Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Australian Open: Naomi Osaka, Zverev, Halep, Serena & Djokovic reach quarter-finals, Thiem slumps out

AO Open

MELBOURNE, February 14: Naomi Osaka saved two match points as she battled back from the brink to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory over Garbine Muguruza on Sunday.

The Japanese third seed was chasing the match from the start on Rod Laver Arena, forced to rally from a set and a break down to level up an engrossing contest.
Muguruza, a finalist here last year, had conceded only 10 games in reaching the fourth round and continued that rich vein of form to break for 5-3 in the decider, earning two match points in the following game.
Osaka saved them both and the tide turned as Muguruza crumbled under pressure, leaving the 2019 champion to coast to victory and a quarter-final date with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.
Alexander Zverev
German sixth seed Alexander Zverev used his powerful serve to good effect to overcome 23rd seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 on Sunday and reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Zverev needed five sets to beat Lajovic in each of their two previous meetings at the French Open, but the 23-year-old was in a more ruthless mood on Margaret Court Arena and sealed victory with his 15th ace.
The German got 72% of his first serves in and racked up 44 winners to dominate the 30-year-old Lajovic throughout the match to register his 50th win in majors.
Lajovic started strongly by breaking the German early to take a 2-0 lead in the opening set but Zverev broke back in the next game and did not look back.
“Today was a pretty good match, much colder than the other days,” Zverev said in his on-court interview.
“I’m very happy with a win and it could have gone either way early on. It wasn’t easy.”
Next up for Zverev will be either world number one Novak Djokovic, an eight-time winner at Melbourne Park, or Canadian 14th seed Milos Raonic.
“I’m in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, so I’ve gotta to be doing something well,” Zverev said.
“I’m looking forward to what’s ahead, the toughest matches I think are still ahead of me, with Novak and Raonic looking for a spot in the quarter-finals against me.
“I’m definitely looking forward to what’s ahead.”
Simona Halep
Second seed Simona Halep survived an early wobble to beat Iga Swiatek 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday as the Romanian avenged her shock defeat by the Polish teenager at the same stage of last year’s French Open.
After an error-prone opening set, Halep reeled off five consecutive games across the second and third sets before sealing her 100th Grand Slam match win to set up an eagerly anticipated quarter-final clash with Serena Williams.
Swiatek, who knocked out Halep en route to her maiden Grand Slam title in Paris, used her booming groundstrokes to save two break points in the seventh game before immediately breaking the Romanian to love on her way to claiming the opening set.
World number two Halep roared back with an early break in the second set as her crafty baseline play frustrated her teenage opponent, who made a string of errors.
Halep, who committed 10 of her 17 unforced errors in the opening set, said she initially struggled to cope with Swiatek’s powerful forehands.
“I knew I had to change something, because I was hitting too strong and too flat,” Halep, the 2018 finalist, said. “I moved her a little bit better and that’s why she started to miss and probably lost her rhythm.
“The court is very fast and not easy, because it is sliding so much, but I am just trying to focus on myself as much as possible.”
Ahead of her quarter-final against Williams, Halep can draw confidence from their previous meeting when she secured only her second win over the American to claim the 2019 Wimbledon title.
Williams kept her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title going with a hard-fought 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over Aryna Sabalenka.
“Legend. She is the best,” Halep said of her longtime rival.
“It is always tough, I have experience, so many matches against her. I will just try to enjoy and play my best, because you only beat Serena if you play your best.”
Serena Williams
Serena Williams stormed into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday with a gritty 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
The match was a big test for Williams, who was up against one of the few players on the women’s tour capable of matching her power from behind the baseline.
“I’m happy to get through that one,” Williams said in an on-court interview. “It wasn’t easy and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She was teeing off on every shot.
“Even the games that I lost were super close, one shot here and one shot there, and I just felt like, ‘Serena you’ve got this, you’ve just got to keep going.'”
