MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Roger Federer and Andy Murray were locked on collision course at the Australian Open yesterday as an unstoppable Serena Williams powered towards her third-straight Grand Slam title.
As Novak Djokovic regrouped after his late-night thriller against Stanislas Wawrinka, Federer and Murray had no such problems as they breezed into the quarter-finals.
Murray had the simplest of tasks against a weakened Gilles Simon, still struggling after his marathon win over Gael Monfils, while Federer easily had the weapons to deal with the machine-gun serve of Milos Raonic.
Federer, playing in the showpiece evening match at Rod Laver Arena, needed a solitary break to edge the first set, and then won tiebreaker for the second before he swept through the last to take it 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
The Swiss master, now into his 35th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final and seeking his 18th major title, said "good reflexes" were the key to coping with Raonic's bullet serve.
"You try to anticipate a bit, and it happened better and better as the match went on," he said. "It's important to stay focused. I have learned that over the years, and it pays off in the end."
While defending champion Djokovic battled to recover from his five-hour, five-set win which concluded in the early hours of Monday, Simon was still struggling from his marathon victory over Gael Monfils a day earlier.
The Frenchman, who could hardly walk after wrapping up the five-setter post-midnight, was in no state to face US Open champion Murray, and he quickly went down 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, calling it "a painful hour-and-a-half".
"Yesterday I was just biking 20 minutes, you know, stretching, massage, cold bath. I did everything I could," said Simon.
Murray called it a "tough situation", but he admitted his mind was already on his next match, a quarter-final with France's world number 36 Jeremy Chardy. The Briton is scheduled to face Federer in the semi-finals.
Chardy, who comes from the same coaching stable as Williams, reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a straight-sets defeat of Italian Andreas Seppi. He had never previously gone past the second round in Melbourne.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, buoyed by new coach Roger Rasheed, beat Richard Gasquet in four sets to tee up a quarter-final against Federer.
Meanwhile, the women's competition heated up as Williams ran over a stunned Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0, and her potential semi-final opponent, title-holder Victoria Azarenka, dominated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1.
Williams dispatched Kirilenko in less than an hour as she reached her 35th Grand Slam quarter-final and set up a last-eight clash with fellow American Sloane Stephens, 19, who beat Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.
"I haven't beaten Serena and I hope I'll give you all a good show," said the confident teenager.
Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner, missed much of last season with injury, but she said the break had done her good as she returned and beat ex-number one Caroline Wozniacki in three sets.
She said: "After 10 years of travelling, I was getting tired. But I'm feeling fresh again and very happy to be in the quarter-finals, because I struggled last year."
In Wednesday's quarter-finals, Kuznetsova will meet last year's champion Azarenka.