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Melbourne Highlights - Day 7

by Alexandra Willis
Sunday 22 January 2012

Tennis matches can turn on the slightest of margins, and Li Na must have thought her revenge mission would slot neatly into place when Kim Clijsters rolled her ankle midway through the opening set of their fourth-round encounter.

Clijsters has struggled with her fitness ever since beating Li on these very courts last year, injuries frustrating her throughout the 2011 season. Would another injury, to her left ankle, end her last-ever Australian Open with a retirement?

But Clijsters was not going to give up that easily, even if Li did seize the momentum and take the opening set 6-4. Very much the senior partner the entire way through the second set, the Chinese must have thought that all her hard work in the offseason had paid off spectacularly.

But then Clijsters turned it on its head. Rallying from 2-6 in the second set tie-break, saving four match points in the process, one with a drop shot, the Belgian reeled off eight points in a row to take the second set and send the fourth round encounter into a third.

Somehow, who knows how, going a break up in the third, the defending champion held her nerve, as Li had not managed to, and completed a victory even she was bewildered by.

It was a horrible change of events for Li, who was so distraught that she bolted midway through her press conference to the Chinese media. There will be a next time.

But for Aussie Kim, making her farewell to this tournament, it is fitting that she lives to fight another day.

She was joined in the quarter-finals by Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, with Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova and Zheng Jie all to play for their places tomorrow.

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As for the men, it was business as usual for the big names, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro all advancing, as expected, to the quarter-finals.

Nadal, playing in the noon heat, gave no quarter at all to his friend Feliciano Lopez, Federer, playing in the evening calm, gave no quarter to Bernard Tomic. Del Potro discarded Philipp Kohlschreiber, while Berdych had the toughest of the day's encounters against Nicolas Almagro.

Federer and Nadal are of course the leading lights of this half, expected to meet in the semi-finals for the first time in 15 Grand Slam events. But Nadal will have to overcome his Australian Open quarter-final hoodoo for that to happen - he's been undone by injury for the past two years at that very same stage.

Federer meanwhile extends his record of consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals to a streak of 31. It's a feat unlikely ever to be equalled.

Tomorrow of course will see if the remaining members of the Big Four and the Top Eight - Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can complete the blockbuster men's line-up.

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There was disappointment for Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins as they came close but not close enough to upset the world No.1s, the Bryan brothers, to reach the quarter-finals.

The British duo, who will compete for Great Britain in the Davis Cup against the Slovak Republic in Glasgow next month, recovered from dropping the first set 6-4 to blister through the second 6-0. But the Bryans regained the momentum to see off the win 6-2 in the third.

Interestingly, the American duo tipped Fleming and Hutchins to be among the top eight doubles teams in the world at the O2 Arena at the end of this year. Praise indeed.

There was better news for Britain's four junior competitors, as Liam Broady, Luke Bambridge, Kyle Edmund and Josh Ward-Hibbert all won their opening matches. As did the girls’ top seeds, Russian Irina Khromacheva, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and Estonian Anett Kontaveit. The boys' top seeds are in action tomorrow.

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For all the reports and results from Melbourne Park, visit the Official Australian Open website


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20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...

20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."

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