AO 5 - Into the Long Night...
"I'm really excited and I want to hug the whole stadium." Gavrilova d. Mladenovic in a great battle, 6-4 4-6 11-9 pic.twitter.com/rhBXW8pYjP— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) January 22, 2016
That one deserves more than a token mention here, so I'll be back later -- before the start of "Snowmaggedon 2016" (and Day 6) -- with a recap.
But before that match, there was all this...
=DAY 5 NOTES=
...once again, half a world away from New York, a slam managed to play matches under roofs on THREE courts while it was raining outside for most of the day.
Although, with every passing day, we get closer to having actual evidence that wonders DO indeed exist. Even the USTA can't screw this one up, right? Right? Hmmm.
All right, on with the rest of Day 5.
...even with play restricted to Laver, Court and Hisense for most of the day, all the women's 3rd Round matches in the top half of the draw made it onto the Friday schedule in Melbourne.
First up on Laver, #12 Belinda Bencic occupied more than a few spots on the Frustration Scale while playing against Kateryna Bondarenko, as the Ukrainian vet took the 1st set before the Swiss teenager righted herself (for the most part). Still, while serving for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, Bencic threw in two double-faults, sprayed two other shots and had to face down break point. But she got the hold to win 4-6/6-2/6-4 and somehow managed to keep the match just under 2:00. It wasn't exactly the sterling performance Bencic would have preferred while reaching her third career slam Round of 16, but it was enough on this day.
Either way, she still got off one of the lines of the day.
The secret to Switzerland's success? Bencic: "For me, it’s chocolate (laughs). I’m kidding. I'm just glad I'm mentioned with great players"— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2016
Bencic will next face #5 Maria Sharapova in the 4th Round. The Russian put together a well-played, dominant performance today against Lauren Davis. Well, that is, if you forgive the messy, un-Sharapovian 2nd set that sprung up from the depths of Laver Arena in between the 1st and 3rd sets and, for a bit, swallowed up the gummy candy maven.
Playing for her 600th career win, Sharapova took the 1st set at 6-1, and then the 3rd at love. But in the 2nd an uncharacteristic spate of errors (33... in the SET!) plagued her game throughout. Still, she very nearly won it to finish up in straight sets. Davis served up 4-2 in the 2nd, and later led 4-2 and 5-4 in the tie-break, yet all along one fully expected Sharapova to do what she always does under such circumstances: get back even and then pull away. She did the former to force the TB, but the latter would take an additional set. Davis reached set point when Sharapova missed on a seemingly easy short ball eleven points into the breaker, slicing a ball that landed just outside the line to give Davis a set point at 6-5. A forehand error then forced Sharapova to go the distance in what would ultimately be a 6-1/6-7(5)/6-0 victory.
600 and counting. Sharapova notches 600th career match win, overcoming USA's Davis 61 67(5) 60. Up next: Bencic. pic.twitter.com/lLutgPShEp— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) January 22, 2016
...in the only women's match scheduled in the daytime on MCA, #4 Aga Radwanska won her eleventh straight match dating back to last season to advance to her sixth straight AO Round of 16. For most of the 1st set, though, Monica Puig gave her quite a lot to handle as the Puerto Rican's serve was cooking and her forehand was firing. At 3-3, she went up 30/love on the Radwanska serve, then got the break to take a 4-3 lead.
And then Radwanska took over the match and never looked back.
The Pole didn't lose another game, running off nine straight as her quick feet, soft hands and nimble brain put Puig into a mental corner from which she never escaped. Once A-Rad immediately broke back for 4-4, the confidence began to be siphoned out of Puig's body and pumped right into the Radwanska bloodstream. Puig had a break chance in game #9, but failed to convert. At that point, though we didn't know it at the time, it was all over. Aga won 6-4/6-0.
Afterwards, when asked about playing with the pain of the ankle injury that she had re-taped between sets, Radwanska acknowledged the issue, but shrugged it off as a necessary evil of competing on the tennis tour. "Pain is my second name," she said.
Radwanska: "Pain is my second name. I am used to it. I can still play my best tennis. You just have to deal with it" #AusOpen— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2016
Radwanska will next face
...in a later 3rd Round match, one of the young Hordettes who has made a name for herself at this AO, Margarita Gasparyan, took out one of the young former Hordettes who has made a name for herself at this AO, Yulia Putintseva by a 6-3/6-4 score to reach her first career slam Round of 16. She'd arrived in Melbourne without a main draw win (0-2) at a major.
And in the opening night match on Laver, Serena Williams was just too much for 18-year old Daria Kasatkina. Williams fears no one, so she surely didn't fear Kasatkina, either. Of course, it likely didn't help the young Russian's cause that she'd defeated Venus a few weeks ago, so she was more than on Serena's radar. Plus, Williams has seemingly made a point to get off to quick starts in her matches in Melbourne, quite the opposite of how she went about winning three slams last season.
It happened again tonight, as she jumped on Kasatkina, who didn't actually play poorly, right from the beginning. In fact, Williams played very close to a perfect match. The stats speak to the utter cleanliness of her performance.
Serena: dang good. 27 winners 8 unforced 96% of first serve pts won 18 pts lost Plays another Russian, Margarita Gasparyan, next. #AusOpen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 22, 2016
Afterward, Serena was encouraging to the young Russian when they met at the net. "Love your game, love your forehand," she said.
