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New-look Nadal steps up Melbourne title bid

  • Story Highlights
  • World No. 1 Rafael Nadal moves closer to his first hard-court Grand Slam title
  • Beats Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-2 6-3 6-2 in Australian Open second round
  • Nadal plays German Tommy Haas who ousted Italian Flavio Cipolla 6-1 6-2 6-1
  • British fourth seed Andy Murray advances with commanding straight sets win
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(CNN) -- Rafael Nadal moved closer to his first hard-court Grand Slam title with another emphatic victory to claim a third round clash against Tommy Haas at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Nadal is showing the sort of form that could take him all the way to the Australian Open title.

Nadal is showing the sort of form that could take him all the way to the Australian Open title.

World number one Nadal cruised past Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-2 6-3 6-2 in 97 minutes and has dropped just 11 games in his opening two matches.

British fourth seed Andy Murray also underlined his title credentials with a commanding 6-4 6-2 6-2 nighttime win over Marcel Granollers of Spain.

Murray, whose best event performance was a fourth round appearance in 2007, is scheduled for a semifinal collision against Nadal.

Roger Federer and holder Novak Djokovic have publicly questioned Murray's status as bookmakers favorite entering the tournament -- and the Scot invoked the right of reply after his latest win.

"There's a few other players that disagree with that a little bit," Murray told the crowd. "I've been playing well the last six or seven months. This is probably the best I've felt going into a Grand Slam. I feel that with all the work I did in December and with great support here I can go far."

Nadal, who admitted Thursday's showing did not quite match up to his first round performance, has never made it beyond the last-four of the season's first Grand Slam event.

But the feeling 'down under' is that this could be the year for the Spaniard who has finally abandoned his traditional sleeveless on-court attire.

The French, Wimbledon and Olympic champion still 'muscled' his way past latest opponent Karanusic on Rod Laver Arena and is determined to prove he can triumph on the surface -- either in Melbourne or at the U.S. Open.

Regarding his sartorial cover-up, Nadal said: "I feel good like this. The important thing in the end is not the clothes; it is the ball and racquet and to play well."

German Haas trounced fellow non-seed Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-1 6-2 6-1 earlier on the fourth day -- and Nadal expects a tough match.

"He is a very complete player and if I am going to win I have to show more rhythm and intensity than him. It will be a big test," said Nadal, with the winner facing either Richard Gasquet or Fernando Gonzalez in the fourth round.

Chilean 13th seed Gonzalez saw off Argentine Guillermo Canas 7-5 6-3 6-4 while Frenchman Gasquet (24) also won in three sets, 6-3 6-3 6-2 against Denis Istomin.

Gonzalez, finalist in 2007, accounted for home hope Lleyton Hewitt in the previous round and said: "This was perfect after the other day which was really hard"

Fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, event runner-up a year ago, was made to fight for 195 minutes before seeing off Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2 to reach the third round.

Mario Ancic upset fellow Croatian and 25th seed Ivo Karlovic 5-7 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-3.

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