Monday, January 25, 2016

AO 8.5 - The Tradition Continues

As the final hours of Night 8 ticked away, the Australian Open's recent tradition of producing shot-in-the-dark semifinalists was upheld for yet another year. Times two, in fact. As one of the 2016 Final Four in Melbourne will be either an unseeded Aussie-born Brit who just become the first female U.K. representative in a slam QF in thirty-two years, or a Chinese qualifier who recently contemplated retirement and came into last week 0-14 in main draw matches for her career.

The first surprise quarterfinalist of the night turned out to be Johanna Konta, the #47-ranked 24-year old whose hard court summer run in North American totally changed her career last year (and led to a Round of 16 result at the U.S. Open, after having previously been 1-7 in slam MD). Well, the changes just keep coming.

Facing off with '15 AO semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, the Sydney-born Konta outlasted the Hordette in a 3rd set that, unlike some of the recent women's matches at this major, opened wiht eight straight holds of serve. Konta finally broke Makarova in game #9 and served for the match at 5-4. But the moment proved to be too much for her, and it was soon back to the grind at 5-5. Three games later, she got the break advantage back at 7-6, and went about her "do-over" moment. This time, Konta held true, easily holding to put away a 4-6/6-4/8-6 victory that makes her the first British woman to reach a slam Final 8 since Jo Durie at Wimbledon in 1984.

Konta has already assured herself of rising to #32 once this AO is over. She could climb even higher, depending on what happens in her QF match-up with another player who knocked off a '15 AO semifinalist. World #133 Zhang Shuai's dream run (somehow, though, that phrase seems to undersell what she's experiencing at this slam, doesn't it?) continued with a come-from-behind 3-6/6-3/6-3 win over Madison Keys, who broke from her '16 AO pattern and actually got off to a GOOD start this time, only to be later treated for a leg injury that hindered her movement the rest of the way.

Either way, the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific has yet another second week Chinese star. Following in the footsteps of Li Na and Zheng Jie, Zhang's result at this slam in the sixth QF-or-better performance by a Chinese woman in Melbourne since 2010.

2010 Li Na (SF), Zheng Jie (SF)
2011 Li Na (RU)
2013 Li Na (RU)
2015 Li Na (W)
2016 Zhang Shuai (to QF)

The win assures Zhang, whose play through the first eight days of this AO has lifted her ranking seventy spots, of being the new top-ranked Chinese woman. After arriving in Melbourne on Day 1 with an career 0-14 mark in slam main draw outings (and thirteen failed qualifying attempts dating back to 2007, as well), Zhang has now won seven in a row in Melbourne, first winning three matches to qualify, and then running off four straight over the likes of #2 Simona Halep (a former RG finalist), Alize Cornet (a Week 2 champion), Varvara Lepchenko (who has 26 MD slam wins) and now #15 Keys.

Naturally, Konta and Zhang will face off in QF contest to determine a semifinalist, as the Unexpected AO Semifinalist Club -- Sloane Stephens in '13, Genie Bouchard in '14 and Keys -- will get a new non-North American member.

[by career slam QF]
43...Serena Williams, USA
24...Maria Sharapova, RUS
16...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
12...Aga Radwanska, POL
5...Angelique Kerber, GER
5...Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
1...Johanna Konta, GBR
1...Zhang Shuai, CHN
[by career AO QF]
10 - Serena Williams
8 - Maria Sharapova
6 - Aga Radwanska
5 - Victoria Azarenka
2 - Carla Suarez-Navarro
1 - Angelique Kerber
1 - Johanna Konta
1 - Zhang Shuai
[w/ consecutive slam QF]
6...Serena Williams
3...Victoria Azarenka
NOTE: Sharapova 2 straight (non-consecutive) slam QF ['15 US Open DNP]
[w/ consecutive AO QF]
2...Victoria Azarenka
2...Serena Williams
[WTA career slam QF - active]
35...Venus Williams, USA
15...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
9...Petra Kvitova, CZE
8...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
8...Jelena Jankovc, SRB
ALSO: Petrova (9)
[WTA slam QF in 2010's - active]
9...Petra Kvitova, CZE
7...Sara Errani, ITA
6...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
6...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

*UNSEEDED/WC/Q in AO QF SINCE 32-SEED DRAW (2002-present)*
2002 Adriana Serra-Zanetti/ITA
2003 Meghann Shaughnessy/USA, Virginia Ruano-Pascual/ESP
2006 Martina Hingis/SUI (wc)
2007 Serena Williams/USA [won title], Lucie Safarova/CZE
2009 Jelena Dokic/AUS (wc), Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
2010 Justine Henin/BEL (wc) [reached final], Zheng Jie/CHN, Maria Kirilenko/RUS
2012 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS, Sara Errani/ITA
2013 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
2015 Madison Keys/USA
2016 Johanna Konta/GBR, Zhang Shuai/CHN (q)

#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
Johanna Konta/GBR vs. (Q) Zhang Shuai/CHN

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #7 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #6 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#23 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #13 Milos Raonic/CAN
#8 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #2 Andy Murray/GBR

#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)

#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)

#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) d. Groenefeld/Farah (GER/COL)
#5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA) d. SW.Hsieh/Peya (TPE/AUT)
Klepac/Huey (SLO/PHI) d. Kudryavtseva/Lindstedt (RUS/SWE)
#3 YJ.Chan/Bopanna (TPE/IND) d. Hlavackova/Kubot (CZE/POL)
Vandeweghe/Tecau (USA/ROU) vs. Errani/Fognini (ITA/ITA)
#2 Mattek-Sands/B.Bryan (USA/USA) d. Stosur/Peers (AUS/AUS)

All for Day 8.5 -- more tonight.


Blogger Will Corby said...

Also Zheng and Kirilenko, both unseeded, played a QF at the '10 AO. I'm guessing you got so carried away typing in Justine Henin you forgot to check if there was any others. :-)

I was sure Makarova was going to make at least the QF this year with this draw.

Mon Jan 25, 05:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I had Makarova in the final.

Mon Jan 25, 05:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks! I've have those lists for so long now I just cut-and-paste them w/o re-checking the older slams. Don't know why those got cut off that one at some point. (Though the Henin idea is as good as any!) :D

And I had her in the semis.

Welcome all to the Land of the Curse Makers. ;)

Mon Jan 25, 06:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

i thought makaora was a lock in that quarter. turning out to be a very-opportunity land for those who step up. it was difficult to watch keys playing hurt. very sportsmanship for her to finish the match.

next match, i like konta's game, it would be fairytale for either to move to semis. so this time it's not a teenager story.

watching maria-serena, sometimes it seems boring as we all know how it would go. i actually think aga has a better chance this year as she is quite solid and if (a big if) she can get serena to run more.

kerber claimed she has a new tactic against vika. i wonder what that is. i thought strycoa did well in 2nd set when she intentionally moved forward with every point.

Mon Jan 25, 10:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

interesting, eh?

'Following second-round exit in Melbourne, Kvitova fires coach' -

Mon Jan 25, 10:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

It was time for Kvitova to make a change--just for the sake of making a change, if no other reason. DK coached her through 2 Wimbledon titles and 15 other titles. Quite commendable--but she is capable of so much more.

Jo, I thought Strycova's forward movement against Vika was a great tactic, too. Vika isn't used to that.

Kerber's serve is often unreliable. Unless she has one of her good serving days, I don't think she has much chance against Vika. But if her serve is working, then she relaxes more and gets really aggressive. I just hope the match is shown when I can see it.

Tue Jan 26, 12:25:00 AM EST  

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