Australian Open: Rafael Nadal soldiers on to reach quarter-final

RAFAEL Nadal is keeping his fingers crossed for the second week of the Australian Open after reaching the quarter-finals with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

Since winning his sole title at Melbourne Park in 2009, the 25-year-old has been ushered out of the year’s first grand slam on the back of injuries at the quarter-final stage. The second seed arrived this year under another injury cloud and had his left foot strapped by a physiotherapist early in the first set against Lopez.

The ten-times grand slam champion still moved nimbly enough to wear down his 30-year-old opponent in searing heat, and sealed the match in less than two-and-a-half hours.

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Memories of his last eight withdrawal against Andy Murray two years ago and defeat by David Ferrer last year still clearly haunt him. “Hopefully it won’t happen this time,” said Nadal. “It’s tough to have to go out of a tournament like Australia in the quarter-finals. In 2010 I retired because I couldn’t continue. Last year, I decided not to retire but I had a problem in the second or third game of the match. So I played one complete match with very bad feelings.”

Coming off three lop-sided victories, Nadal encountered much stiffer resistance from his Davis Cup team mate, whose chipping and charging to the net had the Mallorcan repeatedly on the back foot. Nadal, who has yet to drop a set at the Australian Open this year, said he was very happy with the way he was playing. “I think I started the tournament playing really well this time,” said Nadal, who will face Tomas Berdych in the last eight.