Brisbane: Defending champion and top seed Milos Raonic cruised into the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International with a regulation 6-3, 6-2 win over Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Thursday.
Raonic, who beat Roger Federer to win the 2016 Brisbane title, will now take on Rafael Nadal for a place in the semi-finals after the Spaniard crushed Germany's Mischa Zverev 6-1, 6-1.
Raonic broke Schwartzman once in the first set and three times in the second to wrap up the match in 69 minutes, but said he wasn't happy with his start.
"At the beginning I really struggled that first service game, and had another close service game before I started to get in on his games," Raonic said.
"Then I could feel I started imposing myself on him. He started making some mistakes and I was able to create some things as well.
"I have to be glad with how I finished."
Nadal wasted no time in his 55 minute demolition of Zverev to the delight of the packed crowd in Pat Rafter Arena.
The 14-time Grand Slam singles winner gave Zverev no chance, blasting 30 winners across the two sets and making only seven unforced errors.
Nadal was troubled by illness and injury in 2016 and said he was thrilled to be back on court fully fit.
"After injuries and hard times it's so special to be back on court," he said.
"Tomorrow (against Raonic) it's going to be a very hard match.
"He likes this court and he's had some good results here. I hope to play at my best and If I do I'll have a good chance."
Fourth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem saw off huge serving Australian Sam Groth 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
The Australian was granted a wildcard into the tournament and won his first round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
But once his serve dropped off slightly in the second set Thiem was able to secure a comfortable win.
"I'm pretty satisfied with the victory because he served very well, especially in the first set," Thiem said.
"He had over 70 percent first serves in and if he has this it's very tough to break him.
"But I played a good tiebreak and in the second set I started to return better and luckily I got one break."
Thiem will play Bulgaria's seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals following Dimitrov's 6-2, 6-4 win over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.
Dimitrov broke Mahut twice in the first set and once in the second to make the final eight in Brisbane for the second year in a row.
Kerber, Cibulkova beaten in Brisbane boilovers
The Brisbane International lost its top two women's seeds Thursday when Angelique Kerber and Dominika Cibulkova were both bundled out in the quarter-finals of the season-opening tournament.
World number one Kerber made 48 unforced errors, including five double faults, as she went down to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while Frenchwoman Alize Cornet eliminated Cibulkova 6-3, 7-5.
Kerber started slowly against Svitolina, who broke the German early and held the advantage to take the opening set.
Kerber struck back in the second and appeared to take command of the match when she broke Svitolina at the start of the third.
However, the sixth seeded Ukranian broke back to level the set, then broke again to move to 5-3, holding comfortably to claim her fourth win against Kerber in nine meetings.
Kerber said she wasn't worried about how the early loss would affect the defence of her Australian Open crown.
"I think Grand Slams are always completely different," she said.
"It doesn't matter how you play before. Of course, it's always good to have matches, especially at the beginning of the year.
"I have had two good matches here. I will try to have a few more matches before Melbourne (at the Sydney International next week)."
Svitolina will now take on third seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, who came back from losing the first set to Italian Roberta Vinci to win her quarter-final 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
In the first match on Pat Rafter Arena, Cornet was in irresistable form as she blunted everything Cibulkova threw at her to win a tight struggle in 123 minutes.
A more settled and mature Cornet said there was no reason why she couldn't get back into the world top 20 for the first time since 2014.
"I've always had a lack of consistency during my career and maybe the fact that I'm 26, I'm a little bit older now, I have more experience and I feel like maybe I'm touching something during this week of Brisbane," she said.
"I handle my emotions much better and I think that's how I got some really great victories here.
"I don't want to say that it's done, but definitely when I see myself playing like this, I believe that I can go higher in the rankings."
She now faces reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, who edged Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-4.
Fourth seed Muguruza started slowly against Kuznetsova before closing out the match in one hour, 50 minutes.
The Spaniard has now been on court for almost seven and a half hours in her opening three rounds but although she admitted to being tired, she said it was good preparation for the Australian Open.
"I'm not worried -- I know with Cornet it is going to be a battle, she's a fighter, so I expect another touch match," Muguruza said.
Published Date: Jan 05, 2017 22:56 PM | Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 22:59 PM