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Rafa Slam on track; Clijsters quashes baby rumor

Rafael Nadal

Jan. 20: Spain's Rafael Nadal makes a backhand return to Ryan Sweeting of the U.S. during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia.AP

Rafael Nadal pounded another up-and-comer into submission. Andy Murray made quick work of his second-round opponent as well.

And Kim Clijsters just wants everyone to know she's not pregnant again. She brought up the subject herself — right there on the stadium court before an interviewer — and swatted down the misguided chatter with great delight as if putting away an opponent with overhead.

Clijsters has already quit tennis once to get married and have a child, only to return after 2½ years and win the 2009 U.S. Open. She comes into the Australian Open after capturing the U.S. Open again last year and is fast emerging as the favorite in a draw missing injured defending champion Serena Williams.

She's dropped only four games in two rounds, a 6-1, 6-3 win over Carla Suarez Navarro following her first-round 6-0, 6-0 romp over formerly top-ranked Dinara Safina.

Nadal also has lost only four games in two rounds, extending his winning streak at Grand Slam tournaments to 23 matches with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 victory over American qualifier Ryan Sweeting. The Spaniard is within five wins of his Rafa Slam, aiming to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once.

Nadal said his nine Grand Slam crowns have given him "a lot of calm."

"I have probably less pressure right now, last year's season, winning a lot," he said. "I have to work hard every day. That's what I do: keep practicing with ... motivation for sure, waiting my chances, trying to find my chances."

Clijsters made the most of her chance with on-court interviewer Todd Woodbridge. The doubles great had sent a text message to fellow Australian Rennae Stubbs saying in not-so-subtle terms that Clijsters was acting and looking as if she's pregnant.

Problem was, Stubbs showed Clijsters. Lucky all three are friends.

"You thought I was pregnant?" she chided Woodbridge, laughing and patting him on the shoulder. "No, I'm not."

She's already said a second pregnancy will end her tennis career for good. Right now, she's concentrating on the Australian Open, where her best result remains a run to the final in 2004. She thought it best to nip any baby rumors in the bud.

"I saw him walk out there, it's like, 'OK, I'm going to get him back now,'" she recounted.

Clijsters is ranked No. 3 and relaxed about her growing status as favorite. No. 2 Vera Zvonareva has reached the last two Grand Slam finals, but yet to win a major. She showed some jitters early before recovering to beat Bojana Jovanovski 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

No. 10 Shahar Peer and No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska advanced along with No. 13 Nadia Petrova, who beat Clijsters 6-0, 6-1 in a big upset last year and could meet the Belgian again in the fourth round. Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic extended a sorry run, losing to China's Peng Shuai for her seventh loss in eight matches.

French Open finalist Samantha Stosur hopes to end a long drought for Australians at the national championship. There's hasn't been a homegrown champion in the men's or women's draw in more than 30 years.

Now there are only two left in the draw. Stosur advanced by winning her night match 6-3, 6-2 over Vera Dushevina at Rod Laver Arena.

Bernard Tomic, an 18-year-old wild card, is the last Australian on the men's side after his 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over No. 31-seeded Feliciano Lopez. No one, however, is getting carried away: He plays Nadal in the next round.

David Nalbandian ousted the last Australian to win a major when he beat Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. He was so exhausted from that match that he withdrew during his second-round encounter with Richard Berankis on Thursday.

Fourth-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-1 win over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. Murray, the losing finalist last year, beat Ukraine's Illya Marchenko 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 at Margaret Court Arena. No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 15 Marin Cilic and No. 32 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez all won.

There are three Americans into the third round, with No. 20 John Isner winning Thursday. No. 8 Andy Roddick is playing Friday, with Venus Williams in action in the women's draw against Andrea Petkovic.

Another tough third-round match features two multiple major winners — Justine Henin, last year's Australian finalist, against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Defending champion Roger Federer faces Belgian Xavier Malisse, while Serbian Davis Cup-winning teammates Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki meet in the third round.

Nadal will get a day off to prepare for a match Tomic is promising he won't forget.

"I'm hitting the ball great, my confidence is up there, especially after two matches. I played a left-hander before I played him, that's always good," Tomic said. "I don't think he'll like my game. The way I mix it up, he's not going to like."

Sweeting might have news for Tomic.

"He's very intense on the court," Sweeting said. "He's going to be focused every point. He's going to be bouncing up and down every point. He's going to try to beat you 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. He's not going to give you anything for free. I grew up watching him win slams ... playing unbelievable tennis, hitting unbelievable shots. So to be on the other side of the net from him and having him hit those shots against me, it's intimidating."