The players went toe-to-toe in an even first set until Williams pounced late to break Sabalenka for the first time and take a 1-0 lead.
The roles were reversed at the start of the second, however, with Sabalenka breaking Williams in her first two service games.
The American, who is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, clawed a break back but was powerless in the face of Sabalenka’s onslaught as the seventh seed broke once more for a 4-1 lead before sending the match into a decider.
“I lost the second set but the games were so close so I just tried to stay in there,” Williams added.
With the pressure ramped up in the third it was Sabalenka who blinked first, making several errors on serve to hand Williams a 3-1 lead.
The Belarusian broke back and then levelled the set at 4-4 with a hold to love but the pressure finally told with Sabalenka serving to stay in the match trailing 5-4.
Sabalenka double-faulted to give Williams a 15-30 lead and netted a forehand to hand her two match points, conceding the match by sending a forehand long.
Novak Djokovic
Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic came through a tough examination of his fitness as the top seed beat Canadian powerhouse Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals.
Djokovic, who injured a side muscle during a five-set win over Taylor Fritz on Friday and suggested he might not be able to continue, showed hints of discomfort on the way to becoming only the second player to reach 300 Grand Slam match wins.
Fourteenth seed Raonic had never previously taken a set off Djokovic in three previous Grand Slam meetings so when he snatched the second set a surprise looked possible.
But Djokovic, bidding for a record-extending ninth title in Melbourne, responded by raising his level and improving his record over Raonic to 12-0.
The Serb will face Germany’s Alexander Zverev for a place in the semi-finals.
Djokovic failed to convert break points at 3-3 and 4-4 in the opening set and there was one moment of alarm when he was forced wide on the forehand side and struggled to put on the brakes, hurdling a courtside advertising board.
He won the tiebreak in clinical fashion, though, and when Raonic needed treatment on his right ankle early in the second set Djokovic appeared to be well in command.
Instead, Raonic began to play some of his best tennis and secured the first service break of the match at 2-2 with a powerful forehand winner.
That proved enough for Raonic to bag the second set but his victory hopes were soon receding as Djokovic began to swing freely and accelerated through the third set.
The elastic-limbed Djokovic was stretched in the fourth set as Raonic regained his focus but he broke serve at 4-4 when his opponent netted a backhand and clinched victory a game later to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the 12th time.
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei makes history by sweeping into Australian Open quarters
Taiwan veteran Hsieh Su-wei swept into her first Grand Slam quarter-final after 16 years of trying Sunday, becoming the oldest player to make a last-eight debut in the Open Era.
The 35-year-old overwhelmed Czech Marketa Vondrousova, a player 14 years her junior, in the Australian Open fourth round on a Margaret Court Arena devoid of fans to witness her feat.
Hsieh got a early break in the opening set and never looked troubled in 6-4, 6-2 win over the 19th seed, a player she also toppled in an Abu Dhabi warm-up event in January.
It set up a last-eight clash against either third seed Naomi Osaka or two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza.
“It was a little bit strange with the crowd, but a great win,” she said.
Hsieh, by far the least decorated player left in her side of the draw, had already shown her mettle by beating 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu en route to meeting Vondrousova.
She made her Grand Slam debut in 2005 but had never gone beyond the fourth round before in 37 previous attempts.
Dominic Thiem slumps out of Australian Open
Third seed Dominic Thiem slumped out of the Australian Open in the fourth round on Sunday, comprehensively beaten 6-4 6-4 6-0 by Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Rod Laver Arena. The US Open champion, who came back from two sets down to beat Nick Kyrgios in the third round on Friday, looked out of sorts from the beginning of the contest.
The first two sets followed the same pattern with Thiem taking an early 3-1 lead only for 18th seed Dimitrov to charge back at him and clinch the set. The Austrian, losing finalist here last year, was unable to rouse himself in the third set and Dimitrov sealed a last-eight meeting with Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev after little more than two hours on court. (Agencies)