Serena wins 6-1, 6-1 in 44 mins. Love watching her chat w young Kasatkina. Very sweet. pic.twitter.com/1DVAdEWMJU— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) January 22, 2016
The final 3rd Rounder from the top half on the schedule -- Carla Suarez-Navarro vs. Elizaveta Kulichkova, another Russian -- was set to go on as the last night match on MCA even later tonight.
...the mixed doubles was expected to get underway today, but the weather had other ideas. Either way, Martina Hingis & Leander Paes will be looking to no only defend their 2015 AO MX title, but they'll be looking to win a third straight slam, as well.
So, the possibility exists that if Hingis win the MX with Paes and the WD with Sania Mirza, she'd have swept both doubles titles at three straight slams and would head to Paris with a chance at TWO "Dream" Slams.
...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Zhang Shuai not being content with being just a one day story
Zhang: Exhausted but this is a dream come true. Says without 0-14 major record, maybe wouldn’t work as hard. “I want to thank the 14 times."— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 21, 2016
...SOMETHING YOU CAN COUNT ON FROM DAY 5 (or during any interview conducted by Rennae Stubbs): There will always be at least one cringe-worthy moment that makes you wonder why they continue to give a microphone to Rennae Stubbs...
Of course, sometimes Stubbs doesn't have to do anything for something to come tumbling out of a player's mouth about a half-second before they cover their mouth in embarrassment. (See Daria "I'm good from behind" Gavrilova from tonight... though that one was about as endearing as you'll likely to get.)
...BEHIND THE SCENES "MOMENT OF THE DAY" ON DAY 5: Roger Federer reacts to a 27-shot rally during the Sharapova/Davis match
Roger Federer's reaction to the outstanding 27-stroke rally in the Maria Sharapova-Lauren Davis match is awesome: https://t.co/4zp2q3xZV6— Deadspin (@Deadspin) January 22, 2016
????????Federer and Dimitrov watch Sharapova vs Davis https://t.co/z7vTjeuNQZ— Scarlett Li (@Scarlett_Li) January 22, 2016
...AO STAT OF THE FIRST WEEK: Seventeen years apart
...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Kateryna workin' the Bondarenko Bun
...LIKE FROM DAY 5: That it wasn't Vegemite
...WHAT'S NEXT ON DAY 5?: A "You Must Be THIS Tall to Enter Court" sign joke?
...MEANWHILE, ON DAY 5: The work to get back continues...
...DISLIKE FROM DAY 5: No, Cantore. Just go away.
...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Squirrel Appreciation Day!
...and, finally, I'm thinking this might have to be the preferred mode of transportation around here this weekend:
Hey, everyone should have an AT-AT, right?
*WOMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Margarita Gasparyan/RUS
#12 Belinda Bencic/SUI vs. #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#4 Aga Radwanska/POL vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER
x vs. Daria Gavrilova/AUS
*WOMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #14 Gilles Simon/FRA
#9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #7 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #15 David Goffin/BEL
#14 Roberto Bautista Agut/ESP vs. x
**AO MIXED DOUBLES CHAMPIONS - since 2002**
2002 Daniela Hantuchova & Kevin Ullyett
2003 Martina Navratilova & Leander Paes
2004 Elena Bovina & Nenad Zimonjic
2005 Samantha Stosur & Scott Draper
2006 Martina Hingis & Mahesh Bhupathi
2007 Elena Likhovtseva & Daniel Nestor
2008 Sun Tiantian & Nenad Zimonjic
2009 Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi
2010 Cara Black & Mahesh Bhupathi
2011 Katarina Srebotnik & Daniel Nestor
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Horia Tecau
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova & Matthew Ebden
2014 Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor
2015 Martina Hingis & Leander Paes
**CAREER MIXED SLAM TITLES - active**
5 - Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
4 - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
4 - Martina Hingis, SUI
3 - Sania Mirza, IND
3 - Samantha Stosur, AUS
2 - Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2 - Serena Williams, USA
2 - Venus Williams, USA
ALSO: Cara Black (5), Liezel Huber (2)
TOP QUALIFIER: Naomi Osaka/JPN
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #14 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2 - Virginie Razzano/FRA d. #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA 6-1/4-6/6-1 (ends streak of 61 con. slam MD)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): #7 Angelique Kerber/GER d. Misaki Doi/JPN 6-7(4)/7-6(6)/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): Nominee: 3rd Rd. - Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 3rd Rd. - Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
FIRST VICTORY: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (def. Q/Kumkhum, THA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #17 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Gasparyan/RUS)
UPSET QUEENS: Russia
REVELATION LADIES: China
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-8 in 1st Rd.; only AUS-born in 2nd Rd. is a Brit)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: N.Osaka/JPN, Zhang Shuai/CHN
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Han Xinyun/CHN (2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Daria Gavrilova/AUS (in 4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: xx
IT (??): xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: xx
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 1st Round to Q/Zhang Shuai, CHN - first Top 2 AO seed out in 1st since Ruzici/ROU in '79)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Monica Puig/PUR (2nd Rd. - saved 5 MP vs. Kr.Pliskova/CZE, who set WTA record w/ 31 aces in match)
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): xx
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: D.Gavrilova/AUS, V.Azarenka/BLR, Zhang Shuai/CHN, A.Radwanska/POL
DOUBLES STAR: xx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 5. More later.