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Ferrer sees ATP top four well clear
By Guy Hand
20:27 AEST Sun Jan 20 2013

As the best of the rest in men's tennis, even David Ferrer concedes there is a gulf between the big four and everyone else - himself included.

Ranked fifth in the world and fourth seed at the Australian Open with Rafael Nadal out injured, Spain's Ferrer booked his quarter-final spot with a 6-2 6-1 6-4 battering of 16th seed Kei Nishikori on Sunday.

As for making a first grand slam final and perhaps even winning it, Ferrer was as surprisingly downbeat as he was uptempo during his two hour, 10 minute dispatch of his Japanese rival on Rod Laver Arena.

When asked if he was - as his seeding suggests - now among or close to the top four in men's tennis, Ferrer said: "No, the top four is better."

"It is very difficult to win a grand slam because the top four, they are (for) the last three or four years better than the other players.

"I am not thinking about the chance to win a grand slam. I am only focused on any match I have to play."

With the spotlight squarely on Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer as likely Open winners, Ferrer has barely been mentioned despite some stellar form at Melbourne Park in dropping just one set in his first four matches.

And the 30-year-old continued that form against Nishikori with excellent defensive play and chasing down everything his rival threw at him.

A tough first service game was as hard as it got for the Spaniard early as he broke Asia's highest ranked player to go up 3-1 in the first set and closed it out with relative ease.

But what followed in the second set was at times breathtaking as Ferrer steamed to a 5-0 lead - his defence the feature - as Nishikori had no chance to find any rhythm.

Nishikori, hampered by a knee problem late in the match, battled hard in the third set.

The pair traded breaks of serve throughout - the decisive one coming in the ninth game on Nishikori as Ferrer grabbed a 5-4 advantage before comfortably serving out the match.

Ferrer next plays countryman Nicolas Almagro after he earned a rocket ride to the last eight when fourth round rival Janko Tipsarevic retired hurt.

Tenth seed Almagro was leading 6-2 5-1, with Tipsarevic struggling with what appeared a foot injury from late in the first set.

The Serbian called a medical time-out when down 5-2 in the first, and returned to the court with his ankle and foot heavily strapped and padding on his heel.

But the eighth seed was unable to finish the second set, calling it quits just past the one-hour mark of the match.

Tipsarevic had been involved in a tough five-setter the previous round against France's Julien Benneteau.

Fifth seed Tomas Berdych advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (15-13) win over unseeded South African Kevin Anderson.

The Czech made light work of the first two sets, before taking a marathon third set tie-break on his fifth match point for victory in two hours and 44 minutes.