AO 8 - There They Go Again
In back-to-back matches at Rod Laver Arena on Monday, Kerber and Azarenka made quick work their opponents. While Azarenka has garnered much attention for her form in Melbourne, Kerber has gone through a bit under the radar. She opened up at this Australian Open by winning probably the best least-watched match of the tournament, a three-set thriller against Misaki Doi in which the German was forced to save match point.
Kerber, on being down match point in first round (funny): "I was with one foot on the plane back to Germany." #AusOpen— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) January 25, 2016
Since surviving there, #7 seeded Kerber hasn't dropped more than four games in any set in the three matches she's played, including today's 6-4/6-0 win over 21-year old countrywoman Annika Beck, the world #55. In a match filled with service breaks, including in seven of the first nine games of the match, Kerber held for the 1st set when given the opportunity in game #10, then sailed through the 2nd, taking it at love. After playing in a rather subdued mood throughout the opening set, as she fully spread her wins in the 2nd Kerber's aggression and clenched fists were common down the stretch. Her win places her in the first AO quarterfinal of her career, as she now completes a Career QF Slam, becoming the latest active player to have reached the Final 8 at all four majors. A season after having her best "regular season" campaign, while also having her worst overall slam results in years, Kerber's run in Melbourne has already gone a long way toward changing the scoreline of her success.
Up next was Azarenka, who came in having tied an AO record by allowing just five games through the first three rounds of play. While th #14 seed faced stiffer competition from Czech vet Barbora Strycova today than she had in earlier rounds, and the Belarusian was slow to see her aggressive game click in (it took her several games to get her first winner), Vika still managed to run her '16 record to 9-0 and claim her seventeenth and eighteenth straight set. Keeping a step ahead of Strycova throughout the 2nd, Azarenka won 6-2/6-4 to advance to her fifth career AO quarterfinal, her fourth in her last five trips to Melbourne.
Still, kudos to Strycova for reaching her second career slam QF and, if for nothing else, for this pretty brilliant point.
(The question is: can she possibly beat out Aga Radwanska for Shot of the Month?)
=DAY 8 NOTES=
...Azarenka is 7-0 in her career vs. Kerber, 6-0 on tour and 1-0 in the Wimbledon juniors twelve years ago.
=AZARENKA vs. KERBER=
2004 Wimbledon Jr. 2nd Rd. - AZARENKA 1-6,7-5,6-3
2012 WTA Championships RR - AZARENKA 6-7(11),7-6(2),6-4
2012 Olympics QF - AZARENKA 6-4,7-5
2012 Indian Wells SF - AZARENKA 6-4,6-3
2015 U.S. Open 3rd Rd. - AZARENKA 7-5,2-6,6-4
2015 Doha 1st Rd. - AZARENKA 6-0,6-3
2016 Brisbane Final - AZARENKA 6-3,6-1
2016 Australian Open QF - ??
The other two women's Round of 16 matches on the Day 8 schedule included '15 AO semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova vs. Brit Johanna Konta; with another '15 semifinalist, Madison Keys, vs. qualifier-turned-main-draw-achiever Zhang Shuai in the final night match on Laver.
I'll update those results tomorrow, as well as has some slam quarterfinalist lists, on the Day 8.5 post alter.
...in the MCA match prior to the start of Makarova/Konta, the Dream Team took on the veteran duo of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Roberta Vinci. Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza took a 5-0 lead in the 1st set, and won it 6-1, but only after saving all six break points they faced in the set. They went on to to win 6-1/6-3 in 1:21, extending their winning streak to thirty-three matches. Two more wins and the Dreamers would win their third straight slam, and would have a chance to head to Paris with a shot at a Dream Slam (four straight major titles).
...in Week 3 ITF circuit action, 17-year old Bannerette Sonya Kenin claimed her first career pro singles title at the $25K challenger in Wesley Chapel, Florida. After making it through qualifying, the '15 U.S. Open girls finalist defeated top-seeded Shelby Rogers in the semis and then took out Czech Jesika Maleckova 6-2/6-2 in the final.
