Nadal outlasts Murray in five


Rafael Nadal lays on the court after defeating Andy Murray in their fourth round match at the Australian Open on Monday.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal finally got to see how he holds up against a guy who can also beat Roger Federer.

And when his night's work was done — well past midnight — he understood what he had accomplished against Andy Murray.

"It was a very, very, very important match for me, very tough," Nadal said. "Andy was playing at an unbelievable level. He's very smart on court, for sure."

For four sets there was little to separate the two. But Nadal outlasted the 19-year-old Scot, twice rallying from a set down to win 6-7 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and reach the Australian Open quarterfinals.

After crunching a backhand pass on his second match point, Nadal dropped to his stomach and stretched face down. He got up and bowed to the crowd. It was 1:50 a.m. Tuesday, and time to get some rest.

Nadal, who has been ranked No. 2 to Federer every week since July 2005, had to fend off 10 break points in the last two sets as Murray's calculated, all-or-nothing game started failing in the almost four-hour match.

Federer lost only five of 97 matches last year: Nadal was responsible for four of those — all in finals — and Murray pulled an upset at Cincinnati that ended the Swiss star's 55-match winning streak in North America.

"All the time I was trying my best, trying to fight for every point," Nadal said. "I needed one match like this against a big player."

Murray said the fourth-round match was the best he's ever played.

"I probably played better today than the day that I won against Federer," he said. "As I said, a couple points here or there, it could have been a different outcome."

Nadal next faces No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez, who beat fifth-seeded James Blake 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4). Nadal will need to win that and a semifinal to have any chance of a shot at Federer, the defending champion.

The men's quarters start today, with Federer taking on No. 7 Tommy Robredo of Spain, and sixth-seeded Andy Roddick playing friend and former housemate Mardy Fish.

In the women's quarters, 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova beat fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach her second Grand Slam semifinal. Safarova ousted defending champion Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round.

"It's great for Czech tennis to have two in the quarterfinals, one in the semis," the 10th-seeded Vaidisova said. "Of course you don't want to play your friend, but I'm just happy to get through."

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams faced Shahar Peer of Israel later Tuesday.

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova downed No. 22 Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-4 Monday and will play another Russian in the quarterfinal after 12th-seeded Ana Chakvetadze beat No. 8 Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-1.

"I thought I played a lot better today than in the previous rounds," Sharapova said. "But I will definitely have to step it up again."

No. 4 Kim Clijsters and three-time champion Martina Hingis will meet in the quarters for the second straight year. Clijsters ended Hingis' remarkable comeback in her first major after three years on the sidelines last year, when the former No. 1 player started with a ranking of No. 341.

This time, Clijsters is thinking retirement. The 23-year-old Belgian wants to start a family and has said she'll quit the tour at the end of the season.

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