Nadal keeps Rafa Slam on track at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia - A shirtless Rafael Nadal looks over his shoulder in the black-and-white photo, his biceps flexed and muscles rippling. Nadal might be a step closer to his vaunted Rafa Slam, but he's also an Armani model. The photo will appear in a campaign launch next month. First, however, there's some tennis at hand, and Nadal is doing just fine as an advertisement for his sport. He improved his winning streak to 25 matches in Grand Slam events Monday, beating No. 15 Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Nadal already holds the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns and hasn't lost in a major since the last year's quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. Nobody has held all four men's majors at once since Rod Laver in a calendar year in 1969.Nadal's victory sets up a quarterfinal against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who fended off big-serving 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. In the previous round, Nadal had complained that a virus left him weak and caused him to sweat more than usual. He frequently peeled off his red shirt, often long after the soaked garment started clinging to his body. He picked up the illness in Qatar two weeks ago and lost 6 pounds. Suddenly, some wondered if he had enough energy for his Rafa Slam. "I'm not sweating that much tonight, so I am very happy," Nadal told the crowd after the match. "The two other days I was sweating like crazy and I felt very tired when I played the match." The cooler conditions - the temperature dropped into the low 60s - no doubt helped. "Today was the first day that I felt perfect physically," Nadal said. "So that is the most important thing." That's probably not joyous news for No. 7 Ferrer. Andy Murray, who beat an injured Nadal in the Australian quarterfinals last year en route to his loss in the final to Roger Federer, would no doubt have noticed, too. Murray found his rhythm early and made only 10 unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win against No. 11 Jurgen Melzer. In the quarterfinals, he'll meet Alexandr Dolgopolov, who ousted French Open finalist Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. Murray was confident when he said he was playing as well as he did this time last year. But, he added for good measure: "I don't want to get carried away. I've never won one of these things before." No British man has won a major since 1936. In the day's last match, Kim Clijsters wasted plenty of chances to break Ekaterina Makarova before winning 7-6 (3), 6-2. No. 2 Vera Zvonareva kept rolling toward a possible third consecutive Grand Slam final with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Iveta Benesova. Zvonareva, who lost the Wimbledon final to Serena Williams and the U.S. Open final to Clijsters last year, moved into a quarterfinal against No. 25 Petra Kvitova, who beat No. 22 Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska beat Peng Shuai 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 and will meet Clijsters.
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