Day 6 highlights
Highlights from Day 6 of AO18.
So there you have it - from 2016 singles entrants on Monday, we've whittled the draw down to 32 - and in some style on Super Saturday if we do say so ourselves. Did you miss anything?
Hsieh Su-Wei backs up her excellent win over Garbiñe Muguruza by taking out another top-ranked opponent in Agnieszka Radwanska, winning 6-2 7-5. The woman from Chinese Taipei last reached a Grand Slam fourth round a decade ago, and it came here at the Australian Open as a qualifier when Justine Henin eventually halted her run. This time it will be up to the in-form Angelique Kerber to stop Hsieh, but the 32-year-old is flying high on confidence. She mustered 31 winners today, and as long as she keeps hitting her targets she will be a match for anyone.
Roger Federer waves his wand, closing with three magnificent winners - one off the forehand side, two off the backhand - to see off Richard Gasquet 6-2 7-5 6-4 and the Rod Laver Arena crowd rise as one.
He improves his record over the Frenchman to 17-2 - was it ever in doubt? - to set up a fourth round encounter with Hungarian surprise-package Marton Fucsovics.
Meanwhile, Jim Courier has Federer giving the camera his best smouldering look. Here's what the 19-time Grand Slam champion had to say...
It’s been a tough week for backing up big wins: Bernarda Pera (Johanna Konta), Belinda Bencic (Venus Williams), Zhang Shuai (Sloane Stephens) and Timea Babos (Coco Vandeweghe) all fell in the round after their big upsets.
Is Hsieh Su-Wei about to buck the trend and back up her defeat of Garbiñe Muguruza with another big scalp? It’s so far so good for Hsieh, who has taken the opening set from Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 with some unorthodox big-hitting. The amount of times she wrongfoots her opponents due to how early she takes the ball is quite something.
The Pole has called for the trainer at the end of the set. Seems to be some knee trouble.
Swiss timing at its glorious best. Federer brings up set point with a vintage backhand passing shot down the line, sealing the two-set advantage (6-2 7-5) when Gasquet puts too much heat behind his backhand. One break was all it took, and it came at the death.
The last time Gasquet took a set off Federer? All the way back in 2011. The world No.2 has won their last 21 straight sets, which is pretty remarkable.
You have to admire Novak Djokovic. Playing in his first tournament in six months, he seems to be moving as well as ever. He's into the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the 11th time with a 6-2 6-3 6-3 win over Albert Ramos-Viñolas, but his sights are set higher than that.
The serve still needs work, and it will be interesting to see how it holds up against Hyeon Chung on Monday, but for now it's nothing but compliments for the Serb.
ONE LAST TIME!
Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth take down No.3 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau on a rammed Show Court 2. If there was roof on top of the circular arena, it may have just come off. After a perfectly-timed break in the 12th game of the third set, they emerge 7-6(2) 4-6 7-5 winners before running to each other and warmly embracing. Someone SET THAT TO THE TITANIC MUSIC.
Amazing effort from the veterans. On they go.
A Tomas Berdych win over Juan Martin del Potro isn’t surprising, but that scoreline is: 6-3 6-3 6-2. The Czech dominated the Argentine from the first ball to the last, hitting 52 winners to Del Potro’s 26.
He is into the round of 16 at Melbourne Park for the tenth time, which puts him clear of fellow Czech Ivan Lendl for most appearances at that stage. How Berdych would love to repeat Lendl’s heroics from 1989 and 1999, though.
Up next: Fabio Fognini.
Angelique Kerber is very quickly becoming the favourite to win the 2018 Australian Open. Now there’s a sentence we didn’t envision writing just one month ago. She downs Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3, pulling off a statement win that will surely be felt in all four corners of the draw.
She squeezed Sharapova until the pips popped out, and the smile is stretched across her face. She has posted some of the best wins of her career on this court, and that's up there with her better performances. When asked about 2017, the German laughs and says, "we’re at home here so I can share everything." Here's what she had to say...
