Top heavy in last eight

Rafa, Andy and Roger join Novak in quarters; Cibulkova dumps Sharapova from Open.

Melbourne | Published:January 21, 2014 3:17 am

Rafa Nadal came through his first proper test to storm into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday but Maria Sharapova was ushered to the exit after a second big shock in as many days in the women’s draw.

Victoria Azarenka was left as the only top-three seed still standing in the last eight when Sharapova was scratched from the title race by Dominika Cibulkova, a day after Serena Williams had also tumbled out in the fourth round.

In the men’s draw, the “Big Four” look poised to scrap it out for yet another grand slam crown over the next week after Nadal,

Roger Federer and Andy Murray all won on Monday to join Novak Djokovic in the last eight.

Spaniard Nadal led the way with a 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) victory over Japan’s Kei Nishikori on Rod Laver Arena that was by no means as easy as the phrase “straight sets” would suggest.

The world number one had to contend with a blister on his hand, a tumble, a time violation at a crucial moment and his first losses of his serve in the tournament but most of all with some inspired shot-making from the Asian number one.

IMPRESSIVE ROGER

While Nadal will meet Sharapova’s boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the semi-finals, Federer and Murray’s quarter-final date ensures that at least one of the quartet of dominant men’s players will go home on Wednesday.

Federer’s quickfire 6-3 7-5 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the most impressive of the day, particularly given the French 10th seed had taken him to five sets in Melbourne and beaten him at Roland Garros last year.

Murray looked to be racing to victory against Stephane Robert, but blew a couple of match points in the third set and was dragged into a tiebreak, which the Frenchman won 8-6. The Wimbledon champion took out his frustrations on his a racket, changed his shirt and then whipped through the fourth set to record a 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6) 6-2 victory.

Like Murray, Sharapova missed the back end of last season because of injury and she admitted after her 3-6 6-4 6-1 defeat to Cibulkova that the tournament had probably come a little bit early for her.

‘CHIPS AND SALSA’

Azarenka was utterly dominant as she swept into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-2 victory over American Sloane Stephens that extended her winning streak at Melbourne Park to 18 matches. Next up for Azarenka is fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat

Garbine Muguruza 6-1 6-3 in the final match of the day.

Doubles joy for india

Leander Paes emerged victorious in a tight mixed doubles contest against Mahesh Bhupathi to advance to the quarterfinals while Sania Mirza stormed into the last-eight stage in two events.

Paes and partner Daniela Hantuchova scored an upset victory over eighth seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-0 2-6 10-6 to make it to the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles.

Sania and Cara Black beat the pair of Eugenie Bouchard and Vera Dushevina 6-4 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles. The Indian then joined hands with Horia Tecau to outplay Anastasia Rodionova and Colin Fleming 6-2 6-2 in the mixed doubles pre-quarterfinal match.

Rohan Bopanna and his partner Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia also entered the quarters of the mixed doubles after posting 7-6(5) 7-5 win over Ashleigh Barty and John Peers.

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