Caroline Wozniacki is through to the quarters Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki waltzes into last eight

Match Report

It’s an exclusive club, this one: women in the past 60 years who have saved match point/s en route to the Australian Open final, and then taken home the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy.

Monica Seles was the first, back in 1991, twice getting herself out of jail in her semi-final against Mary-Jo Fernandez. Serena Williams was next, having come back from the brink on two occasions in her 2003 semi against Kim Clijsters. Angelique Kerber was the most recent, later declaring the match point she saved in her opening match in 2016 as “the most important one of my life”. There is an even more honourable mention here for Jennifer Capriati who on four occasions IN the 2002 final against Martina Hingis was one shot from defeat.

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This year, drum roll, we already have two candidates, as the Open prepares to surge into its second week. Top seed Simona Halep will return to the court against Naomi Osaka on Monday, perhaps not-so-fresh from Saturday’s record-equalling marathon against Lauren Davis in which she survived a grim 0-40 moment at 10-11 in the third set, but alive nevertheless.

Then there’s Caroline Wozniacki, who was wobbling at 1-5 and 15-40 in the deciding set of her second round against Jana Fett, before winning the next six games, and following up in far more comfortable fashion against Kiki Bertens.

Normal service having resumed, it thus continued on Sunday for the second seed, who overcame a slightly shaky start to end the progress of 19th seed Magdalena Rybarikova, the Wimbledon semi-finalist who has taken nine Australian Opens to reach a fourth round.

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Magdalena Rybarikova v Caroline Wozniacki match highlights from round four of the women's singles.

Caroline Wozniacki def. Magdalena Rybarikova match highlights (4R)

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“I think being almost out of the tournament, you have nothing to lose after that,’’ Wozniacki said after the dominant 6-3 6-0 win. “You just go out there and you enjoy yourself, and I played really well from being 5-1 down (against Fett), and since then I have just kept that going, basically.’’
 
Wozniacki had her serve broken early, but just the once, and had the match dusted in 63 minutes to reach the quarterfinal for the first time since falling to eventual champion Clijsters in 2012, having made the semis at Melbourne Park against Li Na the previous year.

“Six years ago. It’s so long ago,’’ she said when asked to compare her current self with then. “All I can say is that I think I’m in a good place, I think I’m hitting the ball well and everything’s been going well in the last year-and-a-half. It’s been good.’’

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Caroline Wozniacki is through to the quarterfinals after defeating Magdalena Rybarikova

Caroline Wozniacki on court interview (4R)

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Others, though, are seeing an improved Wozniacki, no longer known as a consistent, dogged retriever with a fine backhand, having improved both her serve and her forehand to add a more attacking dimension to her game

The world No.2 is still marvellously consistent, though, as 2017 results confirm: the most match wins on tour, and two titles from eight finals, including the biggest of her career to claim the WTA’s year-end championship.

Some of that confidence appears to have carried over, and one of the most pleasing elements of her performance against Rybarikova would have been the fact she won 14 of 15 net points, while logging just nine unforced errors against 25 winners, - eight of them, notably, off her once unthreatening forehand side.

There was even a tweener. Now, that was a first, in a match situation. Didn’t win the point, but Wozniacki will take it.

pattern
Winners
15 Magdalena Rybarikova
25 Caroline Wozniacki

“I thought I was serving well today and I was waiting for the right opportunity to go in and go for my shots,'' she said. "I was really happy with the way I was playing today.’’

And opportunity is knocking here, loudly. Her next opponent is unseeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, with world No.4 Elina Svitolina looming as the big threat in Wozniacki’s half of the draw.

Wozniacki has, as she acknowledges, been effectively playing with house money since wriggling off Fett’s hook in round two, and that small group of women to conjure a similar escape before going on to win the title is a club the two-time US Open runner-up is desperately keen to join.