Tomas Berdych is looking incredibly sharp out on Hisense where he leads Juan Martin del Potro 6-3 6-3 1-0*. The Czech is hitting so cleanly, as he often does, but, somewhat surprisingly, he is out-muscling the powerful Del Potro, hitting more than double the number of winners.
The only thing that’s halted him so far is a line call. He summoned Hawk-Eye when a ball flirted with the line but his challenge came too late for umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore's liking, much to the Czech’s disappointment. He felt so aggrieved, he called the referee to court but it came to nothing.
Angelique Kerber takes the first set from Maria Sharapova 6-1 and - *whisper it* - the German really does look to be rediscovering her 2016 form.
She’s at her stingy best so far and her numbers are eye-poppingly good. She has hit just TWO unforced errors in the opening seven games, but it’s the depth she’s getting on the ball that’s causing Sharapova all sorts of issues. The Russian is pinned back and struggling to get down to those low hard shots.
Novak Djokovic is off to a flyer on RLA, taking the first set 6-2 from Albert Ramos-Viñolas. He was given a helping hand by the Spaniard, it must be said, with the world No.22 throwing in some abysmal errors in that final game. Not that the Serb will mind. After Thursday’s battle with Gael Monfils he could do with rolling through a few sets.
Still standing after the day-time drama? Of course you are. Let's roll out the night session.
Novak Djokovic and Albert Ramos-Viñolas have just put feet on MCA, while Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro are five games in on Hisense. The RLA stage awaits Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber, as the former champions face off in the day's most anticipated match-up.
We're going to take a brief break but we'll be back shortly to bring you all the twists and turns, as they happen.
What a stage to clinch your first-ever Top 10 win. Hyeon Chung topples Alexander Zverev 5-7 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena to become just the third Korean man to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam.
The 21-year-old clinched the NextGen ATP Finals title in Milan in November, and after a gruelling training block in Thailand in the off-season, has began the 2018 season with a bang. For Zverev, the wait for a first major quarterfinal appearance goes on. He will be back, but for now it’s bitter disappointment for the German, who was among the favourites for the title.
Naomi Osaka ends Ash Barty’s Australian Open dreams with an extremely impressive performance, downing the home hope 6-4 6-2 in 73 minutes. This is the first time Osaka, a highly-touted talent, has reached the round of 16 at a major and she won’t be content with that. Playing the way she did today, she will be a real threat in the next round against Simona Halep, who has a lot more tennis in the legs.
The crowd on MCA may have been cheering for Barty, but they’re giving Osaka a standing ovation after that speech. Here are some soundbites:
“I feel really happy, but I am also kinda sorry because I know you guys really wanted her to win. I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this - I’ve never played an Aussie player here, on TV it looks really cool.”
“I’m really honoured to be playing for Japan and my Dad’s side is Haitian, so represent. I forgot the rest of your question, sorry.”
Fabio Fognini has big wins in him, which means when he can negotiate his way through the opening rounds of a Grand Slam he becomes a dangerous player. That may be the case here. The Italian is into the round of 16 thanks to a 3-6 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3 win over Julien Benneteau, who was playing in his final Australian Open after announcing that this would be his last year on Tour.
Benneteau, a veteran of 13 visits to Melbourne Park, bows out with his head held high, equalling his best-ever run at this event. For Fognini, a fourth round clash with either Tomas Berdych or Juan Martin del Potro lies on his horizon.
It’s turning into marathon day on RLA as Hyeon Chung forces Alexander Zverev to a fifth set, and this could get very interesting. In fact, it already has. The world No.4 hits back-to-back double faults in the opening game of the decider to hand the Korean the advantage.
Zverev’s focus is wandering. Midway through that fourth set he began questioning the level of light, a confusing stance given that it's around 6pm during the Aussie summer. It is cloudy, but still.
Right now, Chung is locked in, and as long as he is, this will a difficult lead for Zverev to overhaul.
Osaka is known for her easy-power off both wings but she is defending extremely well today. The Japanese star goes 6-4 3-0 up, with a double break, steering a backhand passing shot beyond Barty, who failed to hit her target with the approach shot. Barty has pulled off two excellent comebacks this week, but she'll need a great escape today.
