SECOND seed Rafael Nadal warned his rivals that he is already firing on all cylinders after claiming a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals and staying on course for a last-four showdown with Roger Federer.
Nadal beat compatriot Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to continue a strong beginning to the year’s first grand slam that belies his lack of preparation and a reputation as a slow starter.
“I think I started the tournament playing really well this time,” he said.
“Sometimes in tournaments I feel that I am improving day by day but this time I felt that I played well on the first day, the second and two days ago – and today I played another complete match.”
Victory set up a last-eight meeting with seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who refused to shake hands with Nicolas Almagro after beating him, having felt the Spaniard had aimed shots directly at him.
If Nadal sees off the Czech tomorrow he will be likely to meet Federer, whom he criticised earlier this month for failing to voice players’ concerns over a gruelling schedule, in the semi-finals.
“Now I am in the quarter-finals and this is the moment to keep playing well and to try to do a little bit more,” Nadal added.
“In general I am doing the right things but, if it’s possible, [I’d like] to try to improve a little bit.”
Third seed Federer, seeking his fourth Australian Open title, advanced with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 success over promising home prospect Bernard Tomic, who upset 13th seed Alexandr Dolgolpolov in round three.
“I thought I played a really good match. I knew I had to, anything else and I wouldn’t have got the job done,” said Federer. “The score would suggest otherwise but I had to work extremely hard and Bernard showed why he is going to be a great player.”
The Swiss 16-time grand slam champion will meet Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in a repeat of the 2009 US Open final, after the 11th seed saw off Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
HIGHLIGHTS | MONDAY’S ACTION
A Murray (GBR)  v M Kukushkin (Kaz)
N Djokovic (Ser)  v L Hewitt (Aus)
K Nishikori (Jap)  v JW Tsonga (Fra) 
R Gasquet (Fra)  v D Ferrer (Spa) 
A Ivanovic (Ser)  v P Kvitova (Cze) 
E Makarova (Rus) v S Williams (US) 
S Lisicki (Ger)  v M Sharapova (Rus) 
S Errani (Ita) v J Zheng (Chi)
Today: Men’s/Women’s last 16
Tue: 2 men’s, 2 women’s quarter-finals
Wed: 2 men’s, 2 women’s quarter-finals
Thu: 2 women’s semi-finals, 1 men’s
Fri: 1 men’s semi-final
Sat: Women’s final
Sun: Men’s final