Rafael Nadal knew he had plenty to live up to after Andy Murray's dominating third-round win.
He went one better Saturday, when they both advanced to the
second week at the Australian Open.
Stunned after dropping his first service game of the tournament
and falling behind 2-0, the top-ranked Nadal stormed back against
Tommy Haas, ripping 53 winners in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win.
He kept his unforced errors to a frugal eight - and to just one
in the 43-minute second set.
"I played one of my best matches here at the Australian Open,"
said Nadal, who has improved by one round in each of his five trips
to Australia. To continue that sequence, he'll have to make the
To get there, he'll have to overcome Murray in the semis. No
easy assignment. Murray beat the 22-year-old Spaniard at that stage
at the U.S. Open. On Saturday, the Scot won 11 straight games
during a 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 win over Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
And the 21-year-old Murray thought he'd been miserly with his 10
mistakes against No. 31 Melzer.
He was broken when serving for the match at 5-1 and wasted two
match points in the subsequent game before finishing off with an
Right now, fourth-seeded Murray isn't Nadal's major concern.
He's got 2007 Australian Open finalist Fernando Gonzalez next.
The 28-year-old Chilean rallied from two-sets down and saved match
point en route to a 3-6, 3-6, 7-6 (10), 6-2, 12-10 win over Richard
Gasquet of France.
Gonzalez was on the court two hours before Nadal, but their
matches both finished around midnight.
"My body is still alive," Gonzalez said. "I have 48 hours,
maybe a little bit less. But I want to enjoy this moment. I think I
won a really tough match that I will remember for the rest of my
Gonzalez lost to Nadal in the Beijing Olympics final, but has
the edge in Australia after ousting the Spaniard in the 2007
After losing a semifinal last year to unheralded Jo-Wilfried
Tsonga of France, Nadal is wary of being overconfident.
"Perfect matches doesn't exist," he said, a touch
dismissively, when asked if his game was beyond improvement as he
dismantled Haas, a semifinalist here two years ago. "Always you
can improve, no?"
That's something Serena Williams has regularly said as she's
collected nine Grand Slam titles.
Williams wasn't in top form again in a her 6-1, 6-4 win over
China's Peng Shuai.
She had to overcome two service breaks in the second set to keep
alive her pursuit of a 10th Grand Slam title.
At least her concentration wasn't challenged like it had been in
her doubles win with sister Venus Williams the previous day, when a
half-naked streaker ran onto their court.
"I noticed he didn't have underwear on. I thought, 'OK, I must
be seeing things,"' Williams said, chuckling as she reflected on
it Saturday. "Then I just thought, 'My eyes, my innocent eyes!"'
Williams next faces No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who
ousted 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.
Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva extended her women's
winning streak to 13 matches, winning 15 of the 17 points after
falling behind 5-2 in the first set to oust Australia's Samantha
Fifth-seeded Tsonga joined fellow Frenchmen Gael Monfils and No.
6 Gilles Simon in the fourth round. He next faces No. 9 James
Blake, the second American to reach the final 16 after Andy
No. 7 Roddick has a match against Spaniard Tommy Robredo on
Roger Federer's quest for a record-equaling 14th major continues
when he plays 20th-seeded Tomas Berdych in an afternoon match on
Rod Laver Arena.
Serbians Jelena Jankovic, the women's No. 1, and defending men's
champion Novak Djokovic have the opening and closing matches on
Djokovic will be hoping there's no repeat of the violent clash
between Serbian and Bosnian fans that followed his third-round win
over Bosnian-born American Amer Delic.
A chair-flinging skirmish left a woman injured, three men
charged with riotous behavior and 30 people ejected by police.
Security was tighter on day six and the mood seemed more subdued
until the evening matches featuring Nadal, Murray and Gonzalez.
While Nadal is seeking his first major title on hard courts - he
has four straight at the French and last year snapped Federer's
five-year reign on grass at Wimbledon - Murray wants his first on
No British man has won a Grand Slam singles title since 1936,
and Murray's under the extra pressure of being favorite with the
London bookmakers for the season's first major.
His confidence is high after beating Federer three times since
losing to the 13-time Grand Slam winner in the last U.S. Open
final. Murray beat Nadal to get to the final, and has beaten both
of them since.
He has needed only four hours and 15 minutes to sweep three
matches at Melbourne, although his route was shortened when Andrei
Pavel retired after losing the first set of their first-round
How does he plan to navigate the fourth round, when fatigue and
nerves can enter the equation?
"You need to just sort of settle yourself down before the start
of the second week because there's a lot of tennis to be played,"
Murray also beat Melzer, in five sets, in the third round of the
Murray next plays No. 14 Fernando Verdasco, who helped Spain to
the Davis Cup title last year and has dropped just 12 games en
route to the fourth round.
"I'm sure one match in a Slam, if you want to go deep, maybe
you're not playing your best tennis, you have to try and find a way
through to win," said Murray, predicting a tougher challenge. "I
hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, I need to be prepared to
try and win a match when I'm not playing my best tennis."