MELBOURNE, Australia — The crowd was still buzzing about the comeback victory by “Aussie Kim” Clijsters, and the fans were now in full voice for another one of their own.
Then along came Roger Federer to flatten their hopes.
Federer has won four of his record 16 Grand Slam singles titles on Rod Laver Arena, and on Sunday night he more or less held a clinic – a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bernard Tomic to reach the quarterfinals for a 31st consecutive major.
He played the 19-year-old Aussie at his own game, but raised it a level: mixing soft, angled drop shots that just cleared the net with crisp groundstrokes that hit the lines and – for good measure – a leaping, backhand overhead.
“It was like boxing in the beginning. You don’t want to take too many chances,” Federer said, explaining why there weren’t any service breaks until the ninth game, when he produced two drop shots for winners with Tomic stranded in the backcourt. “Had one game when I was starting to feel better, next thing you know I’m up a break. Maybe I broke his will there a bit.”
Federer’s quarterfinal will be his 1,000th tour-level match. He plays 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, whom he once expected to rise to No. 1.
Clijsters, the defending champion, won despite limping on a badly sprained left ankle. She saved four match points in a tiebreaker en route to her 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 win in a rematch of the 2011 final against Li Na. That put the four-time Grand Slam winner on course for a quarterfinal against Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniacki is desperate to end her Grand Slam title drought, and improved her credentials marginally with a 6-0, 7-5 win over former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the last match Sunday night.
“My confidence is high, my fitness is good, my play is improving and I’m very positive,” Wozniacki said. “If I play like I did today, Kim will have to really play well to beat me.”