Federer enters quarters, breaks Connors' record

Federer enters quarters, breaks Connors' record
Melbourne: Men's champion Roger Federer stuttered to a record-equalling 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open Sunday, as Francesca Schiavone won the longest women's match at a major.

While Federer needed four sets against Tommy Robredo, Novak Djokovic stayed in dazzling form and women's top seed Caroline Wozniacki also progressed, as Germany's Andrea Petkovic stunned 2008 winner Maria Sharapova.

However, all attention was on Hisense Arena, Melbourne Park's second-biggest court, where Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova treated the crowd to an epic, 4hr 44min slugfest which outstripped the previous record by 25min.

French Open champion Schiavone saved six match points and needed three of her own before volleying the clincher and raising her arms aloft, and turning her thoughts to a quarter-final with Wozniacki.

The final set alone lasted three hours as the 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 marathon eclipsed the longest Grand Slam women's match of 4hr 19min between Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Regina Kulikova in Melbourne last year.

"At one stage I was like, what's the score? Who's serving? I was like, what's going on here anyway?" Kuznetsova said.

"I had no clue sometimes. It was so hard to count. I was like, who is up? She? Me?"

Earlier, Federer dropped only his third set against Tommy Robredo in 11 matches before winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to equal US great Jimmy Connors' record of 27 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals.

Federer, who last failed to reach a Grand Slam last eight at the 2004 French Open, is gunning for his fifth Australian Open and his 17th major crown, and the chance to stop Rafael Nadal sweeping all of tennis's big four titles.

But the 29-year-old Swiss, who was taken to five gripping sets by Gilles Simon in the second round, again suffered a mid-match lapse before recovering his famous poise.

"Tommy makes you work extremely hard, he has a great forehand and I'm sweating bullets, and happy the match is over," Federer said.

Wozniacki reached the quarter-finals for the first time when she cruised past unseeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-4, maintaining her hopes of a maiden Grand Slam win.

China's Li Na beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 Sunday to reach her second successive quarter-final at Melbourne Park and ratchet up hopes of claiming her country's first-ever major singles title.

"This is a dream for me. I mean, until now I'm still just following the dream," Li said. "Like last year, I need two more steps. So hopefully this year I can do better."

Li will next face Germany's Andrea Petkovic, who shocked 2008 winner Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-3 and afterwards celebrated with her distinctive "Petkodance" jig.

Meanwhile Djokovic, the men's winner in 2008, destroyed Spain's Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in 1hr 44min to reach his fourth straight Australian Open quarter-final.

"That was a higher standard than my previous matches and it's a big positive for me heading into the quarter-finals," Djokovic said.

Djokovic will play Tomas Berdych for a place in the semi-finals after the Czech was an easy winner 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 against Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

Stanislas Wawrinka shot down American Andy Roddick in straight sets to set up a clash with Federer, the Open era's first all-Swiss Grand Slam quarter-final.