Federer sets record, Henin and Venus crash out

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MELBOURNE – Defending champion Roger Federer got back on track with a record 57th win at the Australian Open Friday as Justine Henin crashed and Venus Williams was forced out with a painful muscle injury.Men’s third seed Novak Djokovic, women’s number one Caroline Wozniacki and Russian Maria Sharapova also reached the last 16 as temperatures soared at Melbourne Park. But Williams departed in dramatic circumstances as she screamed in pain and limped to her chair after just one game of her third-round clash with Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, and retired shortly afterwards.
Earlier Federer worked out the frustrations of his five-set rollercoaster against Gilles Simon by handing out a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 beating to ponytailed Belgian Xavier Malisse, whom he has known since his junior days. In the process he broke Stefan Edberg’s record for the most Australian Open victories in the Open Era and took an important step towards a fifth title — and the chance to deny Rafael Nadal a sweep of the Grand Slam crowns. “It’s very nice to take the record but Edberg still stays my idol,” Federer told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
As temperatures rose past 32 deg C (90 F) on the tournament’s hottest day, 2004 winner Henin was floored by Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who held her nerve in a gripping tiebreak to win 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).
The seven-time Grand Slam champion, 28, has been struggling with an elbow injury after ending a brief retirement last year, and has not performed so badly at a major since Wimbledon 2006. Djokovic’s quest to break Nadal and Federer’s Grand Slam stranglehold received a helping hand when fellow Serb Viktor Troicki retired hurt after going a set down. After Juan Martin del Potro’s demise late Thursday, third seed Djokovic is the only player left in Melbourne, other than Nadal and Federer, to have won a Grand Slam since 2006.
Meanwhile, Wozniacki took sweet revenge on Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, whose shock victory at last week’s Sydney International raised new questions about the Dane’s credibility as world number one.
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone eased past Monica Niculescu 6-0, 7-6 (7/2) and Latvian Anastasija Sevastova beat Vesna Manasieva 6-1, 6-3 to set up a last-16 meeting with Wozniacki.
Sharapova fought back from a set down before subduing Germany’s Julia Goerges 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, while China’s Li Na downed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 6-1 to revive memories of her run to last year’s semi-finals.
Meanwhile Andy Roddick came from behind to see off Dutchman Robin Haase 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-2, and Swiss number two Stanislas Wawrinka beat French 12th seed Gael Monfils 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3.
Spain’s Fernando Verdasco ended Japanese hopes with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over rising star Kei Nishikori.