Second-week stayers in Melbourne mix again

  • Dan Imhoff

Beyond the biggest names to have lifted the champion’s trophy on a Grand Slam stage, a quartet of second-week stayers is again in the mix at AO2021.

MORE: All the scores from Day 6 at AO 2021

Elina Svitolina, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Elise Mertens have consistently pushed into the fourth round and beyond in recent years, and all are alive and in the hunt for their maiden major at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

Elina Svitolina

Since bursting onto the Grand Slam scene with a run to the French Open quarterfinals at age 20, expectations have naturally built around Ukrainian women’s flagbearer Svitolina.

Victory over Yulia Putintseva on Thursday ensured her 11th appearance in the second week of a major and marked the sixth time in her past eight.

The fifth seed has twice reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

Her semifinal showings at Wimbledon and the US Open back to back in 2019 – including wins over Venus Williams and Madison Keys – signalled the 26-year-old may be finally ready to take the next step. 

Alexander Zverev

A mainstay of the top 10 for the past four years, it has been a long time coming for former breakout teenager Zverev.

At 19, the German was the youngest to crack the top 20 since Novak Djokovic in 2016, a year in which he defeated Roger Federer, but pressure at the Slams proved crushing since making his debut at Wimbledon 2015.

It took Zverev nine majors to reach the fourth round for the first time and 19 to reach a semifinal at AO 2020.

Last year was the first time he progressed to the fourth round or better at three Grand Slams, with a maiden final coming at Flushing Meadows, where he let slip a two-set lead to fall to Dominic Thiem.

Desperate to move on from that heartache, his round of 16 clash against Serbian Dusan Lajovic on Sunday will be his fifth straight and seventh from the past eight majors.

Andrey Rublev

Part of a trio of young Russians to have emerged in recent years, 23-year-old Rublev’s progression was impeded following a persistent back injury in 2018.

While compatriots Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov beat him to the chase, Rublev finally cracked the top 10 in October last year on the back of a season that included five tour titles and two Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Following a surprise run to the 2017 US Open quarterfinal where his idol Rafael Nadal comfortably had his number, Rublev did not reach the fourth round at a major again until the 2019 US Open, but has done so at every Slam since. Unbeaten in 2021, this will be his fifth straight round of 16 appearance at a major. 

Elise Mertens

They were tough shoes to fill when Belgium’s prolific Grand Slam champions Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters retired, but Mertens has slowly but surely found her groove to fly the flag with increasing regularity in the second week of Slams.

The 25-year-old reached her sole major semifinal at AO 2018, which set off a trend of at least two fourth round showings or deeper in every year since.

Mertens’ straight-sets trouncing of Belinda Bencic on Saturday guaranteed her name would feature in the fourth round at five of the past six Slams.

Victory over the crafty Czech Karolina Muchova would mark the first time she had made consecutive Slam quarterfinals.