Defending champion Rafael Nadal faces an eagerly awaited showdown with Andy Murray at the Australian Open while US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro was knocked out of contention on Sunday.
The Spanish second seed blunted the serving power of giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic to set up an compelling quarterfinal against the fifth-seeded Scot on Tuesday.
Murray became the first Briton in 25 years to reach the Australian Open quarters after he defused towering 33rd seeded American John Isner 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-2.
Elsewhere, Del Potro was dumped out in a titanic five-setter to Croatian 14th seed Marin Cilic, who will play American seventh seed Andy Roddick.
Roddick staged a magnificent comeback to overhaul Chile’s former finalist and 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez in five sets, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Nadal tamed the 6ft 10ins (2.08m) Karlovic despite the Croat thumping down 28 aces, eventually winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal, a six-time Grand Slam winner, now faces Murray and has won seven of their nine previous matches.
“He is one of the more difficult players to play against,” Nadal said.
“He can play aggressively and he can play defensively, he can do a lot of different things during a match.
“I have to play better next match if I really want to have chances to win.”
Murray is shouldering mounting expectations as he bids to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1936.
The Scot, who became the only Briton into the last eight here since John Lloyd in 1985, has yet to drop a set in his four victories at the year’s opening Grand Slam.
Murray believes he has the game plan to overcome Nadal.
“I played him some really good matches against him on hard courts,” he said.
“I think I’ve got some tactics that work well against him.”
Murray, who lost to Nadal in five sets in the fourth round of the 2007 Australian Open, said he was now benefiting from experience.
Shattered fourth seeded Del Potro battled for four hours 38 minutes before going down 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to Cilic on Hisense Arena.
It was sweet revenge for the Croat, who lost to Del Potro at the same stage in last year’s tournament and in the quarterfinals at the 2009 US Open.
“I think since the US Open I’ve started to play much better and win against better guys more often,” Cilic said.
“I’ve had some tough matches here in the first few rounds, but today I felt really good physically, and that in the end was the main difference.”
It ended a draining week for the Argentine. Del Potro spent almost 15 hours on court and played a total of 18 sets in his four matches at the year’s opening Grand Slam.
He was troubled during the tournament by a wrist injury which forced him out of the Kooyong Classic lead-up exhibition tournament in Melbourne.
“I will go home and I will see the doctors there. I need a little rest to recover and be in good shape for my next tournaments,” he said.
Roddick looked in trouble when he fell behind two sets to one but clawed back to beat Gonzalez in three hours 25 minutes.
“I was lucky to get out of that one,” Roddick said. “I was behind for much of the four sets and I was trying to stick at it to give myself a shot.” – AFP