mike Bryan suffered their earliest exit at the Australian Open in 11 years. The pair, ranked No. 1 in the world, were ousted by fellow American Eric Butorac and his partner Raven Klaasen of South Africa in the third round.

Men’s Quarterfinals
Rafael Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer
David Ferrer vs. Tomas Berdych
Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka

Women’s Quarterfinals
Ana Ivanovic vs. Eugenie Bouchard
Li Na vs. Flavia Pennetta
Simona Halep vs. Dominika Cibulkova
Victoria Azarenka vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
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