MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal’s right knee was taped. Ditto for his left ankle. His strokes looked just fine.
Nadal cruised past countryman Feliciano Lopez early today, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Nadal, who hurt his knee while sitting in a chair the day before the tournament began, is one win away from a possible semifinal against rival Roger Federer.
Nadal defeated Lopez for the ninth time in 11 matches.
Nadal needed treatment from the trainer for a left ankle problem after three games of the first set. By that time, he had already broken serve.
It was more of the same the next two sets as Nadal maintained control against his “very good friend” Lopez.
“I am fine,” Nadal said. “It was a very, very hot day. I think it’s positive to keep winning in straight sets.”
Federer was up against 19-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic in the first match of the night session. The 16-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t lost to a teenager since 2006 against Andy Murray at the Cincinnati Masters.
Also, defending champion Kim Clijsters was to face Li Na in a repeat of the 2011 final. Clijsters beat Li 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win her fourth major title a year ago.
Victoria Azarenka was the first player to reach the quarterfinals when she beat Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2.
The third-seeded Belarusian is yet to drop a set at the tournament and will next meet eighth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Julia Goerges of Germany 6-1, 6-1.
With the win, 22-year-old Azarenka stayed in the hunt for the No. 1 ranking. Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova can also claim the top spot from Caroline Wozniacki.
“I would be a liar if I said I didn’t care about it,” Azarenka said. “It’s in the back of my head and we’ll take it day by day, I guess.”
Azarenka, like Wozniacki, is aiming for her first Grand Slam title. She has never gone past the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, but is 6-3 against Radwanska. The last of those victories came at the Sydney International, which Azarenka won before coming to Melbourne.
Today’s win was her ninth straight, but the likes of Serena Williams and Clijsters are still attracting more attention.
Williams routed Greta Arn 6-1, 6-1 on Saturday for her 17th straight win at the Australian Open.
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