Australian Open 2018: Talking points (Day Six and Seven)

The first week of this year’s Australian Open concluded with one of the matches of the tournament. Here is a look back at the weekend action before we enter the business end of the competition.

The favourites for the men’s title power through 

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic made it into the fourth round after both won in straight sets on Saturday.

Defending champion Federer defeated Richard Gasquet 6-2 7-5 6-4 as the Swiss continued to dominate down under.

Gasquet failed to break the second seed until the third set by which time the match was as good as over.

Djokovic suffered an injury scare during his 6-2 6-3 6-3 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The Serb had treatment on his lower back and leg early in the second set and struggled throughout the match. He had saved numerous break points before getting over the line, but the scoreline was slightly flattering for the 30-year-old.

Halep still on for maiden Grand Slam

World number one Simona Halep saved three match points as she managed to just about overcome unseeded American Lauren Davis in an epic encounter.

The Romanian – a two-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park – needed almost four hours to defeat the world number 76.

With one set a piece, both players gave it their all in the decider, which lasted 142 minutes. Halep saved the match on three occasions before serving out for a 4-6 6-4 15-13 win.

The contest equalled the longest ever in a women’s singles match at the Australian Open, and could hinder Halep’s quest for a first Grand Slam title should she not be able to recover fully ahead of her fourth round match against Naomi Osaka.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev is out

The German is tipped to be a real star in the men’s game for years to come, but the 20-year-old struggled against the unseeded Hyeon Chung.

Zverev was two sets to one up against the world number 59, but fell to a dramatic 5-7 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-0 defeat.

Despite his world ranking of fourth, the German is yet to make it as far as the fourth round in any Grand Slam. Perhaps a little bit more experience of the longer format will help the young man fulfil his potential.

Grigor Dimitrov battles past home favourite Nick Kyrgios

The Bulgarian is the man most likely to upset the big names in the men’s draw and the third seed showed his mental nerve to power past Kyrgios 7-6 7-6 3-6 7-6.

With the Australian crowd fully behind their man, neither Dimitrov or Kyrgios could claw away from their opponent. Both the first and second set went to tiebreaks, which were won by the Bulgarian.

Kyrgios, who hit 36 aces throughout the match, rallied the crowd with some excellent tennis. The 17th seed deservedly got himself back into the match with a 6-3 win in the third.

You could sense the nerves of both players in the fourth set, but Dimitrov produced some excellent stuff to win a third tiebreak of the match to set up a fourth Grand Slam quarter final appearance.

Kyle Edmund making huge strides after fourth round win

The Briton will face Dimitrov in his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final on Tuesday after coming back from a set down to beat Italian Andreas Seppi.

Edmund won 6-7 7-5 6-2 6-3 and hit 25 aces on his way to a famous victory.

The world number 49 has really come on leaps and bounds since last year’s French Open, and is now just the second British man to make it to the last eight in Melbourne since 1985 (the other being Andy Murray).

His next opponent will be a massive step up on his past three, but it will be one that he will be looking forward to.

Edmund goes into the quarter-final match with nothing to lose and the chance to showcase his ability against the best the game has to offer.

A career high ranking will follow the tournament, one that the 23-year-old will remember for the rest of his life.

 

Australian Open 2018: Talking points (Day Five)

There was plenty to discuss after yesterday’s action in Melbourne. Money and the weather continued to make the headlines, as did some excellent performances. Here are five talking points from an exhilarating fifth day in Australia.

It’s hot, hot, hot! 

“The extreme hot policy should be re-evaluated!” That’s according to the likes of French player Alize Cornet and top seed in the men’s draw- Rafael Nadal.

Temperatures in Australia have risen to as high as 40 degrees over the last couple of days, and the humidity has taken its toll on some of the players.

Cornet collapsed to the ground during her third round defeat to Elise Mertens due to the heat and Petra Martic, who took two hours to get past Luksika Kumkhum, suffered from blisters because of the sizzling court.

Play was suspended in 2014 due to the rising temperatures on court that year, however the officials have taken a much firmer approach this time around.

Tournament director Craig Tiley insists the rules cannot be altered halfway through the tournament, but admitted that policy will be looked at again once the Australian Open has wrapped up.

Show me the money!

Roger Federer is the latest person to speculate about the ongoing situation over player’s earnings at Grand Slams.

The issue came into the spotlight just as this tournament was beginning after it was reported that Novak Djokovic suggested that the players form their own union separate from the ATP.