Ash Barty joked after her second-round win that she’d rather not drop the first set in every match but she finds herself with a hill to climb for the third straight match, dropping the opener 6-4 to Naomi Osaka. The Aussie No.1 had a look at two break points in the last game, but Osaka fended them off behind her weighty first serve.
Barty looks calm and collected at the change of ends. She'll need to draw on all her resilience now.
We’ll drop in on Ash Barty shortly, but first, we have a result to bring you. Marton Fucsovics, another Australian Open debutant, is into the fourth round with a 6-3 6-3 6-2 win over Nicolas Kicker. The scoreline is no surprise, really. Fucsovics dropped just three games to Kicker when they met in Pune earlier this month, and he was far too strong for the Argentine again today.
The Hungarian is the first man from his country to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam since Balazs Taroczy (usual spelling) at Roland Garros in 1984. This run also marks the first time he has won three straight Tour-level matches in his career. The celebrations, as you would expect, are emotional, as he stretches his arms up to his box at the back of the court. His reward: a date with either Roger Federer or Richard Gasquet.
In the same week in which he notched his first ever match win at a Grand Slam, Tennys Sandgren is into the round of 16, defeating Maximillian Marterer 5-7 6-3 7-5 7-6(5) in the battle of the Australian Open debutants. That's three straight wins for the American, who had only won TWO Tour-level matches before this tournament.
The man from Tennessee’s dream tournament filters into a second week, where he will meet No.5 seed Dominic Thiem. He’s not ready to wake up just yet.
Hyeon Chung is such a mesmerising player to watch. His balance through his groundstrokes is a joy to watch, and he’s pinched the second-set from Sascha Zverev on RLA, taking the tie-break 7-3 with a little help from two splendid backhand passing shots. 5-7 7-6(3).
Chung, who’s absorbing and redirecting Zverev’s heavy ball with ease right now, is asking questions of the German.
Sidebar: Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka have been moved from RLA to MCA due to the length of today’s matches on the main show court. They’ll get under way shortly.
When Dominic Thiem went two sets down to Denis Kudla in the second round, not many would’ve expected him to reach the second week in Melbourne, but he has, and in style too. He blows past Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-2 7-5, out-winnering his French opponent 42 to 15 to reach the round of 16 for the second time.
Thiem has never advanced to the quarterfinal here, joking in his post-match interview that he’s “getting tired of the [fourth round]”. But he will have a great chance to right that wrong on Monday when he takes on the winner of Maximillian Marterer and Tennys Sandgren, who are currently deep in the fourth set. "I will give everything to do it."
Every one get some carb-loading done after that Halep-Davis classic? Excellent.
Let's focus in on the FIVE men's matches currently being played:
*Chung 5-7 4-5 Zverev
Thiem 6-4 6-2 4-4 Mannarino*
*Benneteau 6-3 2-6 0-3 Fognini
Marterer 7-5 3-6 5-7 2-1 Sandgren*
*Fucsovics 6-3 2-1 Kicker
While that drama was cooking on RLA, Caroline Garcia booked her spot in the fourth round with a 6-3 5-7 6-2 defeat of Aliaksandra Sasnovich who has enjoyed an excellent start to the season. The Belarusian rose to a career-high No.53 in the world after reaching the Brisbane final, then advanced to the third round at a major for the first time.
But today it was all about Garcia, and it was her first serve that made the difference. Each player won 53 points from the baseline, and saw 28% of their serves unreturned, but Garcia landed 72 per cent of her first serves, as opposed to Sasnovich’s 55. That was all it took to separate an otherwise tight encounter.
Garcia meets Madison Keys next.
The most gripping of encounters comes to a close as Simona Halep saves three match points en route to a record-equalling victory over Lauren Davis. Her 4-6 6-4 15-13 win over the American matches the Australian Open record for most games played in a women’s match (48).
For three hours and 45 minutes Halep and Davis had us gripped to our screens, and I don't know about you but I am standing up clapping both. A warrior-like effort from both.
