Melbourne , 24 January 2011 | AAP
Alexandr Dolgopolov has been a fixture on the world tennis tour since the tender age of three.
But it was not today, when the 22-year-old Ukrainian dumped No.4 seed Robin Soderling out in the fourth round of Australian Open 2011, that he truly arrived.
Dolgopolov’s reward for the 1-6 6-3 6-1 4-6 6-2 triumph over the two-time French Open runner-up from Sweden was a quarter-final date with No.5 seed Andy Murray, who pummelled Austrian No.11 seed Jurgen Melzer 6-3 6-1 6-1.
Dolgopolov is the son of former touring pro and coach Oleksandar Dolgopolov, whose best known charge was former world No.4 Andrei Medvedev.
As a result, the younger Dolgopolov spent many of his junior years on the road.
“I met pretty much all of the players,” said Dolgopolov.
“When there’s a kid on tour, all the players try to play with him.
“I had a nice time.”
He was also coached by his father until their professional relationship soured a couple of years ago, prompting the youngster to hook up with little-known South Australian coach Jack Reader.
The partnership has paid dividends with Dolgopolov arriving in Australia in early December to prepare for his first tilt at the Open.
“He’s done a lot for my mental and physical preparation,” said Dolgopolov.
“I was playing really well, but he just gave me the right way to play, got my game together.”
His unorthodox style certainly proved too much for Soderling, who has reached the last two French Open finals and had been riding an eight-match unbeaten streak in 2011, during which time he had not dropped a single set.
“Soderling was playing well and I was just trying to stay in there,” said Dolgopolov.
“I was doing good on the return, so that helped me win the match.
” … I can’t say he played bad or something else.
“I was just trying to play my game.”
Soderling – who sought medical treatment for blisters on his foot in the third set – could not explain why he historically struggled at the Australian Open, having failed to get past the second round in five previous attempts before Monday’s fourth-round exit.
But Murray is almost certain to provide a much tougher challenge for Dolgopolov in the quarter, having dropped just 22 games in his first four matches.
“I feel good, but the matches are definitely going to get tougher,” said Murray.
“I’m not expecting to go through the tournament-winning matches like that, with that score line.
“I’m ready for that mentally when it does get tough.”
Legendary Scottish comedian Billy Connolly was a special guest in Murray’s box during the match, a favour to be returned at Connolly’s sellout show at the Arts Centre on Monday night.
Also through to the last eight was Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer, who came from a set down to beat rising Canadian star Milos Raonic 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4.
Raonic began where he left off in his third-round victory over 10th seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny, but could not sustain the effort for more than one set.
Ferrer advanced to a likely quarter-final against countryman and world No.1 Rafael Nadal.