Melbourne: Rafa Nadal won the battle of Spanish lefties to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday, while home fans were daring to dream ahead of Bernard Tomic`s mouthwatering matchup against Roger Federer.
World number two Nadal dumped Davis Cup team mate Feliciano Lopez out of the year`s first grand slam with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win on blistering hot Rod Laver Arena, though the 2009 champion`s battered body is obviously feeling the strain.
With heavy strapping on knee, ankle and foot, Nadal huffed and puffed his way past Lopez with little Spanish sparkle, though with temperatures topping 32 centigrade he was glad to go no more than three sets once again.
"I`m fine, it was very, very hot. I think this is positive to keep winning in three sets in these conditions," Nadal said after wrapping up the win in two hours, 25 minutes.
Women`s third seed Victoria Azarenka endured her traditional late-game hiccup before beating Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2; setting up a quarter-final clash with Pole Agnieszka Radwanska.
Azarenka had to claw her way through the red mist when third round opponent Mona Barthel refused to go quietly and the Belarusian endured the same inability to kill off Benesova, though this time she kept her fury in check to win with her fifth match point.
The 22-year-old conceded her fortunes fluctuated wildly sometimes, and that her friend Anna Kournikova had found it difficult to watch.
"She came last year (to Miami) to watch me play and said she ate about two packets of gum because she was so nervous," Azarenka said. "She was like, `Next time I might not come`".
Li Na is trying to bring the curtain down on Kim Clijsters`s farewell competition in Australia. The Chinese world number five is well rested ahead of the fourth round match having eased through on the back of Anabel Medina Garrigues`s retirement after just three games on Friday.
Clijsters, who beat Li to win the Australian Open last year, is expected to retire from tennis later in the year.
Still giddy from Lleyton Hewitt`s late-night heroics against Milos Raonic, Australian fans can barely believe they have two players in the fourth round.
While wildcard Hewitt was a pleasant surprise on Saturday, a Tomic victory over four-times champion Federer would be the shock of ages.
Teen Tomic has already come through two five setters to reach the fourth round while Federer has been in imperious form for the short time he has been on court.
The Swiss, bidding to match Roy Emerson`s record of five Australian Open titles, ended last year without a grand slam title for the first time since 2002.