It's a weary game from Davis, but can we blame her? She is out on her feet, and down a few toenails. She calls for the trainer again, who will likely adminster treatment in the alloted 90 seconds as she has already had two medical timeouts.
After a relatively easy break of serve - although, is anything easy at this stage? - Halep will serve for the match once more. 14-13, by the way.
For tennis fans, it doesn’t really get much better than this, does it? There’s something special about a gripping first-week encounter - a top seed against an underdog, playing fearless tennis. There the moments you remember - Sergiy Stakhovsky versus Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Virginie Razzano against Serena Williams at Roland Garros, Denis Istomin versus Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros, etc, etc, etc.
These matches can define a Grand Slam, so enjoy this while it's happening, because they only come along once or twice a year, if that.
Meanwhile, we've reached 13-13 out on Rod Laver Arena after the 46th game of the match. That means this encounter is guaranteed to equal the record for most games played in a women's match at the Australian Open. Will they break it? At this rate...
I think we’ve reached that stage of the match where it’s time to dust off the record books. It was here at Melbourne Park where Francesca Schiavone defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 1-6 16-14 in four hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest women’s Grand Slam match in history.
That record may be safe for today - who knows! - but the one that could be threatened is Chanda Rubin’s 6-4 2-6 16-14 win over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario which is the most games played in a women’s match at the Australian Open. That was 48 games, this is 45 and counting…
Davis leads 13-12 as her forehand kisses the net tape and trickles onto Halep's side of the court.
The remarkable thing about this - in a match full of remarkable things - is the mental resilience on show. No matter what is thrown at either player, the short-term memory kicks in and they get on with it.
Halep wins one of the points of the match, finishing with a feathered dropshot, and the crowd go nuts. Davis, however, brushes it off, wins the next point and goes onto hold for a 12-11 lead.
While Halep and Davis continue to jab at each other on RLA (11-11 in that one, deuce No.3), Karolina Pliskova produces a knock-out punch on MCA. It’s a mightily impressive victory for the world No.6, who edges past compatriot Lucie Safarova 7-6(6) 7-5 in a match as tight as the scoreline suggests.
A slightly niche stat this, but Pliskova has often struggled against left-handers, coming into today’s match with a losing 15-16 record. She levels that at 16-16, thanks to one break of serve, which came in the penultimate game of the match.
She moves on to play either lucky loser Bernarda Pera or compatriot Babora Strycova.
Can this encounter get any more dramatic? Well, actually, it can.
Halep holds from 0-40 down (!!!), fending off three match points. It was more about Davis getting tight than Halep doing anything particularly amazing, but the Romanian did what she needed to do, making her opponent play.
That levels this rollercoaster at 11-11, but we’ll have to wait a while for the next game to be played. Davis takes a medical timeout. She has been fidgeting around with her shoe the last few games, and apparently she’s lost a toe nail. Halep’s face is a picture but with Davis to serve next, it’s probably the best time for the American to take it.
Davis holds for an 11-10 lead and if you’re just joining us, that is not a typo. The key for Halep at the moment is depth - Davis is eating up anything that lands short. You also have to wonder how long Halep can keep running on that dodgy ankle. It’s heavily taped after she rolled it in that first-round win over Destine Aiava. The world No.1 continues to fight though, admirably so.
“This is what modern tennis looks like,” says Channel 7 commentator Sam Smith as Davis holds to love to go 10-9 ahead. I couldn’t put it better myself. Neither player wants to give up the baseline here, with both taking the ball early and with it, their opponents time away. Davis is continuing to strike a sweet ball and her 41st winner of the match nudges her ahead once more.
Two hours and 49 minutes played, with this set alone lasting one hour and 27 minutes. A classic. And then some.
You have got to take your hat off to Davis here, who came up with some stunning shots to fend off Halep’s advances in that last game, one of which was an exquisitely-timed backhand pile-driver down the line. She seals the crucial hold to go 9-8 up in the third.
The last six games have all been won from the end of the court farthest from the television cameras. Make of that what you will.
