Defending champion Serena Williams remains on course for her seventh Australian Open title after brushing aside Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4,6-0, in Melbourne.
The world No.1 produced a masterclass in the first set after racing in 6-0 in just 22 minutes. Breaking the serve of the world No.4 three times during the first set, Williams impressively produced 18 winners compared to her opponents one. Destroying the fragile Radwanska serve, Williams remained supreme in her service games, winning 80% of her service points.
To the relief of Radwanska as well as the crowd in Melbourne, the second set was much more competitive as the Pole held her serve for the first time in the match. Initially, Williams was on course for another crushing performance in the second set when she broke Radwanska for the fourth time to lead 2-1, however, a decline in Williams form aided a Radwanska comeback. The world No.4 broke back to level 3-3 after a below par-game from the world No.1. A loose shot to the net handed Radwanska two break-back points. The Pole capitalized on her second after another error from Williams. Despite the mini hope given to Radwanska, Williams responded once more by breaking to lead 5-4. Serving for the match, Williams produced three consecutive aces to give herself a trio of match points. The world No.1 only required one after hitting a winning forehand smash.
In one of her most dominant performances in the tournament, Williams produced 42 winners, eight aces and 17 unforced errors. Speaking about her mainly one-sided triumph over Radwanska, Williams said that she wanted to prove a point.
“I was really trying to get off to a fast start,” Williams said.
“Every single time, you know, I would just start out down. I just really wanted to focus on when I first walk out there to be ready to go from the first point, then that way I don’t necessarily have to play from behind, which I can do clearly, and I proved that last year, but I wanted to prove that I can play also ahead this year.”
After recent trouble on the tour, a final appearance is a relief for the 34-year-old. Since her shock loss to Roberta Vinci at the US Open, Williams has been troubled by a knee injury that forced her to withdraw from the Hopman Cup at the start of the year. Due to her recent troubles, the world No.1 admitted that she didn’t think about reaching the final.
“I thought it was going to be a really rough part. I mean, I never thought I was going to go out and lose in the first round, but at the same time I never thought before, I’m going to make it to the final, or anything. I was just playing literally a point at a time”. She said.
Awaiting her in the final will be Germany’s Angelique Kerber. Kerber reached her maiden Grand Slam final after beating Johanna Konta in straight sets. Williams has beaten the German five times on the tour and has lost to Kerber only once (Cincinnati 2012). Despite the dominant head-to-head record, the world No.1 is still aware of how much of a danger the German could be.
“She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria (Azarenka). You can’t underestimate Kerber. She’s beaten me before, too, and pretty good. I know that she brings a lot to the game.” Williams said.
Williams is now only one win against from equalling Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam record of 22 titles.
Australian Open Daily Preview: The Round of 16 Concludes on Monday
On Monday in Melbourne, the remaining singles quarterfinalists will be decided. Major champions such as Simona Halep, Marin Cilic, Daniil Medvedev, and Iga Swiatek seek further Grand Slam glory. Meanwhile, players like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Aryna Sabalenka are looking for their first Major title.
Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Elise Mertens (19) vs. Danielle Collins (27) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena
Collins was a surprise semifinalist here three years ago, and is coming off an intense three-set battle against Clara Tauson on Saturday. Mertens was a semifinalist in the year prior, and has quietly advanced thus far without dropping a set. Notably, both women are still alive in the doubles draw as well, so they’ve accumulated plenty of wins this past week in both disciplines. Collins will look to dictate play with her aggressive groundstrokes, while Mertens will utilize her consistency and guile. They have split two previous meetings, with Collins claiming their hard court encounter, which was just a few months ago in Chicago. When the American is striking the ball as much confidence as she is now, she is tough to beat in these fast conditions.