The Swiss, who is the former President of the ATP player council, believes that “change only comes when the players demand it and that the Grand Slams only react when people rally together.”

Federer did go on to say that change doesn’t happen in a day, and that both the players and the slams should collaborate together to reach the best possible agreement.

Edmund’s fairytale run continues 

Onto the action itself, and British hopes are still alive after Edmund came from behind to beat Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The 23-year-old won 7-6 3-6 4-6 6-0 7-5 to advance to the fourth round in Australia for the very first time.

The gruelling three hour and 34 minute swung one way and then the other before Edmund firmly took control in the fourth set.

The world number 49 finished with 70 winners but missed 20 of 27 break points. The conditions made it tough and Edmund admitted after the game that physically it was tough to play at his very best.

But it was another test passed for the Brit, who has been on an upward trajectory since making it to the last 16 in the US Open two years ago.

He will face Italian Andreas Seppi in round four.

Only two previous Grand Slam winners remain in women’s draw. 

Latvian Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock defeat in the third round as another current Grand Slam holder bowed out.

Following Garbine Murguruza’s exit yesterday, world number seven Ostapenko fell to Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-3 1-6 6-3.

The French Open champion was on the back foot from the off, as Kontaveit broke in the very first game.

The Latvian powered through the second set, before the world number 33 went on again to break in the final set and wrap up a win that puts her in the fourth round in Melbourne for the very first time.

Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber are now the only two women left in the draw that have previously ever won a Grand Slam. They both face other this weekend.

Nadal looks right at home down under. 

World number one Rafael Nadal cruised into the fourth round and is looking the most likely to challenge Federer for the men’s title.

The Spaniard beat Damir Dzumhur 6-1 6-3 6-1, and is yet to drop a set at this year’s Australian Open.

Nadal has only won down under once before, but he is playing with a ruthless nature and is looking increasingly difficult to beat.

Bosnia’s Dzumhur hardly made a dent in Nadal’s push for glory, with the world number one going on to face Diego Schwartzman – a man he has defeated three times previously – in round four.

 

Australian Open 2018: Top 5 matches (Day Three)

Kyle Edmund, Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki were all back in action on day three in Melbourne. Here are five matches that caught the eye from an action-packed day.

Kyle Edmund bt. Denis Istomin (6-2 6-2 6-4)

The 23-year-old Brit is through to the third round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career after a dominant performance over Uzbekistan’s Istomin.

The world number 60 failed to break Edmund throughout the match, with the contest only lasting 89 minutes.

The British number two is now the highest rank player in his section before the quarter finals, and should be confident that he can make a last eight appearance next week.

Istomin needed a medical timeout at the end of the first set, and never looked like the player that knocked Novak Djokovic out of this competition 12 months ago.

Edmund broke serve five times in the match, and is playing without fear and with a sense of freedom that makes him dangerous in all areas of the court.

The 23-year-old looks to be enjoying his tennis at the moment. This could well be a Grand Slam to remember for him if things continue on this upward trajectory.

Marta Kostyuk bt. Olivia Rogowska (6-3 7-5)

Kostyuk is naturing into a real talent in the women’s game after she became the youngest player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam since 1997.

The 15-year-old Ukrainian was given a wildcard into the tournament after she won the junior women’s tournament 12 months ago.

The world number 521 has now ended her junior career with her ranking expected to fly into the top 250 by the end of the competition.

Kostyuk was rarely troubled in her second round match by Australia’s Rogowska and has nothing to lose going forward. Perhaps this is a very early glimpse at a future Grand Slam champion? Only time will tell.

Grigor Dimitrov bt. Mackenzie McDonald (4-6 6-2 6-4 0-6 8-6)

American qualifier McDonald almost produced the shock of the tournament so far, but was ultimately beaten by third seed Dimitrov.

The five set thriller – which lasted three hours and 25 minutes – had all the twists and turns of a Grand Slam classic.

Dimitrov, who some predict could win his first Grand Slam title in Australia this year, began sluggishly and struggled with the American’s aggressive style.

Having lost the first set, the Bulgarian picked up his game to take the next two sets before McDonald spectacularly took the match to a deciding set.

Dimitrov hit three double faults but kept his composure to seal a dramatic win.

Caroline Wozniacki bt. Jana Fett (3-6 6-2 7-5)

Denmark’s Wozniacki was a set down and then saved two match points before overcoming world number 119 Fett.

Fett found herself 5-1 up in the final set, but the number two seed battled back to win six consecutive games to seal the win.

