Melbourne // The “Rafa Slam” is still alive after Rafael Nadal beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 at the Australian Open to maintain his chance of owning all four grand slam trophies at once.
That is a feat which has not been achieved since Rod Laver won all four majors in 1969.
Playing on Melbourne Park’s centre court that is named after the Australian legend Laver, Nadal advanced to a quarter-final against Spain’s David Ferrer as he attempts to add to the grand slam titles he won last year at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Nadal has not dropped a set through four rounds at Melbourne Park, despite carrying the effects of a virus he picked up two weeks ago in Qatar.
“Before the match I was a little bit nervous,” Nadal said. “I know how aggressive he can play. I think I’ve played my best match at the Australian Open.”
A capacity crowd of 15,000 that included American country music star Kenny Rogers – sitting next to Australia's Evonne Goolagong, the seven-time grand slam singles winner – saw Nadal struggle at times on his serve.
The fourth game went to deuce four times, but Nadal finally prevailed on his service with a forehand smash at the net, followed shortly by his patented “Vamos” as he walked to the back of the court.
In the next game, he set up one of four break points with an amazing get of a Cilic drop shot at the net, sending it across the court to the side line for a winner. He converted for 4-1 and, after serving a double fault on his first set point, Nadal took the opening set when Cilic netted a backhand.
Nadal went ahead 4-3 on a service break in the second set, then clinched it when Cilic, who beat American John Isner in five tough sets on Saturday, hit a forehand long. He advanced when Cilic double-faulted on match point.
Earlier, fifth-seeded Andy Murray also advanced to the quarter-finals, setting up a possible semi-final with Nadal.
“I don’t want to get carried away,” Murray said after his 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win over Jurgen Melzer of Austria. “I’ve never won one of these [majors] things before.”
The win put Murray closer to a second straight appearance in the final at Melbourne Park, where he lost to Roger Federer last year after beating Nadal in the quarter-finals.
He also came close to ending a woeful British streak – no male winner of a grand slam since Fred Perry in 1936 – at the 2008 US Open, where he lost in the final to Federer.
Before Murray gets a potential crack at Nadal, he will face an unexpected quarter-final rival after 22-year-old Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov caused an upset with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over fourth-seeded Robin Soderling, ending the French Open finalist’s eight-match winning streak.
"He’s got a very unorthodox game, very different to most of the guys on the tour,” Murray said of Dolgopolov. “He has a game that can make you play strange shots or not play that well.”
Dolgopolov said his father, Oleksandar, worked as a coach for the likes of Andrei Medvedev, so he sometimes hit with the players when they were practicing and the family was on tour.
“For sure I had some good times. I was a bit maybe annoying for some players to play with me,” he said. “It was nice to start a tennis career like that.”
The No 7 seed Ferrer marched to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic, who had upset No 10 Mikhail Youzhny in the third round.
In the women’s draw, Vera Zvonareva, the second seed, needed just 76 minutes to book her place in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open today.
Zvonareva will meet Petra Kvitova in the last eight after beating another Czech player, Iveta Benesova, 6-4, 6-1 at Hisense Arena.
The 26-year-old Russian hit four aces and 21 winners in total as she broke her opponent's serve five times.
Zvonareva reached two grand slam finals in 2010 — at Wimbledon and the US Open — and will be favourite to make it into the semi-finals when she takes on 25th seed Kvitova in the quarters.
Kvitova put out 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, recovering from a set down to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.