Nadal to meet Murray; Petrova upsets Kuznetsova to reach Australian Open quarterfinals

By John Pye, AP
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nadal, Murray to meet; Petrova upsets Kuznetsova

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray held off two of the tallest men and biggest servers in tennis on Sunday to set up a quarterfinal meeting at the Australian Open.

Nadal, the defending champion, had a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, the tallest man on the tour.

In the previous match at Rod Laver Arena, No. 5 Murray overcame 6-foot-9 American John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2 to reach the final eight in Australia for the first time. The 22-year-old Scot hasn’t dropped a set in four matches.

Over in Hisense Arena, Nadia Petrova advanced with another upset win, beating third-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the quarters.

In the other section of Petrova’s half of the draw, Zheng Jie set another national mark by becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park with a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over Alona Bondarenko.

Nadal, who beat Roger Federer in the final here last year to capture his first major on hard courts after four titles at the French and one at Wimbledon, was already looking ahead to a different style of match against Murray.

“Being in the quarterfinals is very good news for me … I’m going to have a very difficult match against Andy,” Nadal said. “I want to play my game. … If not maybe I will have a good flight home.”

Nadal only dropped serve once against Karlovic, to surrender the second set. In the third and fourth sets, he broke the Croat in the third games to get on top early.

He showed plenty of emotion after earning a breakpoint in the third set, screaming out “vamos,” or “let’s go,” and spinning as he ripped his left elbow back and raised his left knee.

When he converted the break for a 2-1 lead, he made three-punch celebration.

“I was a little bit unlucky in the end of the second set, in that game, with two nets and one strange return. Anyway, I had mistakes in that game,” Nadal said. “Later, he was playing better.

“But I just wait my chance. Be focused on my serve … and wait the chance on the return. I was returning really well when I had the chance to touch the ball.”

Murray lost the U.S. Open final to Federer in 2008, his only trip to a Grand Slam championship match, and knows he’ll probably have to beat both Nadal and Federer to claim his first major here.

He rated Isner’s serve among the best in the game, so he was delighted to wear down the American after a crucial service break in the eighth game of the second set. He fended off breakpoint chances in the next game to serve out the set.

Murray broke serve again in the seventh game of the third set when Isner netted a forehand and then smashed his racket into the court in disgust.

“It’s been good. I moved really well since the start of the tournament,” Murray said. “I didn’t drop a set yet … not too much to complain about.”

The loss was Isner’s first of the year, which started with his first career ATP title at Auckland, New Zealand.

Kuznetsova refused to blame her loss on the schedule, coming off a late finish to her third-round win, wrapping it up at almost 2 a.m. Saturday after being four points from defeat.

She committed 52 unforced errors and, in the deciding set, had her serve broken three times.

No. 19 Petrova was coming off a stunning 6-0, 6-1 win over U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters in the third round.

“Today was similar. I felt like my motivation, my concentration was on the same level,” said Petrova, who equaled her best run at Melbourne Park by making the quarters.

Petrova will meet the winner of the all-Belgian match later Sunday between former No. 1 Justine Henin and 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer.

The 27-year-old Russian reached a career-high No. 3 in 2006 but doesn’t think she’s achieved her potential yet when it most counts. In her best runs, she lost French Open semifinals in 2003 and ‘05 — when she lost to Henin.

“That’s why I’m working hard and digging deep, because I know there’s still a lot to accomplish,” Petrova said. “There’s still a lot to let out. That’s what I’m really looking for.”

Zheng had already matched her own previous best run in Melbourne by reaching the fourth round, but is still a win away from equaling her best performance at a Grand Slam.

The 26-year-old Zheng made a stunning charge to the Wimbledon semifinals in 2008, becoming only the second wild-card entry and first Chinese player to reach the semis at a major.

“I think Australia is lucky for me because I win the first Grand Slam doubles title in Australia,” said Zheng, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon doubles titles in 2006 with Yan Zi. “So I’m so happy I’m in the quarterfinal of Australia also.”

She and No. 16 Li Na both reached the fourth round here, the first time two Chinese players have reached that stage at the same Grand Slam tournament. With one on each half of the draw, Zheng said they can both go further.

“But I think we can go the far way,” she said. “I hope we can be in the semifinal for both Chinese player, yet.”

U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro was in action later Sunday against No. 14 Marin Cilic, and No. 7 Andy Roddick faced No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

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