Five things we learned on Day 8 of AO2020

  • Suzi Petkovski

We’re into the business end of the tournament: the quarterfinal slots are set. A new women’s champion awaits, while all four past men’s winners are still in the chase. And the No.8 Lakers jersey appeared everywhere at Melbourne Park in honour of the late Kobe Bryant – worn by big basketball fan Nick Kyrgios as he walked into battle at Rod Laver Arena with a heavy heart for his highly-anticipated clash against Rafa Nadal.

1. We’ll have a new women’s champion

Kerber's exit confirmed we'll have a new AO women's winner

Angie Kerber, last remaining ex-champion in the women’s draw, might have felt like an endangered species going out at Margaret Court Arena to fight Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the last quarterfinal spot.

The 31-year-old German’s 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-2 loss means we’ll crown a new women’s champion, following the shock exits of Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and reigning champ Naomi Osaka.

No.30 seed ‘Pavs’ is something of a late-night upset specialist: last January she took out the fancied Sloane Stephens. 

A dual AO junior champion and now three-time quarterfinalist, Pavlyuchenkova is one of the game’s purest ball strikers. On Saturday she eliminated No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova, her first win over the Czech. The defeat of Kerber was the Russian’s 34th win over a top-10 player, without ever cracking the elite herself.

If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em.

2. Dominic Thiem and Thomas Muster have parted ways

Thiem's Monday was simple on court, tricky off it

Not that it bothered him in a 6-2 6-4 6-4 mauling of Gael Monfils, but the Austrian’s partnership with legendary compatriot Muster is history after just a few weeks.

Muster, the 1995 Roland Garros champion and former No.1, was not in Thiem’s box as the No.5 seed made the AO quarterfinals for the first time.

“Yeah, well, nothing bad happened there,” Thiem confirmed post match. “We already said before we started the relationship that if it doesn’t work out, we’re gonna stop it, and that was the case.”

Muster joined the Thiem team last October, and was Austria’s captain at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In his heated second-round win over Alex Bolt, from 1-2 sets down, Thiem was given a code violation for coaching and put a finger to his lips as he walked to a changeover, eyeballing his box. 

“It’s always difficult, especially for me at the stage where I am, to find something perfect to add to my team,” the world No.5 explained. “I’m 26. I’m not the youngest anymore. So I really have to be careful with my career now. I have to take really the right decisions.

“So I decided to take that decision and to continue like I worked last year, because it worked out very well.”

Muster, at Monday’s Legends media call, refused to discuss the split.

3. We won’t be seeing the chest-bumping Bryans again

Another Melbourne Park farewell, this time to six-time AO doubles champs Bob and Mike Bryan, who exited 6-3 6-4 to the higher seeded Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek in Melbourne Arena.

The 41-year-old twins were joined on court for their farewell tribute by Aussie coach David Macpherson, who has been with them since 2005. “We wouldn’t be standing here without you,” said Bob, also sharing the moment with daughter Mikaela and wife Michelle, who just witnessed her husband’s first loss at Melbourne Park.

The Americans won six of 10 AO finals, and have dominated the doubles game, winning a whopping 100-plus titles together.

Bob’s successful return from hip resurfacing injury convinced Andy Murray to undergo the same operation last year in and prolong his career.

The Bryans plan to bow out at the 2020 US Open, an incredible 25 years since their debut.

4. Nick Kyrgios still has just one career win at Rod Laver Arena

Kyrgios fell short, but earned high praise

And that wasn’t until 2018 over his former childhood idol Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

Of course, the losses have all been in the latter rounds against big names: Andy Murray (2015), Tomas Berdych (2016), Grigor Dimitrov (2018) and world No.1 Rafa Nadal on Monday night.

Is Kyrgios adding to the degree of difficulty by insisting on playing the entire first week in his pet Melbourne Arena, aka the People’s Court? That was the question posed today by triple AO champion and former No.1 Mats Wilander, one of the game’s most astute analysts.

But there was plenty to love about Kyrgios’ 6-3 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6(4) loss to Nadal – ironically the same scoreline as their Wimbledon clash.

Despite the ‘salty’ lead-up, the clash was played in good spirit. “Helluva serve” Kyrgios complimented his opponent in the third set. “Sorry” he said after whacking back a Nadal fault. And “Good” to a Nadal drop volley winner.

For three hours 38 minutes, Kyrgios was all-in. Competing, chasing, hustling. When he gives his all, as Nadal reiterated, tennis is the winner.

5. Daniil Medvedev lost the match, but not his sense of humour

The Russian is still searching for his first five-set victory

The No.4 seed, frontrunner among the young guns and US Open finalist, exited to former champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets at Margaret Court Arena

The Swiss cracked 77 lusty winners, cupped his ear for more applause and constantly tapped at his temple. The 2014 AO champion, who turns 35 in March, reckoned that was his best level since his knee surgery woes of 2017. 

“That’s tough to hear,” cracked Medvedev, who also lost fourth round last year, when he was the only man to take a set from champion Novak Djokovic. “I would be happy if it was [the] next tournament he played like this.”

The Russian is yet to win a five-setter.