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Dolgopolov Stuns Soderling To Reach First Major QF

Melbourne, Australia

Alexandr Dolgopolov© Getty ImagesAlexandr Dolgopolov will contest his first major quarter-final.

World No. 46 Alexandr Dolgopolov advanced to his first Grand Slam quarter-final after shocking fourth seed Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 on Monday at the Australian Open.

The 22-year-old Ukrainian, who has stated his career ambition is to be ranked World No. 1, struck 50 winners and benefitted from 51 unforced errors from two-time Roland Garros runner-up Soderling to seal victory in two hours and 36 minutes.

"The first set I was struggling, and a break down in the second," said Dolgopolov. "I came back somehow and started to play better and better with every set. I'm really happy I'm through to the quarter-final. But the day after tomorrow is going to be like a completely different match. I need to forget about this match and go into the next round. I mean, it's a good run, and you can make it even better."

Soderling lamented, "I think I struggled throughout the whole match. I won the first set, but I didn't win it because I played well. He wasn't on it at the start. Then he started to play much better, which I didn't. He has a good chance to do really well, I think."

Dolgopolov next will face 2010 runner-up and World No. 5 Andy Murray, who crushed No. 11 Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

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Dolgopolov was brought up surrounded by professional tennis. His father, Oleksandr, is a former professional who also used to coach Andrei Medvedev, and during that time a very young Alexandr was taken round on the tour mixing with the likes of Thomas Muster and Marc Rosset. “I met pretty much all the players,” he recalled. “When there's a kid on tour, all the players try to play with him.  I had a nice time.”

Indeed, Dolgopolov benefitted from his father’s tuition until the age of 19, when they decided it was a “pretty tough relationship” and Dolgopolov instead began to work with Australian Jack Reader, who, he explained, “gave me the right way to play, got my game together.”

Asked to describe himself on the tennis court, Dolgopolov replied, “Probably I play relaxed. I enjoy the tennis. I don't get tight too much. I play really freely. Sometimes it pays off. I have fun. I try to fight every point, do the right things.”

Dolgopolov only contested his first Grand Slam main draw last year at Roland Garros, where he defeated Arnaud Clement and Fernando Gonzalez to reach the third round, and is now just the second Ukrainian man to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne, following Medvedev in 1995.

The Kiev native enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2010, climbing more than 80 spots in the South African Airways ATP Rankings to finish in the Top 50 for the first time. He notched a career-high 21 tour-level wins, including a run to the Eastbourne semi-finals (l. to Llodra) and a victory over then-World No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny en route to the third round in Toronto.

Dolgopolov arrived in Australia on 5 December, eager to give himself as much time as possible to acclimatise to the intense heat, and spent time practising with the Australians contesting the Australian Open wild card play-off tournament. It has certainly paid dividends for the Ukrainian, who preceded his victory over Soderling with a five-set upset win over 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In reaching the quarter-finals in Melbourne, Dolgopolov is now projected to rise to around a career-high No. 34 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings.

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