MELBOURNE, Australia &
Roger Federer sure didn't want to put in another 41/2 hours.
So he made fast work of Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-3 today to continue his march to a third consecutive Australian Open title and narrow his pursuit of Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam titles.
"It throws off your rhythm a little bit, playing a five-setter," said top-ranked Federer, who barely avoided being an upset victim in the previous round, when he survived a 10-8 final set against Janko Tipsarevic.
"I like this one today better," he said after reaching the quarterfinals. "I'm quite pleased with the result, pulling up from a tough match."
Federer next faces American James Blake, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 winner over 19-year-old Croatian Marin Cilic, advancing past the fourth round here for the first time and matching his best Grand Slam showing.
Fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who lost to Federer in the Masters Cup final in November, beat fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. He will play third-ranked Novak Djokovic, who ousted the last Australian hope when he defeated No. 19 Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Hewitt didn't have his usual high energy level after beating Marcos Baghdatis in five sets in his previous match, which didn't end until 4:33 a.m. Sunday. That match was delayed by the length of Federer's victory over Tipsarevic.
Venus Williams, the eighth-seeded woman, realizes she needs to get over her slow starts. She had to fight back twice from service breaks in the first set before advancing to the quarters with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Marta Domachowska, a qualifier from Poland.
She next faces No. 4 Ana Ivanovic, who put together a 6-1, 7-6 (2) win over Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki. No. 8 Daniela Hantuchova beat No. 27 Maria Kirilenko 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 and will next play Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, who upset No. 14 Nadia Petrova 1-6, 7-5, 6-0.
Under pressure, Federer played his best while Berdych faltered.
Berdych, with a strong serve and sharp groundstrokes, had a tendency for poorly executed drop shots at critical times. He dumped one into the net while getting broken for the only time in the first set while serving at 4-4, then again while serving at 6-5 in the second-set tiebreaker after Federer rallied from 2-5.
Berdych squandered a second set point at 7-6 when he flailed a forehand long off an easy short ball, and Federer ran off the last three points.
Always a great front-runner, Federer got an early break in the third set, then held the rest of the way, dropping only four points in his five service games.
He finished in — hour and 59 minutes &
21/2 hours less than against Tipsarevic. Still, he said it wasn't as easy as the score indicated.
"This was a tough match today," said Federer, who is going for his 13th Grand Slam title. "Thank God he didn't win that second set because you never know what's going to happen."
Blake's style would seem to match up well with Federer's because of his tendency to take balls early but the Swiss star holds a 7-0 record in head-to-head meetings. Blake has won only one set, but took encouragement from Tipsarevic's near upset.
"Every time I've stepped out on the court with him, I've felt if I play my best, I give myself a shot with anyone in the world," Blake said. "Every time, he stepped up and played better."
Williams is about to test Ivanovic's theory that the work the Serbian has put in over the past four months has made her better. Williams has ousted Ivanovic at the past two Grand Slams, including in the fourth round at the U.S. Open in September.
"I think I'm a little bit different player than I was last time I played her," Ivanovic said. "I got even fitter and stronger on the court. Also, these courts are a little bit slower than the U.S. Open, so I think that's something that definitely suits me better because she's a big server and she likes to go for the big shots."
Williams said she has to figure out why she's starting slow, but she didn't seem too worried.
"The last couple rounds I've definitely played some players who had some interesting strategies as far as going for broke," she said.
Williams is hoping that she can meet sister Serena, who was sitting courtside, in the final.
Serena, the defending champion, is in the other half of the draw, where she next meets No. — Jelena Jankovic on Tuesday. A victory would set up a matchup between the winner of the other quarterfinal between top-seeded Justine Henin and No. 5 Maria Sharapova, last year's losing finalist.
Venus Williams, in her first tournament since withdrawing from the season-ending event at Madrid in November due to illness, lost in the final here in 2003 to Serena and had not gone beyond the fourth round at the season's opening major since.
Federer, Blake to meet in quarters
MELBOURNE, Australia &