Walk in the park for Nadal and Murray

CLEVER SHOT: Chilean Fernando Gonzalez had to come up with this through-the-legs-shot and much more to overcome Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Australian Open on Saturday.

CLEVER SHOT: Chilean Fernando Gonzalez had to come up with this through-the-legs-shot and much more to overcome Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Australian Open on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: AFP

Gonzalez comes back from the brink

MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray dominated their third-round matches on Saturday at the Australian Open, moving closer to a possible semifinal showdown.

Top-ranked Nadal did have to work hard against Germany’s Tommy Haas, getting broken for the first time in the tournament, but showed no weakness in ripping 53 winners to only eight unforced errors in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory.

“I think I played one of my best matches here at the Australian Open,” said Nadal, making his fifth appearance at Melbourne Park.

He will face 13th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who beat Nadal in straight sets en route to finishing as the runner-up here in 2007. The 28-year-old Chilean needed more than four hours to beat France’s Richard Gasquet with a 12-10 fifth set.

11 straight games

Fourth-seeded Murray, seeking his first Grand Slam title, ran off 11 straight games while overwhelming Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-0, 6-3. The 21-year-old Scot had only 10 unforced errors and next plays No. 14 Fernando Verdasco.

Serena Williams wasn’t her sharpest, but she hasn’t had to be so far. And there were no distractions as she beat overmatched China’s Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-4.

Williams, still chuckling about the man who dashed on court half-naked during her doubles match Friday, overcame two service breaks in the second set to keep alive her pursuit of a 10th Grand Slam title.

Crowd favourite

The crowd favourite for Murray’s match was clear, with Scottish flags and tartan hats scattered about on a cool night.

Constantly confounded by Murray’s blend of power, speed and spin, Melzer did get a huge ovation when he held while down 3-0 in the third set to end Murray’s streak of 11 games.

Melzer broke as Murray served for the match at 5-1 and fended off double match point in the next game. But Murray finished it off with his eighth ace, getting one step closer to becoming the first British man to win a major since 1936.

Murray has raced through his first three matches in a combined 4 hours and 15 minutes — just six minutes longer than Gonzalez and Gasquet were on court Saturday — thanks in part to a 45-minute effort when Andrei Pavel retired in the first round with a bad back.

With fans screaming after every point like a Davis Cup match, Gonzalez saved a match point in the third-set tiebreaker, then a break point in the 21st game of the fifth set.

The Beijing Olympics silver medallist broke Gasquet in the next, setting up match point with a perfect lob and clinching it with a backhand winner.

Subdued mood

The mood had seemed almost subdued as play got under way at Melbourne Park, a day after the streaker and a violent clash between Serbian and Bosnian fans kept security guards busy. A chair-flinging skirmish after defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia beat Bosnia-born American Amer Delic left a woman injured, three men charged with riotous behaviour and 30 people ejected by police.

Williams became increasingly frustrated against Peng as she was broken twice early in the second before pulling herself together. “I started making more errors and then I lost my serve a couple times,” she said. “Then I think I put too much pressure on myself. Then, next thing I know, I was down.”

Mauresmo ousted

Williams next faces No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who ousted 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Olympic gold medallist Elena Dementieva extended her winning streak to 13 matches, beating Australia’s Samantha Stosur. Carla Suarez Navarro, who had an upset win over reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the second round, beat fellow Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Also advancing were No. 21 Anabel Medina Garrigues, who ousted 12th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy, and No. 18 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.

Gael Monfils, a French Open semifinalist last year, beat No. 17 Nicolas Almagro of Spain and will face No. 6 Gilles Simon, who ousted No. 19 Mario Ancic of Croatia. — AP


Men: Singles: Third round: 12-Gael Monfils bt 17-Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-3, 7-5; 6-Gilles Simon bt Mario Ancic 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-2; 5-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1; 14-Fernando Verdasco bt 22-Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-0, 6-0; 9-James Blake bt 18-Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1; 4-Andy Murray bt 31-Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-0, 6-3; 13-Fernando Gonzalez bt 24-Richard Gasquet 3-6, 3-6, 7-6(10), 6-2, 12-10; 1-Rafael Nadal bt Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Women: Third round: 2-Serena Williams bt Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-4; 21-Anabel Medina Garrigues bt 12-Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-1; Carla Suarez Navarro bt Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 6-4; 22-Zheng Jie bt Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2; 13-Victoria Azarenka bt 20-Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-2; 8-Svetlana Kuznetsova bt 31-Alona Bondarenko 7-6(7), 6-4; 18-Dominika Cibulkova bt Virginie Razzano 7-5, 7-5; 4-Elena Dementieva bt Samantha Stosur 7-6(6), 6-4.

Doubles: Men: Second round: Nicolas Lapentti & Tommy Robredo bt Rohan Bopanna & Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 6-4; 3-Mahesh Bhupathi & Mark Knowles bt Igor Kunitsyn & Dmitry Tursunov 7-5, 7-5.

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