Seven time champion Serena Williams aiming for a 24th Grand Slam title ousted the World No.1 Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a high quality fourth round match at the Australian Open on Monday night.
Novak Djokovic also beat off the challenge of 15th seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3. Kei Nishikori made a spectacular comeback from two sets down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in a lengthy five hour battle but fourth seed Alexander Zverev was ousted by Milos Raonic.
Williams was broken in the very first game but she stormed back in typical fashion to out power Halep with a barrage of ground strokes to win the next six games taking the first set 6-1. Halep tried hard but found herself down an early break in the second set. But this is where the World No.1 raised her level and started moving Williams around the court to elicit more errors and got the break back immediately. Her serve also improved helping her hold serve with more authority. At 5-4, Halep made her move pulling off some wonderful returns to put Williams under pressure. She broke to level the match at one set apiece.
In the third set, Halep had a great chance to get the break as she had three break points on the Williams serve but the American came up with the good shots to hold on in a lengthy game. That proved crucial as she broke in the very next game.
Halep fought hard applying some pressure on the Williams serve but the sixteenth seed held on to secure a hard fought win to enter the quarterfinals. She will face seventh seed Karolina Pliskova who beat Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 in a battle of former No.1’s. It took just an hour as she came up with an amazing display of power and precision.
After the match, Serena said that she was still learning. “I’m such a fighter, I just never give up. I just work so hard for every point. And I just feel like it’s a miracle that I’m here, I get to do something that I enjoy. So I’m still learning, which is, at my age and my point in my career, I think admirable and exciting that I still have things I can learn from.”
Djokovic started off strong breaking Medvedev early on and took the first set 6-4. The top seed maintained his lead and looked set for an easy day at the office as he broke Medvedev in the second set and had chance for a double break to lead 5-1. But the Russian battled hard and fought back to 4-4. The second set went to a tie break where Medvedev was able to come up with some powerful shots to take the tiebreak 7-5 to level the match.
The match featured some long rallies that had the spectators engaged. In the third set, Djokovic had a tumble on court and found himself down 0-40 on serve at 1-2. But the Serb raised his intensity hitting with more aggression and held on for 2-2.
Thereafter he was the one dominating the rallies as Medvedev looked a little spent and started making more errors. Djokovic was quick to capitalise taking the third set 6-2. The Russian tried hard in the fourth set hitting some wonderful backhands but Djokovic was too consistent and came away with the four set win. He will face Kei Nishikori who battled over five hours in beating Pablo Carreno Busta in a dramatic match.
Carreno Busta led by two sets and a break as the Japanese player looked to be affected by an injury in the third set. But Nishikori showed grit to win the next two sets. The match would be decided by a final set tiebreak where the Spaniard rushed out to an 8-5 lead.
This was when there was a hotly disputed call where the linesman called a rally ball out with Nishikori hitting the ball for a winner. As per the rules, the umpire could decide to replay the point but gave the point to Nishikori which left Carreno Busta fuming and he embarked on a lengthy argument with the umpire to no avail.
This affected the Spaniard’s concentration and Nishikori took full advantage winning the last five points to win a thriller. A disappointed Carreno Busta left the court in a huff refusing to shake the umpire’s hand and throwing his racquet bag in frustration. The Spaniard later apologized for his behavior.
Milos Raonic ousted the fourth seed Alexander Zverev in straight sets 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(5). Zverev broke in the opening game but then inexplicably played really poorly to lose the first two sets 6-1, 6-1. He fought hard in the third set but the Canadian played better in the big points to complete the win. He will face Lucas Pouille who beat 11th seed Borna Coric.
Fourth seed Naomi Osaka set up a showdown against sixth seed Elina Svitolina after both registered hard fought wins. Osaka beat 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 while Svitolina survived the powerful barrage of ground strokes from Madison Keys to come through 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.