Seeds hold the aces at Aussie Open

NICE TRY: Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, shakes hands with  Kevin Anderson after he defeated the South African  at the  Australian Open  in Melbourne yesterday Picture: AFP -
NICE TRY: Spain’s Rafael Nadal, left, shakes hands with Kevin Anderson after he defeated the South African at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday Picture: AFP –

Murray, Sharapova, Nadal sail into last eight.

Dressed in black and oozing menace, Andy Murray exacted sweet revenge by felling Wimbledon nemesis Grigor Dimitrov in a latenight thriller as the old guard stood firm to march into the Australian Open quarterfinals yesterday.

Former champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova sailed into the last eight but will share the limelight with Murray’s next opponent Nick Kyrgios, a local gatecrasher who roared to a famous fiveset victory over Roger Federer-slayer Andreas Seppi.

Dimitrov ended Murray’s title defence at his home grand slam last season and the Rod Laver Arena crackled with tension as the pair slugged out a midnight classic.

Murray won 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 and Dimitrov destroyed his racquet in disgust after blowing a 5-2 lead in the fourth set to allow the Briton to serve for the match.

The ending was cruel for Dimitrov but well-earned for Murray, as the Scot punched a cross-court forehand into the tape on match point, with the ball dropping over to send the Bulgarian out.

“I think I got quite lucky at the end – a few net cords went my way,” the Scot said.

“The momentum was switching both ways all the time.” Boasting a perfect 10-0 record over Australians, Murray will battle the home crowd as well as Kyrgios when the pair clash tomorrow.

Third seed Nadal continued his brilliant comeback from a 2014 season ravaged by injury and illness, drawing the sting from big-serving South African Kevin Anderson in a hardfought first set before crushing him 7-5 6-1 6-4.

From writing himself off as a contender before the tournament, the Spaniard now faces Tomas Berdych for a place in the semifinals, a man he has mastered in their last 18 matches.

“I am one of the eight. That’s the most important thing,” Nadal said.

Sharapova needed scarcely more than an hour to beat US Open semifinalist Peng Shuai.

The Russian’s 6-3 6-0 romp set up a showdown with Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, a 6-1 5-7 6-2 winner over Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.

Twenty-year-old Bouchard, long dubbed the next Sharapova, was overhauled by the Russian in three sets at the French Open semifinals. Canada’s first grand slam finalist Bouchard was the first into the last eight, giving herself a pep talk during a toilet break after suffering a mid- match meltdown.

“I gave myself a good, long hard look in the mirror and I said, ‘Genie, this is unacceptable’ and I really kind of kicked myself in the butt a little bit,” Bouchard said.

With the refurbished Margaret Court Arena promoted to the second showcourt, cheap ticket-holders have been given the run of Hisense Arena and the natives were restless as Kyrgios blew a 4-1 lead in the final set of his nerve-jangling 5-7 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 8-6 win.

The moment of victory was delayed by a desperate linecall challenge by Seppi, but when finally confirmed, Kyrgios slumped to the ground in joyous exhaustion as most of the 10 000-strong crowd started early celebrations for today’s “Australia Day” holiday.

The party might have been wilder but for seventh seed Berdych, who subjected local hope Bernard Tomic to a 6-2 7-6(3) 6-2 thrashing.

Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova meets third seed Simona Halep in the women’s quarterfinals after wins yesterday.

– Reuters

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