hot murray awaits NADAL

MELBOURNE - Defending champion Rafael Nadal set up a blockbuster Australian Open quarterfinal with Andy Murray yesterday, while Justine Henin's fairytale comeback stayed on track.

MELBOURNE - Defending champion Rafael Nadal set up a blockbuster Australian Open quarterfinal with Andy Murray yesterday, while Justine Henin's fairytale comeback stayed on track.

But the tournament ended for US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Zheng Jie, meanwhile, rewrote the history books by becoming the first Chinese player to reach the last eight in Melbourne.

Spain's second seeded Nadal was put to the test by big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic, who slammed down 28 aces, before he muted the challenge 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

It ensured an enticing last eight showdown with in-form fifth seed Murray after the Scot tamed another big server, American John Isner, 7-6, (7-4), 6-3, 6-2.

"Murray is one of the more dangerous players on the tour, he can play aggressively and defensively," said Nadal, who has not won a tournament in eight months after being hampered by injury.

"I will have to play as well as I can and use my forehand."

Murray will be competing in his first Australian Open quarterfinal and is the first Briton since John Lloyd in 1985 to get this far. He showcased his exciting strokeplay against Isner and has yet to drop a set in his four victories at the year's opening Grand Slam.

"I'm playing well, no question about that," said Murray, who lost to Nadal in five sets in the fourth round of the 2007 Australian Open. "I just need to play like I have been and maybe a bit more if I want to win the tournament."

The pair have played each other nine times with Nadal winning seven.

Henin's successful return to tennis after an 18-month retirement continued at full steam when the seven-time Grand Slam champion beat fellow Belgian and world No 16 Yanina Wickmayer 7-6, (7-3), 1-6, 6-3.

"It's a great feeling to be back, everything is going so well," said Henin, who is playing her first Grand Slam since the Australian Open in 2008.

Her victory earned her a crack at Russian Nadia Petrova for a place in the semifinals. Petrova, the 19th seed, made the last eight by beating third seed Kuznetsova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. - Sapa-AFP

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