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Nadal, Federer, Murray cruise into fourth round in Melbourne

The Sports Network

1/18/2014 2:42:33 AM

Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray continued to steamroll the opposition Saturday in the men's draw at the Australian Open.

The former Grand Slam champions have yet to drop a set through the first three rounds and each had little trouble Saturday.

Nadal dropped a mere six games in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 rout of Frenchman Gael Monfils, while Federer lost only seven games in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 pounding of Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili. Murray, meanwhile, battled through a first-set tiebreaker before cruising the rest of the way in a 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Spain's Feliciano Lopez.

The top-seeded Nadal broke Monfils' serve to start the match and battled through a tough first service game of his own to set the tone Saturday night at Laver Arena.

There wasn't much drama afterward.

Nadal finished off the first set in 39 minutes and again breezed through the second in 36 before Monfils put up a fight in the third. Tied at 3-3, Monfils had a couple of break chances, but Nadal was up to the task each time and went on to hold serve.

Monfils' spirit was broken and so was his serve in the next game. Nadal then held at love to finish it.

"Tonight, I think I played a great match," said Nadal. "Very happy the way that I played against a very tough opponent like Gael. So that makes the level that I played tonight better, because (it) was against tough opponent."

Monfils failed on each of his six break-point chances throughout the match and committed a whopping 57 unforced errors.

"Definitely, today he was in great shape," said Monfils, who went the distance against Nadal in the Doha final to start 2014. "Been a while since I played Rafa like that."

Nadal, who missed last year's Australian Open while recovering from a knee issue, will continue his quest for a second title in Melbourne against Japan's Kei Nishikori, a 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 winner over American Donald Young. Nadal, the 2009 winner, is 5-0 lifetime against Nishikori.

Federer, the four-time Aussie Open champ, is seeded sixth this year after his troubling 2013 season that featured only one tournament title and no Grand Slam finals. He hasn't had any issues beating overmatched opponents in the first three rounds this week, including Saturday's triumph.

"I'm happy that from my side I'm winning my matches in straight sets," said Federer. "It's been different conditions every match: the heat first and the indoor match and now normal conditions today with a bit of wind. So it's just good to get through and get a good feel out there and make sure if you've got a chance to win your matches easier to do so."

It starts to toughen up next with 10th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who advanced Saturday with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon.

"It's always difficult when you play a friend, I've known him since we were nine or 10," said Tsonga about beating Simon. "It's like we create a little war."

A battle against 17-time major champ Federer now awaits Tsonga, whose best Grand Slam result came with a runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open final.

Federer beat Tsonga in last year's quarterfinals in Melbourne, but Tsonga earned a measure of revenge with a quarterfinal win at the French Open.

"It's a good opportunity for me to play him again," said Tsonga. "It's always nice to play against such a good player. The tournament continues for me and I'm feeling good."

Murray, a three-time Aussie Open runner-up, is battling back pain, but has shown no ill effects yet.

"I've recovered well after the matches," the reigning Wimbledon champ said about his back. "You know, from time to time a bit of stiffness and soreness, but for the most part it's been good."

Next up for the Scotsman will be French lucky loser Stephane Robert, who has played his way into the fourth round after entering the tournament following the withdrawal of Philip Kohlschreiber.

"I don't know him personally, so maybe next tournament when I see him I'm going to tell him, like, thank you," Robert said when asked if he had spoken with the German.

Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut followed up his upset of fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 romp over Frenchman Benoit Paire and will next face Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, a four-set winner over 11th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic.

The fourth round starts Sunday with a quartet of matches. Djokovic will continue his push for a fourth straight Aussie Open crown against Italy's Fabio Fognini, while third-seeded David Ferrer will square off against Germany's Florian Mayer. Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka will face Spain's Tommy Robredo and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic will battle South Africa's Kevin Anderson.