Murray into quarters, Soderling out
MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray moved into the Australian Open quarterfinals without dropping a set, beating No. 11 Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 today in an impressive victory that will heighten expectations about him breaking a long British drought.
Murray closed with an ace to eliminate Melzer in straight sets at Melbourne Park for the second year in a row.
The 2010 finalist gets a surprising opponent for his next match after 22-year-old Alexandr Dolgopolov stopped fourth-seeded Robin Soderling's eight-match winning streak with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory.
Murray has lost only 22 games on his way to the quarterfinals, the same stage where he beat Rafael Nadal here last year.
"Last year I played some of the best tennis of my life," said Murray, who made only 10 unforced errors against Melzer. "I'm hitting the ball really well, I hope it can continue.
"But I don't want to get carried away — I've never won one of these things before."
He has lost to Roger Federer in two major finals, extending a long title drought for British men at the Grand Slam tournaments that dates to 1936.
Murray has only played Dolgopolov once, and is wary of his unorthodox game. The Ukrainian player recalled his only previous meeting with Murray, a loss in the Davis Cup, and was surprised at the pace of the ball.
"I remember I was expecting more," he said. "I thought he has a really big pace. I didn't play those kind of players in real life. I just saw it on TV. TV makes it look much faster."
Soderling hadn't dropped a set during his surge that started with his run to the title at the Brisbane tuneup event. He dominated the opening set but couldn't keep it up against Dolgopolov, who is making his fourth appearance in a major and was coming off a five-set win over former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Dolgopolov's cross-court backhand to bring up his first match point was typical of the 50 winners he hit against a stunned Soderling, the highest of the seeded players knocked out of the men's draw.
Soderling saved three match points, but his run came to an end with another unforced error, his 51st.
Dolgopolov earned nine breaks, including three times after conceding a break himself in the fifth set. The 26-year-old Soderling had dropped his serve only twice this year.
"I'm trying to get his weak side and play uncomfortable for him — then if I have chances to make winners, that's my game," Dolgopolov said. "He has one of the hardest balls on tour but I was able to read his serve pretty well."
Soderling acknowledged Dolgopolov's talent, but the Swede said his own serve deserted him. His six aces were mixed with six double-faults.
"He's a great player. He has a really good backhand and he's moving well. He's defending very well. He's a great counter puncher," Soderling said. "But mostly I had tough times with myself."
Dolgopolov said his father worked as a coach for the likes of Andrei Medvedev, so he sometimes hit with the players when they were practicing.
"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."
No. 2-ranked Vera Zvonareva continued her roll toward a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Iveta Benesova.
Zvonareva, who lost the Wimbledon final to Serena Williams and the U.S. Open final to Kim Clijsters last year, set up a quarterfinal match against No. 25 Petra Kvitova, who rallied to beat No. 22 Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Andy Roddick's 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 fourth-round loss to 19th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday night means there's no Americans in the men's or women's quarterfinals.
The eighth-seeded Roddick was the last American man standing. The women were out before the third round ended.
No. 3 Novak Djokovic and No. 6 Tomas Berdych also won in the fourth round. Among the women, No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 9 Li Na advanced, while No. 14 Maria Sharapova lost to No. 30 Andrea Petkovic.
Wawrinka advanced to the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a major in the Open era, where he'll run into defending champion Federer.
Federer beat Tommy Robredo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals for the 27th major in a row.