Spain slumps to hat-trick of losses in Melbourne

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MELBOURNE - Spain suffered through a hat-trick of fourth-round losses Sunday at the Australian Open as former champions Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic led the way with winning displays at the expense of Iberian hopefuls.

Second seeded holder Federer, bidding for his fifth honours at Melbourne Park, dropped the second set after completely blanking Tommy Robredo in the first - the Spaniard did not score a point on serve in the opener.

The Swiss finally carved out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win into the quarter-finals, marking his 27th straight into the last eight at a major and tying the record of Jimmy Connors.

“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.”

Third seed Djokovic, playing some of the best current tennis of the elite group, was never tested as he crushed Spain’s number 14 Nicolas 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 Tomas Berdych, seeded sixth, completed the day’s disaster scenario for Spain, dismantling 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.”

In women’s play, top seed Caroline Wozniacki’s campaign to become slightly more colourful in the media hit a speed bump after the playful Dane admitted that a scratch on her shin came from a fall from a treadmill and not an angry baby kangaroo.

“Round 2 with the media:) hope you enjoyed my kangaroo story,” Tweeted the world number one an hour or so after she held an entertaining post-match conference following a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Anastasija Sevastova.

“Hope you know I was just kidding:) see you Tuesday for round 3!,” the Tweet concluded.

The number one, who had livened up her first conference with some personal revelations to counter a growing reputation as boring, spun a colourful yarn about being scratched as she tried to pick up a sleeping baby kangaroo.

Jokes aside, Wozniacki needs to win her next match and reach the semi-finals to make sure she maintains the number one ranking. She will face the winner from sixth seed Francesca Schiavone and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Ninth seed Li Na, a 2010 semi-finalist, kept up Chinese success with a 6-3, 6-3 win over eighth seed Victoria Azarenka. Li, Sydney champion the week before the Open, has now won her last nine matches and remains undefeated in 2011.

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