The ball-striking on Rod Laver Arena is breathtaking right now. Halep is broken for the THIRD time while serving for the match as Davis levels at 8-8 in the decider and the American, it must be said, is playing some stunning tennis.
How much of an upset would this be? Well, for starters, the world No.1 has not lost before the fourth round in women's singles at the Australian Open in the Open Era.
A really clean first set from both Karolina Pliskova and Lucie Safarova goes the way of the world No.6 when her opponent finally blinks at 6-5 in the tie-break, spraying a backhand wide.
The Czech pair combined to hold serve in the first 12 games, teeing off with 29 winners between them. In fact, neither of them faced a break point. But in the end it’s Pliskova with her nose in front - she landed 84% of first serves in the opener, and with those numbers she’s very difficult to beat.
5-4, 15-0 up in the third and Sam Smith inflicts the ultimate commentator’s jinx on Simona Halep on Channel 7, telling listeners that the world No.1 will not miss again, having locked in since the end of the first set. Cue a double fault, then two backhand unforced errors later in the game from Halep and she’s broken while serving for the match. The RLA crowd are living with every point here.
Oh Lauren, no, no, no...
It's a real nail-biter on RLA right now, particularly if you're a Simona Halep fan. The world No.1 eked out the second set to level up 4-6 6-4 but she's having to play at her scrambling best against American Davis, who is mixing things up. But how she would love the last bite of that 20-shot rally back - having dragged Halep across the baseline, she dinks a drop shot that the Romanian can only dolly up while leaving the court unguarded, only for Davis to flub the volley into the net.
It's a costly miss, too, with Halep breaking to lead the decider 2-1 - but with the way this match has gone so far, there may be another twist in the tale yet to come.
Six games dropped in the first round, one in the second and just seven today, Madison Keys is quickly going about her business at Melbourne Park this year. The last American seed standing is the first player in the top half of the women's draw through to last 16 after ousting Ana Bogdan 6-3 6-4, and now awaits the winner of Caroline Garcia's showdown with Aliaksandra Sasnovich later today.
"I definitely feel like I’m playing well - I’m glad I played well again against Ana, she played great. She was getting to a lot of balls, definitely made me play my best tennis," admits Keys, a semifinalist here in 2017 and last year's beaten US Open finalist, before paying dues to her mentor Lindsay Davenport:
For all their strife in Week 1, Saturday is shaping up nicely for those repping the star and stripes so far. Madison Keys has found the going a little bit tougher against Ana Bogdan than she did in her 6-0 6-1 blitz of Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round - she was already off court at this stage on Thursday - but still leads the Romanian by a set and a break, 6-3 3-2.
Over on Laver, however, Lauren Davis is giving top seed Simona Halep the runaround. The world No.76 has hit back from a break down to claim the opening set 6-4 in their first meeting in almost five years - a match that Halep won at Indian Wells for the loss of just two games. The world No.1 is in a battle now if she is to reach the second week for just the third time in her career.
Five days down at Australian Open 2018, and we've already whittled the 256 names that started in the singles draws to 48 - with another 16 matches coming up on Saturday to complete our fourth-round brackets.
And there's some belters among them, none less so than the showdown between the only two former champions in the women's draw. Angelique Kerber, the 2016 winner, faces 2008 champ Maria Sharapova for a place in the last 16 in what promises to be a showstopper. Aussie No.1 Ash Barty will be looking to match Nick Kyrgios's progress against Japanese power-player Naomi Osaka, while six-time champion Novak Djokovic returns to face Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas, the No.21 seed, and five-time and defending champion Roger Federer wraps up the play on Rod Laver Arena against Richard Gasquet.
You can check out the entire day's schedule here
If you can't be at Melbourne Park, then hang out with us! We'll be around throughout the day to keep you posted on the day's big stories and breaking news - kicking off with two intriguing US-Romania clashes: top seed Simona Halep is up against Lauren Davis of RLA, while Madison Keys takes on Ana Bogdan on MCA.
Players are making their way out to court, so let's get to it...