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January 31st, 2015
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Australian Open: Rafael Nadal Overcomes Israeli Dudi Sela

Australian Open: Rafael Nadal Overcomes Israeli Dudi Sela

Rafael Nadal put his health issues behind him to overcome Israeli Dudi Sela and advance to the fourth round at the Australian Open on Friday, January 23.

The Spaniard, who struggled with stomach cramps and dizzy spells in his five-set second-round win over American Tim Smyczek, showed none of the symptoms as he beat Sela 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 in 2hr 4min on Rod Laver Arena.

The world number three will take on South African serving giant Kevin Anderson in the last 16.

The 2009 champion, who lost in last year's final to Stan Wawrinka, has now reached the round of 16 at the year's first Grand Slam for the ninth time.

Nadal no longer has 17-time Grand Slam champion and great rival Roger Federer in his bottom half of the draw after the Swiss world number two was upset by Italian Andreas Seppi earlier Friday.

"In general I think I was playing better than I did the other day, I was feeling better tonight," Nadal said.

"I changed direction better and my forehand and serving was better. Dudi had some chances in the third set and I was a bit lucky at the end of that third set.

"The other night was one of the toughest times I have spent on the court and my body wasn't very well and I felt very lucky to get through. I thought I was going to have to take the plane back to Majorca."

Normal service was resumed for Nadal against Sela with 43 winners and 25 errors, while breaking the Israeli's service seven times from 18 break point opportunities and not having his own serve broken.

The 14-times Grand Slam winner played only seven matches since Wimbledon last July due to ongoing back and wrist injuries and an appendectomy.

His lack of match fitness was apparent in Qatar earlier this month on the way to Australia when he was humiliated in the first round by German Michael Berrer, a qualifier ranked outside the top 100.

But he is still alive at the Australian Open following wins over Mikhail Youzhny, Smyczek and Sela.

Meanwhile, a stunned Roger Federer was dumped from the Australian Open Friday in his worst showing since 2001 as Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and Eugenie Bouchard battled to stay in the title hunt.

In the tournament's biggest upset to date, the Swiss world number two had no answer to unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi who he had conquered in their past 10 meetings.

"Just a bad day. I wish I could have played better but clearly it was tough losing the first two sets," Federer said after crashing out in the third round 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5).

"I had chances to get back into it but let it slip. It's a disappointing loss."

The defeat was the 17-time Grand Slam winner's earliest exit in Melbourne in 14 years and aside from his second round Wimbledon flop in 2013, was the Swiss legend's worst performance at a major in more than a decade.

Federer was chasing his fifth Australian Open crown, but has now not won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.

He started sluggishly and when he was broken to love in the first set, giving Seppi a 5-4 lead, it was clear something was amiss with Federer's game.

"To beat Roger first time, especially in a Grand Slam, best-of-five, is a special moment for me," said the 46th ranked Seppi, who had only taken one set off him in their previous 10 matches.

In contrast, Sharapova blitzed her way past Zarina Diyaz of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-1, erasing memories of the massive scare she was given in her second round clash when she had to save two match points.

"I started really focused, I knew I had a tough, long match previously, so I wanted to start off strong and finish strong," said the Russian second seed.

"I think I did a good job of that."

Murray was also in form, easily beating Portugal's Joao Sousa.

The Scot, who won 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, has yet to be seriously tested at Melbourne Park, with a first-match tiebreak the closest he has come to dropping a set.

He will next meet Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who struggled against 2006 Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis with the fired-up Cypriot pushing him to five gruelling sets.

Murray has now reached the round of 16 for the seventh consecutive year as he bids to track down an elusive Australian title after losing to Federer in the 2010 final and Novak Djokovic in 2011 and 2013.

"I lost to Roger and to Novak a couple of times against some of the best ever players here and playing in front of a packed arena here is always fun," Murray said.

"Grigor has improved a lot over the last couple of years and it should be a fun match."

(AFP-i24news)

 

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