Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro pursued his comeback from serious injury as he beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun to reach the Australian Open’s fourth round yesterday.
The Argentine world No. 11 beat Lu 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 to equal his best Grand Slam performance since lifting the US title in 2009.
The result ended the campaign of 79th-ranked Lu, who shocked David Nalbandian in Melbourne in 2009, a year after claiming Andy Murray’s scalp at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Del Potro missed much of 2010 as he underwent wrist surgery, but he stormed up the rankings as he returned to full action last season.
The big right-hander broke Lu seven times in the match and never faced a break point on his serve.
Del Porto now needs to beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, who defeated Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), to equal his best result in Melbourne, the quarter-finals in 2009.
Meanwhile, in the same half of a Grand Slam singles draw for the first time since 2005, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are taking similar paths to a potential semi-final matchup.
A rematch of last year’s women’s final is already in place, with defending champion Kim Clijsters and China’s Li Na both winning yesterday to set up a meeting in the fourth round.
Neither the four-time Australian champion Federer nor 2009 titleholder Nadal have dropped a set so far, although Federer’s path has been made easier by a walkover win in the second round.
The longtime rivals played back-to-back matches at Rod Laver Arena yesterday. Nadal, his right knee still taped from a recent injury, showed no problems while moving briskly around the court in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over qualifier Lukas Lacko.
Federer followed in the marquee matinee program by beating Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 6-3, saving a set point in the tiebreaker with a scrambling lob over the 2.08m Croatian. Federer will play Australian teenager Bernard Tomic, who defeated 13th seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 4-6, 7-6 (7/0), 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 6-3. .
Nadal had few dramas in his match against Lacko, which is just the way he wanted it. He felt a sharp pain in his knee while sitting in his chair in his hotel last weekend, an innocent enough movement he initially feared would cause him to withdraw from the tournament.
Three matches later, Nadal said “the knee is fine ... being in the fourth round without losing a set, it’s fantastic news.”
Nadal will next meet fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who beat No. 16 John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-7 (0/7), 6-1 to put the last US man out of the draw.
No. 7 Tomas Berdych beat No. 30 Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/1), 6-1 and will next play No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, who beat 21st-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-4.
On the women’s side, top seeded Caroline Wozniacki also has not dropped a set in advancing to the fourth round as she continues her quest for a first Grand Slam title. She beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-2, 6-2 yesterday, and third seeded Victoria Azarenka defeated Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4.
Wozniacki could face Clijsters in the quarter-finals, but before Clijsters gets that far, she will have to beat French Open winner Li.
Li advanced to the fourth round late last night when her opponent, Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, had to retire in the first set after badly twisting her right ankle attempting a shot. Li won the first three games and was up 0-30 on Medina Garrigues’ serve when the Spaniard went to the net to retire just a game and a half after she had sustained the injury.