Federer on track as Venus gathers steam

It was back to business as usual for Roger Federer on Monday as he clinically moved into an Australian Open quarterfinal against James Blake, with Venus Williams also working up a head of steam.

The world number one rebounded from his uncharacteristic five-set scare in the third round to resume his sprint towards a 13th Grand Slam title with a 6-4, 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 win over Czech Tomas Berdych.

Any concerns over his physical state quickly disappeared despite being behind in the second set tiebreaker against the 13th seed, who beat him at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“I’m quite pleased with the result, [after] a tough match against [Janko] Tipsarevic, who played a fantastic match,” Federer said.

“Tomas has been playing well and he’s always a dangerous guy on any surface and it’s unfortunate for him, but I’m very happy and hope to keep going.”

The Swiss top seed now plays American 12th seed Blake, who had an equally convincing win over unseeded Croatian Marin Cilic, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

“I’ll give my best shot against Roger. Janko [Tipsarevic] took him to 10-8 in the fifth and no matter who you are, he has showed you can take Roger to the limit, and I plan to cause him some trouble,” said an upbeat Blake.

But it was curtains for Australia’s last hope Lleyton Hewitt, who was crushed by Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Forced to back up from a controversial 4.33am finish to his third-round match on Sunday, Hewitt was too tired and was outgunned by a better player.

“The first set was luck and afterwards I relaxed and tried to be aggressive and take control of the match, which I did,” said Djokovic.

“He made a couple of unforced errors and he was very tired and exhausted from the Baghdatis match a few nights ago, so I used my opportunity.”

In the other fourth-round match, fifth seed David Ferrer won the all-Spanish battle with 22nd seed Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 and will now play Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal, Jarkko Nieminen, Mikhail Youzhny and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are already through.

Venus Williams ensured her sixth Australian Open quarterfinal appearance after seeing off an unexpectedly strong challenge from Polish qualifier Marta Domachowska 6-4, 6-4.

Another Pole, Agnieszkesa Radwanska, is also safely through after upsetting 14th seeded Russian Nadia Petrova 1-6, 7-5, 6-0. Her reward is a meeting with ninth seed Daniela Hantuchova, who beat 27th seed Maria Kirilenko.

Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic fill out the quarterfinal line-up.

Williams, a six-time Grand Slam champion still searching for her first Australian title, had her right leg heavily strapped high up around the thigh, but she said it was nothing major.

“I’ve got a little something going on but it’s not going to hurt anybody,” said the seventh seed, adding that her failure to win the title in Melbourne was a key motivator.

“I’ve come close here before but my little sister Serena has taken it away from me,” she said.

“To win the singles would be a dream come true.
But I have a lot of respect for Ana and won’t be taking her lightly.”

She next plays fourth seed Ana Ivanovic, who lost concentration against unheralded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, admitting she was sleepwalking for periods of her match against the 17-year-old Dane.

The Serb finally roused herself to score a 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) win.

“I played very well in the beginning and started to get a little bit tired in the second and a little bit sleepy,” she said.

“This is the first time I’ve played the first [morning] match and I was sleeping in through the whole week really long in the morning; today [Monday] I had to wake up really early.”

But she said she was ready to take revenge against Williams, who beat her at the last two Grand Slams—the US Open and Wimbledon.

“It’s exactly the time for some revenge,” she said.—AFP

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