Simona Halep (14) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
After an injury-laden 2021, Halep appears fully healthy and ready to contend for her third Major title. She’s allowed her opposition only 12 games through six sets, and won a warm-up event on these same grounds. Cornet considered retirement last year, but the 32-year-old is surely glad she decided not to, as she’s reached the fourth round of this event for the first time since 2009. After upsetting Garbine Muguruza in the second round, she came back from a set down to take out another seed, Tamara Zidansek. Surprisingly, Cornet is 3-1 against Halep, though they haven’t played in nearly seven years. And based on Simona’s current form, the Romanian is a considerable favorite to achieve her sixth Australian Open quarterfinal.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Not Before 2:00pm on John Cain Arena
It’s been two years since Cilic had advanced to the second week at a Major, and he’s now vying for his first quarterfinal since 2018. Auger-Aliassime is seeking his third consecutive quarterfinal at a Major. The 21-year-old Canadian crushed Dan Evans in the last round, while the 2014 US Open champion upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in four sets. Their head-to-head has been quite lopsided to date. In three matchups since July of 2019, Cilic has been victorious all three times, and has claimed six of seven sets contested. And Marin has done so during a span where his best tennis has often alluded him. Felix will surely be eager to join his close friend Denis Shapovalov in the quarters, but I give the slight edge to Cilic considering their history.
Jannik Sinner (11) vs. Alex de Minaur (32) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena
Both these young players have taken advantage of kind draws to this stage, as this will be the first seeded player either has met. For Sinner, this is his third appearance in the round of 16 out of the last four Majors, and he was a quarterfinalist at the 2020 French Open. De Minaur reached the quarters at the 2020 US Open, and this is the farthest he’s been at a Slam since. Their only previous encounter also occurred in 2020, which went to the Italian in three sets, in the quarterfinals of Sofia. De Minaur will be the underdog, as he does not possess the offensive weaponry of Sinner. However, the Australian thrives when competing for his country, and will likely make this a compelling affair.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
On his eighth attempt, Fritz has finally broken through to the fourth round of a Major, with a five-set victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, who as usual was not an easy out. Tsitsipas arrived in Melbourne without much match play, and without many expectations, due to an elbow injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals in November. But the Greek has advanced rather comfortably to the second week of this fortnight for the third time in four years. When these two met at the Paris Masters in 2019, Tsitsipas prevailed in straight sets. I expect Fritz to play rather freely coming off such a big, nerve-wracking win, and knowing he’s not the favorite in this matchup. The 24-year-old American has the ability to apply plenty of pressure to the Roland Garros finalist with his strong serve and penetrating groundstrokes. And considering Stefanos’s last few Majors ended with upsets to less-accomplished players (Tiafoe, Alcaraz), it would not be shocking to witness another upset on this day.
Other Notable Matches on Monday:
Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Maxime Cressy – With Zverev eliminated from the tournament, Medvedev is an even stronger favorite now to win his second consecutive Major. It will be interesting to see how his game matches up with the serve-and-volley style of Cressy, who has won 11 matches this month in Australia (including qualifying).
Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Sorana Cirstea – Swiatek has methodically dismissed her opponents thus far, which is reminiscent of her title run at Roland Garros two years ago. Cirstea has already upset two top 20 seeds (Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova), and is looking for her first Major quarterfinal since the 2009 French Open.
Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Kaia Kanepi – The way Sabalenka continues to advance despite her double faulting woes is one of the most inspiring stories of this event. Kanepi is 6-3 lifetime in the fourth round of Slams, and gained plenty of wins towards the end of last season, winning two ITF events. When they played in a tune-up event last year on these same grounds, Kanepi won in three.
Monday’s full Order of Play is here.
Australian Open Daily Preview: Sunday Delivers Several Blockbuster Fourth Round Matchups
The round of 16 begins on Sunday in Melbourne in the men’s and women’s singles draws. Australia’s Ash Barty will face the player who upset Naomi Osaka in third-set tiebreak, Amanda Anisimova. Sascha Zverev takes on a player who has claimed two of their last three meetings, Denis Shapovalov. And in a meeting of Major champions, reigning Roland Garros champ (in both singles and doubles) Barbora Krejcikova will do battle with Victoria Azarenka, who was the victor here in 2012 and 2013.
Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Sunday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Paula Badosa (8) vs. Madison Keys – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena
These are two of the hottest players in the sport. Badosa has won 16 of her last 19 matches, and has started the year 8-0. Keys is on an eight-match win streak of her own, a stark turnaround coming off a disappointing season where she went only 11-15. During her press conference on Friday, Madison said “I think for me it’s so easy to get suckered into just trying to hit hard.” She also described how adding more shape to her shots and looking to come forward has improved her game in 2022. Both players came through grueling matches on Friday. Badosa looked completely spent after overcoming Marta Kostyuk 6-4 in the third, while Keys survived a third-set tiebreak against Qiang Wang. In their first career meeting, Badosa is the favorite considering her recent form and more all-around game, though Madison is an extremely dangerous opponent when she is striking the ball with confidence as she is now.
Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – Second on Rod Laver Arena
Their only previous encounter took place in October of 2020 in Ostrava, with Azarenka prevailing in three. But 15 months later, Krejickova is an entirely different player. Her previous success had come in doubles, though that changed last season when she accumulate 45 match wins and three titles, including her first Major singles title in Paris. This is only her eighth main draw appearance at a Slam, and she’s now reached the fourth round or better on five occasions. Krejickova came back from a set down on Friday to defeat another French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. However, no player has been more impressive through three rounds than Azarenka. Her set scores so far are the following: 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2. She completely dominated Elina Svitolina in the last round. Vika’s current form, and her previous success at hard court Majors such as this, make her the favorite to advance.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Denis Shapovalov (14) – Not Before 3:00pm on Margaret Court Arena
Overall Zverev leads their head-to-head 3-2. The German claimed their first two meetings, before losing the next two. And most recently, at last February’s ATP Cup, Zverev was victorious in third-set tiebreak after nearly three hours. The 2021 ATP Finals champion is yet to drop a set, while Shapovalov has played 13 sets through three rounds, and spent over four more hours on court. I expect Denis to play freely against a higher-seeded player, and to be the first man to take a set off Zverev this fortnight. But over the course of five sets, Zverev’s serving prowess and consistent groundstrokes should allow him to reach the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.
Ash Barty (1) vs. Amanda Anisimova – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
Barty has been an elite player for several years now, but she may currently be at her highest level yet. The World No.1 has now held her serve in 58 straight service games. Much like Azarenka, she’s yet to be tested at this event. But that may change on Sunday, as Anisimova is also playing the best tennis of her career. And also like Barty, she’s undefeated in 2022. Working with Australia’s own Darren Cahill this month has paid immediate dividends. The 20-year-old American saved two match points in defeating Osaka, the defending champion, in a high-quality affair. Defeating another multi-time Slam champ just two days later is a tall task. And it was Ash who ended Amanda’s last great run at a Major, winning in three sets during the 2019 Roland Garros semifinals. Barty should be favored to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year.
Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (19) – Last on Rod Laver Arena
What condition will Berrettini be in following an over four-hour epic against Carlos Alcaraz? Not only did that match go all the way to a fifth-set tiebreak, but Matteo also rolled his ankle during the fifth set. None of the Italian’s matches this week have been straightforward, as he was pushed to four sets in his first two rounds. The good news for Berrettini is Carreno Busta has also contested some grueling matches, playing nine sets across the last two rounds. And last year, Matteo didn’t lose at a Major to any player not named Djokovic. Surprisingly, this will be their first career meeting. Keeping in mind what Matteo has already endured at this event, and how his body has often broken down in the past, this is a great opportunity for Pablo to move beyond the fourth round of this tournament for the first time.
Other Notable Matches on Sunday:
Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Jessica Pegula (21) – Sakkari is 2-0 against Pegula, which includes a victory last March in Miami decided by a third-set tiebreak. The American was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, while the Greek achieved two Major semifinals last season.
Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Adrian Mannarino – In his 13th appearance, Mannarino has reached the round of 16 at this event for the first time. He did so through impressive wins over Hubi Hurkacz and Aslan Karatsev. But he is 0-2 against Nadal, who is only 12 sets away from winning a record-breaking 21st Major.
Gael Monfils (17) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic – Like Berrettini, Monfils suffered an ankle scare on Friday, but seemed to be unaffected. And he’s been on fire to start 2022, winning a title in Adelaide, and claiming nine straight sets this week. Kecmanovic was drawn to face fellow countryman Novak Djokovic in the first round, but in Novak’s absence, has made Serbia proud with his deepest run at a Major to date. Just two months ago in Bercy, Monfils defeated Kecmanovic 6-3 in the third.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in the Bottom Halves of the Draws
In the bottom half of the women’s singles draw, only nine of the 16 seeded players have survived the first two rounds. And of the players remaining, only two have won a Major (Halep, Swiatek). In the bottom half of the men’s draw, 10 seeds remain, and again only two Slam champs (Medvedev, Cilic). There is plenty of room for new names to make extended runs into the second week of this Major.
Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (31) – Second on Margaret Court Arena
It would usually sound ridiculous to say it’s quite shocking to see the second seed reach the third round, but that’s the case with Sabalenka, who has persevered despite the embarrassing service issues she’s currently enduring. However, Vondrousova will be a considerable step up in competition, as Aryna’s first two opponents were ranked 100th or lower. And Marketa arrives with a lot of confidence. The 2019 Roland Garros runner-up was the Olympic Silver Medalist six months ago in Tokyo, and followed that up by achieving three semifinals between September and October. She’s yet to drop a set this week, which includes a victory over one of the WTA’ fastest rising players, Ludmilla Samsonova. While Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 2-1, which includes a straightforward win last March in Miami, that was well before her serving woes. Through four matches in 2022, Aryna has averaged nearly 18 double faults per match. If that continues on Saturday, Vondrousova will surely take advantage and advance.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Dan Evans (24) – Not Before 5:00pm on John Cain Arena
This is a rematch of the championship match from a warm-up event on these same grounds a year ago. On that day, both men were vying for their first ATP title. Evans met the moment, comfortably winning 6-2, 6-3. For Auger-Aliassime, that’s one of eight finals he’s reached in his career, and he’s yet to even win a set. However, Felix is the much more accomplished player at Majors, having achieved his first quarterfinal in July at Wimbledon, and his first semifinal in September at the US Open. Dan is yet to advance that far at a Slam. The Canadian has complicated matters for himself this week, playing two grueling matches, averaging four hours on court each day. By contrast, Evans received a walkover in the last round, and spent less than two hours winning his opening round in straights. Despite all that, I expect Felix to recover fairly well, and be able to dictate play against the British No.2.
Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Daria Kasatkina (25) – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena
This should be a compelling matchup between two aggressive players with plenty of variety and high tennis IQ’s. And they are both in excellent form. They have combined to allow their opponents only 16 games through eight sets thus far. And both accumulated some solid wins heading into this event: Swiatek defeated Leylah Fernandez and Victoria Azarenka, while Kasatkina beat Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza. Their only previous meeting occurred last June on the grass of Eastbourne, with Kasatkina prevailing in three. That was part of a resurgent season for the 24-year-old Russian, who started the year ranked 72nd, but ended it ranked 26th. Yet Daria has not advanced beyond this round of a Major since Wimbledon 2018, while Iga was the only WTA player to reach the fourth round at every Slam last year. And when Swiatek starts dominating as she has this week, it’s extremely challenging to deter her.
Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Last on Margaret Court Arena
After competing in an exhibition event last month in Abu Dhabi, Rublev was one of many players to test positive for COVID-19. After quarantining and recovering, he has described how physically spent he was after practicing in the days leading up to this fortnight. But he has been dominant through two rounds, dropping only 13 games across six sets. And the Russian has recently owned his rivalry with Cilic. While Marin claimed their first meeting, which was seven years ago on clay while Andrey was ranked outside the top 200, Rublev has taken the last four. All of them have been on hard courts, and three of them were decided in straight sets. However, since last June, Cilic has been playing his best tennis in years. He won Stuttgart, and reached back-to-back finals in Russia. I expect the 2014 US Open champion to make this a highly competitive affair, yet Rublev’s fire power should enable him to prevail. On what is forecast be another scorching day in Melbourne, his groundstrokes will be even more punishing.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Benoit Paire – Tsitsipas overcame an impressive challenge from Sebastian Baez on Thursday night, while Paire upset Grigor Dimitrov earlier in the day. The Greek is 3-1 against the Frenchman, and has only lost seven games in their last five sets.
Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – This is a rematch from the US Open quarterfinals, where Medvedev downed the Dutch qualifier in four. Medvedev was not pleased with how certain members of the Aussie crowd treated him on Thursday while facing Nick Kyrgios, and I’m curious to see if they continue to bother him on Saturday.
Simona Halep (14) vs. Danka Kovinic – Halep’s set scores thus far have been 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, and 6-0. The 2018 finalist is looking fully healthy after injuries sidetracked her last season. Kovinic upset another Major champion, Emma Raducanu, on Thursday.
Roberto Bautista Agut (15) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – Bautista Agut lost only four games in the second round. Fritz is yet to lose a set, and soundly defeated fellow American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday. Roberto is 5-1 against Taylor, and has claimed their last three encounters in straight sets.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
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