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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

Seven days of competition have passed at the Australian Open.  While Rafael Nadal has breezed through his matches to get to the round of 16, defending champion Roger Federer had a hiccup in the second round.  As usual, there were a few unexpected departures in the first week.  Here’s a summary of what has taken place this initial week.

It’s been smooth sailing for Nadal in getting through to the round of 16.  The world number one’s excellent form will come in handy as he faces 2010 semifinalist Marin Cilic.  After two easy matches, Cilic edged out John Isner 9-7 in the fifth to earn a crack at Nadal.

After a thrilling first round five setter against Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian called it quit in the second round, four games away from being handed a straight set loss.  Mikhail Youzhny also departed earlier than expected.  The tenth seed was sent packing in the third round by Milos Raonic.  The 20 year old Canadian qualifier with the humongous serve also ousted Michael Llodra, the 22nd seed in the second round.  Next up for Raonic will be David Ferrer who is a relentless competitor.  Ferrer’s experience may prove too much for the youngster.  Thus, a Ferrer-Nadal quarterfinal showdown is the likely scenario.

Without much fuss, both Robyn Soderling and Andy Murray have been taking care of business.  Soderling’s fourth round match will be against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian upset 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.  Following an impressive second round match versus Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire down two sets to one with a hand injury in his third round match against Jurgen Melzer.  As such, Murray will battle Melzer for a quarterfinal berth.

After letting a two set to none advantage evaporate, Federer came back in the fifth set to vanquish Gilles Simon in the second round.  Interestingly, it was Federer’s first victory over the Frenchman in their three meetings.  With Americans Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey on that side of the draw going out prematurely, Federer will play Tommy Robredo in the round of 16.  Despite a 9-0 mark versus Robredo, Federer will have to keep his eye on the ball if he plans to stick around.

Federer’s countryman, Stanislas Wawrinka is having a sensational tournament.  Wawrinka is for the first time in his second week at the Australian Open.  Wawrinka dispatched all his rivals in three sets including Gael Monfils in the third round.  On the other hand, Andy Roddick, the last American standing, after routine wins the initial two rounds had a spot of bother in his third round encounter.  Thus, Roddick may have his hands well occupied with Wawrinka in the fourth round.

Considering the caliber of the opponents Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round and Richard Gasquet the third round, Tomas Berdych has fared well to reach the round of 16.  The sixth seed will now have to get through Fernando Verdasco, the 2009 semifinalist, in order to move on to his first quarterfinal in Melbourne.  Verdasco himself had a lucky five set escape in the second round versus Janko Tipsarevic.

Novak Djokovic, the 2008 champion, should be well rested for his round of 16 match since Viktor Troicki retired in the third round after only one set.  Moreover, with Nicolas Almagro as the opposition, it’s a mere formality that Djokovic will advance to the quarterfinals.

With Nadal and Federer still alive, the question becomes who can stop them from obtaining another major.  Certainly, Murray and Soderling are proving so far that they could be up to that task.  In a couple of days, it will be known whether Nadal will complete the “Rafa Slam” with four consecutive majors or Federer pocket his 17th major.  Quarterfinal action gets underway in a few hours.

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