Sharapova out, Nadal, Federer in for last eight
By Talek Harris ,AFP
January 21, 2014, 12:09 am TWN
MELBOURNE -- Maria Sharapova crashed out of the Australian Open in another seismic shock Monday as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka headed off challenges to keep their title bids intact.
A day after Serena Williams' exit, Dominika Cibulkova kept the upsets rolling as she ousted injury-compromised Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, blowing the women's draw even further open.
The main expected beneficiary, two-time defending champion Azarenka, is in position to take full advantage after she flattened old foe Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
The Belarusian world number two will face either Agnieszka Radwanska or Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals, with Cibulkova heading into a clash with Romania's Simona Halep.
Men's top seed Nadal weathered a sustained assault from Japan's Kei Nishikori 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) to face Grigor Dimitrov in the Bulgarian's first Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 13-time Grand Slam-winner chided the umpire after he was called for a time violation, for taking longer than the allowed 20 seconds between points, at a critical moment in the third set.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray needed five match points and four sets, and angrily demolished a racquet before beating "lucky loser" Stephane Robert.
Murray cruised through the first two sets but he missed match points, and then dropped his first set of the tournament, before finishing it off 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2.