MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Roger Federer delivered another stinging lesson to the next generation of men’s tennis at the Australian Open today, mauling Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets to extend his record to a 35th consecutive grand slam quarter-final.
Federer completed his 6-4 7-6 6-2 masterclass in less than two hours under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, where defending champion Novak Djokovic had toiled for five in a huge scare against another Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, the night before.
Federer’s emphatic win followed Serena Williams’s 6-2 6-0 demolition of Maria Kirilenko, which set up her own generational battle with teenager Sloane Stephens.
Williams needed a measly 57 minutes to secure her 35th grand slam quarter-final, and will face another woman in a hurry in teenager Stephens.
The wise-cracking 19-year-old has been touted as an heir to the 15-times grand slam champion Williams and bolstered her credentials with a poised 6-1 3-6 7-5 win over Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski in the afternoon sun at Hisense Arena.
Williams defeated the impressive Stephens in the leadup tournament in Brisbane, and stopped short of describing herself as a mentor to the up-and-comer.
“I don’t know. I mean, I would need a better definition of the word ‘mentor’,” the 31-year-old told reporters.
“It’s hard to be a real mentor when you’re still in competition.”
If Williams needed any inspiration as to how to smack down the next generation, she would have done well to remain at Rod Laver Arena to watch the Swiss maestro.
Federer drew Raonic’s sting in a tight second set before romping to victory with 34 sparkling winners to set up a quarter-final with France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
It was the 31-year-old Swiss’s second straight win over a vaunted youngster, having swatted away Australian upstart Bernard Tomic in the previous round.
“It would be fun to play seven five-setters in a row … but it’s not really what you want to do,” Federer said courtside after sending the big-serving 22-year-old packing.
Stephens can afford to buy something sparkling after qualifying for her first grand slam quarter-final, which secured A$250,000 ($263,000) in prize-money.
“I’m sure my mum’s had, like, four heart attacks,” Stephens said courtside, raising a laugh from the crowd.
“I try to save all my money because I don’t want to be old and broke. I’m still trying to save my money but I’ll definitely buy something nice.”
Britain’s Andy Murray has not lost a set at Melbourne Park and derived little joy from his 6-1 6-3 6-1 clobbering of shattered 14th seed Simon, with the Frenchman reduced to a staggering wreck in the closing stages.
Simon had been exhausted by compatriot Gael Monfils in a five-set marathon in his previous match and could do little more than stick out his racket and hope as he slumped to his 10th straight loss to the Scot.
The monotoned Murray has made an art form of sounding unexcited about rollicking victories, but struck a new depth of melancholy as he lamented the lack of competition at his post-match media conference.
“It was kind of tough. A tough situation for both players – more obviously for him … It didn’t feel like that competitive,” said Murray, who will face another Frenchman in surprise package Jeremy Chardy.
Four Frenchmen advanced to the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the first time since 1998 and 36th-ranked Chardy kept the tricolore flag waving with a 5-7 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over 21st seeded Italian Andreas Seppi to continue his fairytale run.
That secured Chardy’s maiden grand slam quarter-final and ensured France would have two men in the last eight, with seventh seed Tsonga grinding down ninth-seeded compatriot Richard Gasquet 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2.
Unfancied and unseeded, the scruffy-bearded Chardy stunned sixth seed Juan Martin del Potro in his previous match and said he had nothing to lose against Murray, who he beat in straight sets in Cincinnati last year after losing all four of their previous matches.
“(It’s) just like a dream,” the thrilled 25-year-old told reporters. “I know I can beat everybody. So when I feel confident, I believe in me. Against Del Potro, I played a very good match. So it was good for my head.
World number one Victoria Azarenka was back at her ruthless best in a 6-1 6-1 demolition of 47th-ranked Russian Elena Vesnina after being taken the distance in her previous match by American Jamie Hampton.
She faces a stiffer challenge in the quarter-finals against another Russian in Svetlana Kuznetsova, who sent 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki spinning out of the tournament and out of the top 10 when the next round of rankings are released.
Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion and winner at Roland Garros in 2009, spent much of last year on crutches with a knee injury, and was thrilled to secure her third quarter-final at Melbourne Park.
“If you had asked me before coming to Australia I would have laughed, definitely,” Kuznetsova said of her surprising run.