The second Monday of the Australian Open featured a mouthwatering line-up of matches, full of scores to be settled, reemerging rivalries, and big names looking to close in on the quarterfinals.
TTI provides a look back at the action of Day 8 – with a twist.
You either put yourself into contention to lift the trophy, or you crash out just before the tournament reaches critical mass.
The Round of 16 always feels like one of the more agonizing stages of a major – it’s like Slam-limbo. It’s neither a true early exit, nor is it true business end of a slam. The draw can get turned on its head one final time – or it can lead to absolute blockbuster quarterfinals. The round of “Could-Have-Been’s,” if you will.
Serena Williams could have been in real trouble in her fourth round encounter with Garbiñe Muguruza, had she lost the opening service game of the final set. The American had revenge on her mind after the Spaniard took her out at last year’s French Open, and indeed, in the early stages of the match, it was the No. 24 seed who dictated play.
After splitting sets, Muguruza pushed the 18-time major champion in a half-marathon game, but was unable to convert any of her six chances to go up 2-0, and began leaking more and more unforced errors. Williams went on to run away with six of the last seven games, ensuring a berth in the quarterfinals and the end of a game youngster’s impressive challenge.
Guillermo Garcia Lopez could have been Stan Wawrinka’s Grand Slam nightmare for the second time in a year, but his focus in the fourth set tiebreaker just didn’t hold up. Last year’s Australian Open winner looked well on his way to sealing a straight set victory against the man who had ousted him in Paris – but with the finish line in sight, the No. 4 seed’s level began to drop. The Spaniard forced a fourth set, lead 5-0 in the tie-breaker and held 5 set points. But when it mattered most, his nerves began to show. Wawrinka, by contrast, displayed the sort of tennis that won him his first Slam last year.
Kei Nishikori vs David Ferrer could have been another thrilling encounter, but compared to the No. 5 seed, Ferrer never quite looked the part – which makes sense considering half his foot was covered in blood after his third round win.
Madison Keys could have been struggling to back it up, but she kept her cool after upsetting reigning Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova. An error-prone spell in the middle of the second set aside, she fired nearly all cylinders against her eponymous opponent, Madison Brengle. For her part, Brengle wasn’t able to mix up shots and spins nearly as much as she had in previous rounds, mainly because her 19-year-old compatriot kept her foot on the gas.
Agnieszka Radwanska could have been much closer to the quarterfinals if she hadn’t found herself broken after a marathon game at 3-3 in the first set. Venus Williams continuously attacked her opponent’s serve and decided the game in her favor after a whopping 12 deuces. The seven-time major champion raced away with the opener, but the encounter turned into a true see-saw affair, with neither woman playing her best at the same time.
Radwanska looked sharper in the second set as the No. 18 seed began to leak errors, but the American to came up trumps in the final stages of the match. For Williams, it is the first Grand Slam quarterfinal in over three years – and maybe she’ll even listen to her sister when it comes to challenges next time:
"Challenge...challenge...WILL YOU FUCKING CHALLENGE" pic.twitter.com/wdgMCgkNhL—
Roo (@roobynVC) January 26, 2015
Feliciano Lopez could have been Melbourne’s cat with more than nine lives. The Spaniard had already saved match points in two of his three opening rounds, and saved two more against No. 8 seed Milos Raonic in the fourth set tiebreak.
But the Canadian broke his lefty opponent in the deciding set and steadied the ship, winning six of his final serve points with an ace.
It could have been another big step on the way back for Victoria Azarenka, but Melbourne finalist Dominika Cibulkova looked something like it once again, when she fought off the Belorussian in a doozy of a match. The Slovakian fired a head-turning 44 winners on her way to the quarterfinals, and it was a great resumption of the Azarenka-Cibulkova rivarly.
At the same time, it could have been a fall from grace for the No. 11 seed after last year’s success Down Under, but by virtue of beating Azarenka, the 25-year-old will remain inside the Top 20.
It could have been a good day for the Bryan Brothers, however, just like in 2014, the top team’s Melbourne campaign came to a surprising halt in the third round. In the shadow of three American women marching into the quarters, the 36-year-old twins from California were up 4-1 to start, but ended up going out in straight sets to Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea.
But it wasn’t the only upset in the doubles…
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci could have been one of the comeback-stories of the tournament, but their doubles title defense fell short at the hands of Julia Görges and Anna-Lena Grönefeld. After splitting the first two sets, the Germans were up 4-0 in the decider, but the Italians fought back hard to level. In a final change of momentum, Görges and Grönefeld were able to win the last two games, booking their place in the quarterfinals.
As a result, the top seeds in the men’s and women’s draw were eliminated within less than a few hours of one another.
Novak Djokovic could have been heading into uncomfortable tiebreaks, but Gilles Muller’s shot selection had decidedly other plans at times.
Have we missed anything? Feel free to write down your own “if”s and “when”s in the comment section!