Federer, Schiavone into Melbourne quarters with records

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MELBOURNE - Roger Federer reached a record-tying 27th straight Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open Sunday and Francesca Schiavone also made the final eight after surviving the longest women’s match at the majors.

The four-times champion Federer defeated Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to tie the record of Jimmy Connors. Federer has made the quarters of all Slams since a third-round defeat at the 2004 French Open.

Federer took 2 hours 25 minutes to beat Robredo, while the final set alone took longer for Schiavone as she outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in 4:44 minutes in the fourth round.

Federer will next take a 6-1 record against Stanislas Wawrinka into the quarter-finals after his fellow Swiss upset eighth seed Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 with the challenger dominating and out-acing the American with 24.

The loss was the third in straight sets for Roddick in Melbourne. Wawrinka backed up his US Open quarter-final from last autumn.

Wawrinka’s win sets up the first all-Swiss Grand Slam quarter-final clash in the Open Era and the latest stage of a Grand Slam that two Swiss have met - the previous best was the round of 16, when Federer defeated Wawrinka at 2010 Roland Garros.

Italy’s Schiavone saved six match points and failed to serve out the match twice before finally prevailing in the 30th game of the three-hour final set on third match point.

“This is one of the most emotional moments of my life,” Schiavone said.

“When you are in a situation like this, every point is the most important. Every point is a match point. You have to keep going. You know that physically you are tired, but the other one, too.

Kuznetsova said: “She played good on match points, I don’t think I had easy ball any time, she was serving it all the time. The match could go either way so many times. It was really the day for Francesca.”

The longest previous women’s Grand Slam match was at Melbourne Park last year, when Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova took 4:19 hours to defeat Regina Kulikova 7-6 (5), 6-7 (10), 6-3.

Schiavone now runs into world number one Caroline Wozniacki who ousted Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-4.

Ex-champion Maria Sharapova crashed 6-2, 6-3 against German Andrea Petkovic, who was on fire two days after getting an easy 1-0 third-round victory when Venus Williams had to retire injured. Sharapova reached her last quarter-final at a major in 2009.

Petkovic next meets China’s Li Na, who made short work of Victoria Azarenka, 6-6, 6-3 as she improved her perfect 2011 record to 11-0.

The second-seeded holder Federer, bidding for his fifth honours at Melbourne Park, dropped the second set after not allowing Robredo one point on his serve in the first set.

But Federer regrouped midway through the final set and was no longer troubled in the fourth.

“It was a lot of hard work, I’m sweating bullets now so I’m glad this match is over,” said Federer. “It was always going to be tough.

“He makes you work extremely hard. He’s got great footwork and a wonderful forehand. It was a tough match, I’m happy to be in the quarters.”

Spain suffered a full black Sunday as Novak Djokovic ousted Nicolas Almagro and Tomas Berdych ended Fernando Verdasco’s campaign in three set-affairs.

Third seed Djokovic, playing some of the best current tennis of the elite group, was never tested as he crushed number 14 Almagro 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. The Serb needed barely 100 minutes to go through into the last eight after a dozen aces and 31 winners.

Wimbledon finalist Berdych, seeded sixth, dismantled number nine Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 with the winner near-perfect with just eight unforced errors in a shade under two hours.

Djokovic will next play Berdych in a re-run of the Wimbledon semi-final last summer won by the Czech. Djokivic has won four of five meetings in that series.

“Now the opponents are very difficult and matches are tough and unpredictable,” said Djokovic, 2008 Melbourne champion. “It was a great match for me today.

“I had a tough opponent, big hitter, and I could test couple things in my game: My patience and aggressiveness.

“Game wise, I’m happy. I’m feeling good energy wise. I didn’t spend that much time on the court in the opening week and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

Wozniacki, meanwhile, made more headlines off court again but her campaign to become slightly more colourful in the media hit a speed bump after the victory against Sevastova.

The playful Dane had to admit that a scratch on her shin came from a fall from a treadmill and not an angry baby kangaroo as told in her post-match news conference.

Joking aside, Wozniacki needs to beat Schiavone and reach the semi-finals to make sure she maintains the number one ranking.

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