Nick Kyrgios bt. Viktor Troicki (7-5 6-4 7-6)

22-year-old Kyrgios continued his impressive start to 2018 with a straight sets victory.

The Aussie could be the first home champion since 1976 at Melbourne and after winning in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, the 17th seed powered through with some neat play.

Despite a helicopter hovering over the court, Kyrgios’ maturity shone through. Instead of kicking a fuss, the 22-year-old persevered and was hardly threatened by his opponent.

Is this finally the year that the Aussie breaks out from his controversial shell and makes some great strides in the right direction?

Other selected results 

Men’s 

Nadal (1) bt. Mayer (6-3 6-4 7-6)

Tsonga (15) bt. Shapovalov (3-6 6-3 1-6 7-6 7-5)

Cilic (6) bt. Sousa (6-1 7-5 6-2)

Women’s

Svitolina (4) bt. Siniakova (4-6 6-2 6-1)

Ostapenko (7) bt. Duan (6-3 3-6 6-4)

Cornet bt. Goerges (12) (6-4 6-3)

 

Australian Open 2018: Top 5 matches (Day One)

The opening day of this year’s Australian Open didn’t disappoint. We, as well as the thousands that flocked into Melbourne, were all provided with thrilling matches, dominant performances and a few shock exits. By the end of the day 12 American players had been beaten, including some high-profile names. Here are my top five matches from day one.

Kyle Edmund bt. Kevin Anderson (6-7 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4)

A match that as close and as entertaining as their previous encounter at Roland Garros last year, Edmund showed how strong he is mentally after claiming the best win of his career to date over 11th seed Kevin Anderson.

The big South African came into the match in good form. He had reached the final of the US Open back in August and had started the 2018 season in fine spirits by making it to the final in Pune.

Twice Anderson led the match in terms of sets and in the decider he broke early to take a 2-0 lead, but the Brit dug deep to claw himself back into contention and ultimately come away victorious.

Edmund, ranked 49th in the world, produced some excellent tennis in the epic that lasted a minute shy of four hours. He had been working hard on returning serves in the off-season and proved it against a giant of a man who usually dominates with his serving prowess.

This victory was another step in the right direction for the 23-year-old, who will ultimately have to step up to the mantle of British number one once Andy Murray abdicates the crown. If he carries on performing like he did against Anderson, he could go further in this tournament than many anticipate.

Rafa Nadal bt. Victor Estrella Burgos (6-1 6-1 6-1)

Number one seed Nadal needed just 94 minutes to complete a routine win on Rod Laver Arena.

The Spaniard is on the hunt for just his second Australian Open title and only dropped three games against Dominican Republic’s Burgos.

Nadal will have more competitive contests in future rounds but the match was a good workout for his knee, which he injured last November. The injury forced him to miss Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, but he insists he is feeling good and is ready to compete.

Belinda Bencic bt. Venus Williams (6-3 7-5)

Bencic is powering back up the rankings after beating Venus Williams. (Image Credit: AP via. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/tennis/australian-open-belinda-bencic-dumps-venus-williams-in-first-round/news-story/9feeefe1cd156e00b378e31c31f2a2ea)

Labelled as the next Swiss prodigy, 20-year-old Bencic produced the best performance of her young career to stun number five seed Venus Williams.

Bencic reached the top 10 aged just 18 before a wrist injury saw her fall back down the WTA rankings again. But after this showing it will only be a matter of time before she’s once again challenging at the top.

The Swiss pressed last year’s runner up Williams throughout the match, forcing errors and breaking serve numerous times to wrap up the straight sets win.

Victory was Bencic’s 16th in a row and despite being unseeded the world number 78 will be a difficult opponent for even the very top players.

Zhang Shuai bt. Sloane Stephens (2-6 7-6 6-2)

US Open champion Stephens is yet to win a single’s match since the final at Flushing Meadows after she crashed out at the first hurdle in Melbourne to world number 34 Zhang.

The number 13 seed was serving for the match in the second set before China’s Zhang fought back to win the tiebreak.

Stephens then capitulated in the deciding set and has now lost eight matches in a row since her maiden Grand Slam victory in New York.

 Timea Babos bt. Coco Vandeweghe (7-6 6-2)

 Tenth seed Vandeweghe received two court violations during her defeat to Hungarian opponent.

Last year’s semi-finalist refused to restart play due to a ‘lack of bananas on court’ before later swearing at Babos.

The world number 51 didn’t let Vandeweghe’s temperament affect her performance, as she breezed the American aside in the second set.

