Saturday, January 21, 2012

Australian Open Report: Third Round

Australians have lots to cheer about this Australian Open as two of their men reached the round of 16s, a first since 2004. Top ranked Australian Bernard Tomic thrilled Rod Laver Arena with his win against equally quirky and 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov in five sets. Of course the other Australian is Lleyton Hewitt who seems to have found his form of old taking out young up and comer 23rd seed Milos Raonic. It was, however, a tournament to forget for the Americans as the lone man in the draw, 16th seed John Isner, fell to 18th seed Feliciano Lopez.

Other upsets include 9th seed Janko Tipsarevic being soundly beaten by 17th seed Richard Gasquet while Mikhail Kukushkin impressed everyone by outlasting 14th seed Gael Monfils. Kukushkin is the first Kazakhstan tennis player to make a Grand Slam fourth round. Similarly, 24th seed Kei Nishikori becomes the first Japanese man to reach this round after winning against Julien Benneteau. Of course the top contenders are still moving along quite nicely with the top 7 seeds still in and winning their matches in straight sets. Top ranked Novak Djokovic has only lost 10 games in his first three matches giving birthday boy Nicolas Mahut only two games in his most recent match. The top three seeds of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer have yet to lose a set. 10th seed Nicolas Almagro and 11th seed Juan Martin Del Potro are also looking good.

Similarly to the men, the top women contenders have been in scary form leading into this second week of the tournament. Surprisingly, yet also not, there was no one scarier than 4th seed Maria Sharapova who has only dropped 5 games in three matches. She is joined by top seeds Caroline Wozniacki, 2nd seed Petra Kvitova, 3rd seed Maria Sharapova, 5th seed Na Li, 8th seed Asnieszka Radwanska, 11th seed Kim Clijsters, and 12th seed Serena Williams all moving on. Williams is the last American in both draws with Serbian compatriots Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic beating Americans Christian McHale and Vania King respectively.

Of course not all of the top seeds made it through as 7th seed Vera Zvonareva was taken out by Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Jie Zheng, 2010's semifinalist, also continued her lopsided H2H against 9th seed Marion Bartolli. The only other noteworthy results was perhaps 14th seed Sabine Lisicki's "upset" of 18th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova after being down a set and a break. Lisicki is making great progress after being out with injury for most of 2010. Last year, she made the semifinals of Wimbledon and the 4th round of the US Open.

Final Note: The Fourth Round match-ups are as juicy as I've remembered it to be. Djokovic-Hewitt? Wozniacki-Jankovic? Gasquet-Ferrer? Kvitova-Ivanovic? Clijsters-Li? Nadal-Lopez? Lisicki-Sharapova? Federer-Tomic? There are hardly any that doesn't look even somewhat interesting. All of them are fighting to reach the quarterfinals and with the top players strong and in-form, it should be a sight to behold.

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