Thursday, January 19, 2012 Updated: January 20, 1:05 PM ET
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal advance
ESPN.com news services
MELBOURNE, Australia -- In the same half of a Grand Slam singles draw for the first time since 2005, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are taking similar paths to a potential semifinal matchup at the Australian Open.
Neither the four-time Australian champion Federer nor 2009 titleholder Nadal have dropped a set, although Federer's path has been made easier by a walkover win in the second round.
The longtime rivals played back-to-back matches at Rod Laver Arena on Friday. Nadal, his right knee still taped from a recent injury, showed no problems while moving briskly around the court in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over qualifier Lukas Lacko.
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Federer followed in the marquee matinee program by beating Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-3, saving a set point in the tiebreaker with a scrambling lob over the 6-foot-10 Croatian. Federer will play Australian teenager Bernard Tomic on Sunday in the fourth round.
"He gave me a second serve and gave me a slight chance," Federer said. "Might have had a little bit of a lucky volley. ..."
"It was unlucky ... one in a 100 that I'm going to lose that point," Karlovic said. "I didn't really expect him to do that. I was there, I just miscalculated how much I was jumping. If I would have won that, everything would be different, but that's life."
Nadal had few dramas in his match against Lacko, which is just the way he wanted it. He felt a sharp pain in his knee while sitting in his chair in his hotel on the weekend, an innocent enough movement he initially feared would cause him to withdraw from the tournament.
Three matches later, Nadal says "the knee is fine ... being in the fourth round without losing a set, it's fantastic news."
Nadal will next meet fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who beat No. 16 John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-7 (0), 6-1 to put the last U.S. man out of the draw.
It is the first time since the start of the Open Era in 1968 that no American men have reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, although no Americans entered the tournament in 1972 and 1973. The last American to win the Australian Open was Andre Agassi in 2003, his third win in four years at Melbourne Park.
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"It's very ugly, to be honest, to have no one in the round of 16 ... very disappointing, not a good effort from the Americans," Isner said. "We've got to try to rectify that next time the big tournaments roll around."
No. 7 Tomas Berdych beat No. 30 Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-1 and will next play No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, who beat 21st-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4.
Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 11th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 and Tomic defeated 13th-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 4-6, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3. Del Potro plays Kohlschreiber in the fourth round.
Defending champion and top-seeded Novak Djokovic and fourth-seeded Andy Murray, who has lost in the final at Melbourne Park the last two years, play their third-round matches Saturday, with a Djokovic-Murray replay only possible in the semis.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.