herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Soderling out to win crown

Swede admits Oz Open ambitions as Murray canters

Robin Soderling and Andy Murray served up reminders that there are more than just two contenders for the men's title at the Australian Open with dominant third-round victories.

While a Melbourne Park basking in sunshine awaited the much-hyped night encounter between world number one Rafa Nadal and local teenager Bernard Tomic, fourth seed Soderling and fifth seed Murray joined defending champion Roger Federer in the tournament's last 16.

Soderling's 6-3 6-1 6-4 trouncing of Czech qualifier Jan Hernych took longer than Murray's 82-minute, 6-1 6-1 6-2 dismantling of Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but he was equally comprehensive, and the Swede, who has yet to drop a set at the event, thought Nadal and Federer were not necessarily shoe-ins for the final.

"They're number one and two in the world. In every tournament they play, they will be the favourites," said Soderling.

"But there's many guys who can actually compete against them and have a chance to win the tournaments like this when they're playing well."

On his easy win, Murray said: "It was good. Obviously, it was a quick match. Served well. Hit the ball clean from the back. That was it. I played well. He probably didn't play his best. It was over quickly. It was hot today, so it was nice to get off court."

Two other men's seeds had less successful days, however, as 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny crashed out 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4 to Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic and 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-1 to Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Big-serving Raonic -- 152nd in te world -- admitted his victory over Youzhny surprised all but himself.

"I know I can play well and I know I can play at this level," he said. "I can't say I would be shocked if I wasn't here. But I'm not really shocked I am here."

Elsewhere, Belgian Kim Clijsters continued to glide through the women's draw after she moved past France's Alize Cornet in a 7-6 6-3 win.

Like Soderling and Murray, women's second seed Vera Zvonareva is also still seeking her first grand slam title and she opened the day with a 6-3 7-6 win over Lucie Safarova.

Despite problems closing the match out 11-9 in the tiebreaker, Zvonareva was pleased with the improvements she has made to her game this week.

"The level of my game, if you would compare today's match to my first match, I think I was playing a different level already," said the Russian, who lost in the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"There are those situations I have been in today where I had my chances and didn't use them ... That's something that I will definitely have to improve for the next matches."

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