Elsewhere, 2014 U.S. Open junior champ Marie Bouzkova ran her career ITF singles final record to 5-0 with a win over Pastry Theo Gravouil in the Petit-Bourg, France $10K. And in the $25K challenger in Guaruja, Brazil Paraguay's Montserrat Gonzalez won her seventh career title with a three-set win over Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Cirstea is something of the story here. The 25-year old is a one-time world #21, Roland Garros quarterfinalist (2009), and 2013 Toronto runner-up (she famously broke down in the post-match ceremony and was comforted by champion Serena Williams).
Since then, though she's had a bit of Fed Cup success, Cirstea has been bedeviled by injuries and poor results. The player who finished 2012 at #27, then 2013 at #22, ended 2014 barely inside the Top 100 (at #93) and came into this week ranked #243 on the WTA computer. Her run to the final, which included wins over Jil Teichmann and #3-seeded Beatriz Haddad, comes exactly a year after she played her last slam main draw match in Melbourne last January.
...and, finally, speaking of Romanians and Fed Cup, we're just two weeks away from the opening FC weekend of 2016, one in which Romania will host the two-time defending champion Czech team in Cluj-Napoca.
Of course, this space has been on a campaign for a few years now looking for the Swarmettes to make a run at a Fed Cup title in 2016-17, and when the draws came out for the '16 1st Round the thought ws that it presented the deep Romanian team with a golden opportunity to possibly catch the Czech team "sleeping" and steal the tie. The Czech Republic, in recent years, has had some close calls in the 1st Round, and is often playing without one (or more) of the nation's very best players.
The same will likely be the case this time, as the ill Lucie Safarova probably can be assumed to be absent (or at least not a full playing member), while what Petra Kvitova's status will be is anyone's guess. Will Karolina Pliskova again be called upon to carry the load? How about her twin sister, she of the 31-ace match? The rosters should begin to leak out this coming week.
After the way Simona Halep played in front of a Romanian crowd vs. Spain last year, while she's the highest ranked player in Romania, almost felt like a detriment to the 2016-17 FC title run cause. Well, Halep's announcement that she'll miss six weeks due to nose surgery puts her out of the equation, likely allowing the same fiery team that took out Canada a year ago (w/ the likes of Alexandra Dulgheru leading the way) to once again get the call.
Considering the opponent, especially if Kvitova is on the roster, one would have thought that Romanians would try to choose a neutral surface such as clay. But the tie will be held on an indoor hard court. So I guess they'd better HOPE that Kvitova isn't on the roster.
Hey, there's always 2017, right?
...TIP IN FROM DAY 8: It was really no shock that Simona Halep admitted to a problem between her ears. Although, I'm not sure her nose is the exact spot between her ears that most were expecting. But, hey...
..."AND POOF... she was gone" FROM DAY 8:
...IN CASE ANYONE EVER WONDERED, YES, SHE'S STILL PLUGGING AWAY OUT THERE ON DAY 8:
...LIKE FROM DAY 8: Someone at Tennis Channel having some working knowledge of grammar. During this day's coverage, TC ran a graphic that highlighted Kerber's 2015 success. It was titled "Amongst the Best."
If it'd been on ESPN, it'd likely have said "Among the Best." For sure.
...PARTING SHOT TO JONAS ON DAY 8: The view from the foot of a "snow mountain"...
