MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)—Andy Murray moved another step closer to consecutive Australian Open finals and Kim Clijsters remained on course for back-to-back major titles with third-round wins Saturday.
Fifth-seeded Murray had little trouble beating Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
U.S. Open champion Clijsters beat Alize Cornet 7-6 (3), 6-3, spoiling 21st birthday plans for her French opponent. Cornet provided a tougher challenge for Clijsters, who had only conceded four games in her first two rounds.
Cornet fended off two match points on her serve before the 27-year-old Belgian closed it out.
“It was tough. She’s a tricky player,” Clijsters said. “During the match I felt like I was playing 2 different persons. I had to constantly move my feet, and work harder.”
Clijsters was happy to survive the third round, where she experienced her worst Grand Slam loss ever last year when she took only one game off Nadia Petrova. The pair could meet again in the fourth round.
Second-seeded Vera Zvonareva kept alive her bid for a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 7-6 (9) win over Lucie Safarova.
Zvonareva, who lost the U.S. Open final to Clijsters, served for the match twice against Safarova but was extended to the tiebreaker. Safarova led 4-2 and 5-3 in the tiebreaker before Zvonareva finally sealed it on her fourth match point.
Zvonareva has a chance to move into the No. 1 ranking her by winning the title. Her priority now is getting past a fourth-round match against Iveta Benesova, who beat No. 16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 1-6, 7-5.
No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska cruised past Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2 and will next play China’s Peng Shuai, who had a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Japan’s Ayumi Morita.
On the men’s side, Murray set the tone against Garcia Lopez in the first game, rallying from 40-0 to break serve.
“The first game doesn’t always dictate the way the match is going to go, but it definitely helped today,” said Murray, who lost the 2010 final to Roger Federer. He’s only dropped 17 games through three rounds, although he admitted he was impressed by something different in the third round.
Garcia Lopez chased a lob to the back of the court and hit a between-the-legs winner past him down the line in the first set. Murray said that’s the first time somebody had done that to him on tour.
Another former finalist was ousted, with 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France losing 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 to Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Milos Raonic, a 20-year-old Canadian qualifier with the fastest serve in the first two rounds of the tournament at 143 mph, fired 32 aces while pushing aside No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny with a 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win.
“I didn’t really count myself out. I knew the chances were in his favor, but I knew I was prepared to fight for every point, however long it took,” said Raonic, who was born in Montenegro and moved to Canada in 1994. “I can’t say I would be shocked if I wasn’t here. But I’m not really shocked I am here.”
He’ll play No. 7 David Ferrer, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 winner over Richard Berankis, in the next round.
No. 4 Robin Soderling, who beat Jan Hernych 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 and next plays Dolgopolov, hasn’t dropped a set and is on an eight-match winning streak with his three at Melbourne Park after winning the tuneup tournament at Brisbane. He’s lost the last two French Open finals to Rafael Nadal and Federer, but has some big victories over the dominant pair and is confident both can be beaten at Melbourne Park.
“There’s always going to be a lot of attention on Roger and Rafa, of course,” he said. “But I think 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.
“I already played two Grand Slam finals and I beat them both in Grand Slams. But, again, of course they will always be the favorites, and we are the guys who need to play really well if we’re going to have a chance to beat them.”
Soderling’s match was delayed for about 10 minutes in the third set when a bubble seemed to appear on the court surface at Hisense Arena. A similar bubble delayed the start of a match on the same court the previous night.
Tournament organizers said moisture from recent rains had gathered under the court’s Plexicushion layer in the unseasonably cool conditions and evaporated as temperatures rose, causing a pocket of vapor that lifted part of the surface. Stadium staff repaired the problem quickly both times.
Temperatures rose elsewhere, too. There was some heated moments in the men’s doubles, with match officials stepping in to calm a heated exchange at the net.
Spain’s Feliciano Lopez accused India’s Leander Paes of trying to provoke him and his partner Juan Monaco of Argentina during their second-round match. Paes and partner Mahesh Bhupathi won 7-6 (2), 6-4.
Television footage showed all four players arguing at the net, and Lopez claimed Paes had tried “to provoke us all the time.”
Venus Williams barely stayed on court long enough to get warm on Friday night.
Her streak of 251 Grand Slam matches without having to retire due to injury ended when she aggravated a muscle problem in her hip after just seven points of her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic.
Williams wasn’t the only high-profile loser in the third round. Justine Henin fell 6-4, 7-6 (8) to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Henin reached the final here last year in her comeback to Grand Slam tennis, but her season was cut short because of an elbow problem.
No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki advanced, along with French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, Li Na of China, No. 8 Victoria Azarenka and 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova.
Defending champion Federer was back to his best in a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 win over Xavier Malisse, reaching the fourth round along with No. 3 Novak Djokovic and American Andy Roddick.
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