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Nadal leads stroll into quarters

Nadal was given an armchair ride into the last eight when his French opponent Paul-Henri Mathieu withdrew with a left calf injury.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Melbourne
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2008 09:34 PM IST

Spanish second seed Rafael Nadal joined Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jarkko Nieminen and Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after spending only 50 minutes on court on Sunday.

Nadal was given an armchair ride into the last eight when his French opponent Paul-Henri Mathieu withdrew with a left calf injury.

The triple French Open champion was leading 6-4, 3-0 at the time of the pull-out and said he was playing his best tennis of his four matches at the Open so far.

He will now face Finnish 24th seed Nieminen in the quarter-finals.

Nadal had been in control of his evening centre court match and had wrapped up the opening set after a service break in the third game.

"I was enjoying the match," Nadal said. "I was playing my best tennis since arriving in Australia.

"I'm happy to be in the quarter-final, but not like this way.

"I feel very good and I will have extra practice tomorrow to make up for my lost match time.

The Spaniard, who has advanced to the quarter-finals without dropping a set, is bidding to match his best Australian Open result which he set last year when he reached the last eight for the first time.

Nieminen, Tsonga and Youzhny sealed their last-eight berths with four-set victories.

Tsonga cut down his second top ranked opponent of the tournament with a 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 win over eighth seed Richard Gasquet in their all-French tie.

The 38th-ranked Tsonga, who sent ninth seeded Briton Andy Murray packing on the opening day, now faces 14th seed Youzhny, who won an all-Russian clash with fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko.

Youzhny, the number two ranked Russian behind Davydenko at 14, marched on with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-1 win.

Nieminen, the winner of the leadup Adelaide ATP tournament, finished too strong for German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who dumped Andy Roddick out in the previous round.

Nieminen worked his way through to a 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 victory.

"I feel amazing, it's been a great start to the year," said the Finn.

Tsonga, playing in only his fifth Grand Slam tournament, has been one of the revelations after his shock win over Murray and now close friend Gasquet.

"When you take a seed out in the first round you have his draw. So you have a better chance to play some unseeded players. So it's better, of course," 22-year-old Tsonga said.

"It's good for me because it's lot of confidence to beat a player (Murray) like that. He's very good. And for me, it was a test. When you beat somebody like that, you know you can beat a lot of guys."

Youzhny claimed his ninth consecutive victory after he winning the Chennai tournament on his way to the Australian Open.

"I played good today at almost everything," Youzhny said.

Davydenko, who remains at the centre of an investigation into a betting scandal following his defeat by Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello last August, was bidding for his fourth consecutive quarter-final appearance.

In two third round matches carried over from Saturday, Juan Carlos Ferrero, seeded 22, ended Argentine 10th seed David Nalbandian's tournament with a surprisingly comfortable 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win in one hour 44 minutes.

Fifth seed David Ferrer took three minutes longer to oust American Vincent Spadea, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

They will meet in an all-Spanish fourth round match on Monday.

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