Other selected results

Men’s singles

Dimitrov (3) bt. Novak (6-3 6-2 6-1)

Cilic (6) bt. Pospisil (6-2 6-2 4-6 7-6)

Sugita bt. Sock (8) (6-1 7-6 5-7 6-3)

Carreno-Busta (10) bt. Kubler (7-5 4-6 7-5 6-1)

Tsonga (15) bt. King (6-4 6-4 6-1)

Ebden bt. Isner (16) (6-4 3-6 6-3 6-3)

Kyrgios (17) bt. Dutra Silva (6-1 6-2 6-4)

Nishioka bt. Kohlschreiber (27) (6-3 2-6 6-0 1-6 6-2)

Women’s singles

Wozniaki (2) bt. Buzarnescu (6-2 6-3)

Svitolina (4) bt. Jorovic (6-3 6-2)

Ostapenko (7) bt. Schiavone (6-1 6-4)

Georges (12) bt. Kenin (6-4 6-4)

Rybarikova (19) bt. Townsend (6-0 7-5)

Gavrilova (23) bt. Falconi (6-1 6-1)

Cibulkova (24) bt. Kanepi (6-2 6-2)

 

 

 

Queen’s 2017: Day One

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gregor Dimitrov and Kyle Edmund all starred on opening day. 

The grass court season is finally upon us, meaning the return of Queen’s– one of the most prestigious tour events which also serves as perfect preparation for Wimbledon. It’s been a tough day for all the players, with such blistering hot temperatures in West London. Here is how each match on Centre Court unfolded on the opening day.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt. Adrian Mannarino (6-2, 6-2)

Fifth seed and world number 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga opened proceedings with a straight sets win over fellow Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

The crucial game of the match came during the opening set, when a 12-minute grudge match finally ended with Tsonga claiming an all-important break to go 4-2 up.

Mannarino struggled after that, and needed a medical time-out at one point after feeling a pain in his back.

Tsonga stepped up a gear to make easy work of the second set. The 2008 Australian Open finalist served well, and used his ferocious forehand to his advantage as he aims to make it to a first Queen’s final since 2011.

Gregor Dimitrov bt. Ryan Harrison (6-3, 6-1)

Bulgarian Gregor Dimitrov was comfortable from start to end as he beat American Ryan Harrison in straight sets.

The world number 11 took just 54 minutes to win the match, and dropped just four games along the way.

Harrison was hampered by too many unforced errors, which lead to him throwing balls into the crowd and slamming his racket in frustration. He was ultimately cautioned by the match umpire.

Dimitrov was different class however. The number six seed held his serve well, and played some magnificent shots from the baseline. The 2014 Queen’s champion showed flashes of just what he can do on a grass court and will go into the second round full of confidence.

Donald Young bt. Nick Kyrgios (7-6, Ret)

Nick Kyrgios’ retired from his first round match with American Donald Young with injury.

The Australian and number nine seed had yet to win a match at Queen’s prior to the tournament, and had his right leg heavily strapped up at the beginning of the match.

With the match closely fought, a slip during the ninth game of the first set ultimately cost Kyrgios, as he seemed to pull his left groin after his awkward tumble.

The world number 20 was sluggish around the court following the slip due to the injury he suffered, and struggled to compete in the tiebreak, which Young won 7-3.

The American used his powerful forehand to push Kyrgios around the court, and could be one to watch in this tournament. He very much held his own against the ninth seed, but the question following this match will be whether the Australian will return in time for Wimbledon, which starts in just two weeks time.

Denis Shapovalov bt. Kyle Edmund (7-6, 4-6, 6-4)

Two of tennis’ promising prodigies came face to face in the final match of the day, with 18-year old Denis Shapovalov shocking Queen’s by beating Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

Edmund, who has grown into a fine young player, was looking to make a mark on home soil. He made it through to the quarter-finals in this tournament last year, and wanted to try and at least make it to the same stage this time around.

However, the world number 44 struggled against the impressive Shapovalov. The Canadian, who won the junior Wimbledon last year, served well and played aggressively. He was rewarded with a first set win, beating Edmund 7-4 in the tiebreak.

Edmund recovered well, and got that all important break early on before wrapping up the second set 6-4.

The final set had a similar tone to the first, with both players struggling to break away from their opponent. The Canadian eventually found that elusive break in the final game, and will celebrate the biggest win of his very short career to date.

Shapovalov for certain has a bright future ahead of him, and will be a name to watch out for in the coming years. For Edmund, it’s about regrouping and rebuilding ahead of Wimbledon.