Fully-fit Rafa eyes sweep

Updated: 2011-01-21 07:35

(China Daily)

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MELBOURNE - World No 1 Rafael Nadal on Thursday warned he was fully recovered from a strength-sapping illness as he took another decisive step towards a historic sweep of Grand Slam titles.

Nadal coolly dispatched American qualifier Ryan Sweeting 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena, joining women's favorite Kim Clijsters in the third round just hours after his archrival Roger Federer scraped past Gilles Simon.

The Spaniard said he had now shaken a virus which laid him low in Qatar as he bids to hold all four major titles for the first time since 1969, a feat which would eclipse even the illustrious Federer.

"Every day I feel better and I am now totally recovered," he said.

Nadal, forced out injured last year as defending champion, is on a 23-match Grand Slam streak after last year winning the French Open, Wimbledon and his first US Open. He won his opener here 6-0, 5-0 when Marcos Daniel retired hurt.

Belgium's Clijsters also dropped her first games of the tournament - after a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Dinara Safina in the first round - as she saw off Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.

The US Open champion, who has an outside chance of regaining the top ranking here, said she was delighted with her form and was not contemplating last year's third-round disaster, when she suffered her heaviest Grand Slam defeat.

"I don't think I've ever played a match like that. So it was very easy in a way to also forget about it, as well," she said of 2010's 6-0, 6-1 reverse to Nadia Petrova.

"If that would be something that would occur more often, it would be in my mind. I would feel like I had to do something about it."

Russian second seed Vera Zvonareva survived an early onslaught from Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski before winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, keeping her on course for her third successive Grand Slam final.

Australia's French Open finalist Samantha Stosur kept local hopes alive along with wildcard Bernard Tomic, 18, who was pinching himself after beating Spanish seed Feliciano Lopez to set up a grandstand showdown with Nadal.

"I can't believe that I'm playing him," said Tomic, the last Australian in the men's draw after Lleyton Hewitt's five-set defeat to David Nalbandian.

"What an opportunity it is to play him, in a third round as well. It's a dream come true."

World No 4 Robin Soderling reached the third round for the first time at Melbourne Park, extending a rich run of form which took him to last year's French Open final and the Wimbledon and US Open quarters.

Russian 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny and Croatia's Marin Cilic, the 15th seed, also went through along with 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who came through two tie-breaks for a fist-pumping win over Italy's Andreas Seppi.

Meanwhile, defending men's champion Federer cut a chastened figure after his late-night thriller, when Simon rallied from two sets down to put the all-time Grand Slam record-holder on the ropes.

The 16-time major-winner was perilously close to his worst Grand Slam performance since 2003 before getting the crucial break in the decider and acing his fifth match point to win 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

"I was like, 'This can't be true, right'?" Federer said afterwards, when asked what was going through his mind. "I definitely felt something was not going my way," he said.

Argentine veteran David Nalbandian, who outlasted Hewitt in five marathon sets in almost five hours late on Tuesday, withdrew after suffering dizzy spells while trailing Lithuania's Richard Berankis.

Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 01/21/2011 page24)


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