*WOMEN'S SINGLES QF*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#4 Aga Radwanska/POL vs. #10 Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
#7 Angelique Kerber/GER vs. #14 Victoria Azarenka
Konta/GBR or #21 Makarova/RUS vs. #15 Keys/USA or (Q) Sh.Zhang/CHN
*MEN'S SINGLES QF*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #7 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #6 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#23 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #13 Raonic/CAN or #4 Wawrinka/SUI
#8 David Ferrer/ESP or #10 John Isner/USA vs. #16 Bernard Tomic/AUS or #2 Andy Murray/GBR
*WOMEN'S DOUBLES QF*
#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. #12 Groenefeld/Vandeweghe (GER/USA)
#13 Goerges/Ka.Pliskova (GER/CZE) vs. King/Kudryavtseva (USA/RUS)
Rodionova/Rodionova (AUS/AUS) vs. #15 Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai (CHN/CHN)
#7 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) vs. #2 Chan/Chan (TPE/TPE)
*MEN'S DOUBLES QF*
#1 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU) vs. Mannarino/Pouille (FRA/FRA)
#13 Klaasen/Ram (RSA/USA) vs. #7 J.Murray/Soares (GBR/BRA)
Nestor/Stepanek (CAN/CZE) vs. #14 Huey/Mirnyi (PHI/BLR)
#9 Pospisil/Sock (CAN/USA) vs. #16 Cuevas/Granollers (URU/ESP)
*MIXED DOUBLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Mirza/Dodig (IND/CRO) vs. Shvedova/Qureshi (KAZ/PAK)
Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs. Stephens/Rojer (USA/NED)
#4 Srebotnik/J.Murray (SLO/GBR) vs. Groenefeld/Farah (GER/COL)
SW Hsieh/Peya (TPE/AUT) vs. #5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA)
Kudryavtseva/Lindstedt (RUS/SWE) vs. Klepac/Huey (SLO/PHI)
#3 YJ.Chan/Bopanna (TPE/IND) d. Hlavackova/Kubot (CZE/POL)
Vandeweghe/Tecau (USA/ROU) vs. Errani/Fognini (ITA/ITA)
Stosur/Peers (AUS/AUS) vs. #2 Mattek-Sands/B.Bryan (USA/USA)
Azarenka when she found out the Broncos won pic.twitter.com/3yzqLbWrEh— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) January 25, 2016
Yassssss Panthers SuperBowl bound ???? is this real life? #KeepPounding— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) January 25, 2016
???????? pic.twitter.com/Mel4nPkzVC— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) January 24, 2016
I was a spoiled brat out there... Emotionaly fried...... sorry about my horrible behavior ??— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) January 24, 2016
Not common to see a young player take ownership. Daria Gavrilova wears her heart on her sleeve in good times & bad. pic.twitter.com/uMghrd03H7— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 24, 2016
**WTA "CAREER QF SLAM" - active**
[with slam at which completed]
Victoria Azarenka, BLR - 2012 US (28th)
Dominika Cibulkova, SVK - 2014 AO (26th)
Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN- 1995 WI (23rd)
Simona Halep, ROU - 2015 US (22nd)
Ana Ivanovic, SRB - 2012 US (32nd)
ANGELIQUE KERBER, GER - 2016 AO (33rd)
Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS - 2006 RG (16th)
Petra Kvitova, CZE - 2015 US (30th)
Francesca Schiavone, ITA - 2011 AO (42nd)
Maria Sharapova - 2005 US (12th)
Serena Williams - 2001 RG (12th)
Venus Williams - 1998 WI (6th)
Vera Zvonareva - 2010 US (31st)
ALSO: Petrova - 2006 AO (24th)
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 (saved MP)
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: Zhang Shuai/CHN (in 4th Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Han Xinyun/CHN (2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Daria Gavrilova/AUS (4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: J.Konta/GBR, A.Radwanska/POL, C.Suarez-Navarro/ESP, Sh.Zhang/CHN
IT (??): Nominee: Gavrilova/AUS
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: V.Azarenka/BLR, Sh.Zhang/CHN, V.King/USA
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): Nominee: B.Strycova/CZE, Sh.Zhang/CHN, (doubles vet)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominees: D.Gavrilova/AUS, V.Azarenka/BLR, Sh.Zhang/CHN, A.Radwanska/POL
DOUBLES STAR: xx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 8. More later.