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Rafael Nadal from Spain returns the ball during the match against Mikhail Youzhny from Russia at the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Thursday, May 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Nadal, Williams, Sharapova reach Madrid quarters
Tennis » Nadal cruises, aims for 7th consecutive final since return from injury.
First Published May 09 2013 10:05 am • Last Updated May 17 2013 05:00 pm

Madrid • Rafael Nadal cruised into the Madrid Open quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory Thursday over Mikhail Youzhny that featured an array of creative shots.

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Top-ranked Serena Williams and No. 2 Maria Sharapova also reached the quarterfinals in straight sets.

Second-ranked Roger Federer lost to Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in the third round.

After recovering from Nishikori’s strong start, it looked as if Federer found his stride after roaring back in the second set. But Nishikori reasserted his ground game in the decider after breaking the defending champion for a 3-1 advantage and held on for the surprising victory to reach the quarterfinals.

Federer’s early exit leaves Rafael Nadal as the favorite after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost on Tuesday. Nadal beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3 earlier.

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Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova also reached the quarters in straight sets.

Having already established control by winning Youzhny’s second service game, Nadal kept a point going with a deft no-look backhand flick before nailing a winner down the line to hold his serve and delight his fans at the Caja Magica.

The fifth-ranked Spaniard broke Youzhny again by dinking the ball over the net while on the run, giving it so much backspin it twisted away from the Russian.

Fittingly, Nadal polished off the third-round match by chasing down a ball and returning it cross-court.

Nadal, who is aiming for his seventh straight final since returning from injury, improved to 28-2 this year.

He will play either David Ferrer or Tommy Haas in the quarterfinal.

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