Day 9 of the Australian Open 2015 saw the elimination of the 3rd seeds on both the men’s and women’s draw – Rafael Nadal of Spain and Simona Halep of Romania as both of them crashed out in straight sets to Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova respectively. They were joined by Scotland’s Andy Murray who dashed the hopes of the last remaining Aussie in the tournament Nick Kyrgios and the no. 2 seed Maria Sharapova who proved too strong for Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard. The line up of matches tomorrow are set as under :
Maria Sharapova  v. Ekaterina Makarova 
Serena Williams  v Madison Keys
Andy Murray  v. Tomas Berdych 
Given the circumstances under which Nadal had entered the tournament having just played four events since his Wimbledon loss in June 2014; the 2009 champion had himself insisted before the Open that he was not fit enough to withstand the vigours of a grand slam but in a somewhat bizarre match the Spaniard could not turn the tide in the all important third set tie breaker as last year semi finalist Berdych ended a streak of 17 losses against the Spaniard and was also spared the dubious distinction of being the only player to loose 18 consecutive times to a single player. Berdych’s previous win against Nadal was in Madrid ATP 1000 in 2006. He raced to a 2 set lead in one hour 6-2 & 6-0; but the Spaniard saved two match points on serve at 5-6 in the third before finally loosing on Berdych’s fourth match point in the ensuing tie break. It also marked only the third time that Nadal was bageled 6-0 in a grand slam match; the previous ones to Roger Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final and to Andy Roddick at the US Open in 2004. The three time runner up Andy Murray also ended the run of Nadal’s conqueror at Wimbledon 2014 Nick Kyrgios. The Canberra native had rallied from a two set deficit in the last 16 before winning in five dramatic sets to the Italian Andreas Seppi who had earlier accounted for Nadal’s greatest competitor Roger Federer. Interestingly Berdych has a 6-4 edge in head to head against Murray and has also won their last two meetings. Murray will have to be at his best against the Czech who has still to drop a set at this year’s event. Murray who won the Gold medal match at London 2012 Olympics went on to win the US Open 2012 and Wimbledon 2013 in a span of twelve months has been the loosing finalist at Melbourne; in 2010 he lost to Federer and in 2011 & 2013 to Novak Djokovic. He should progress to his 8th grand slam final on Sunday. The scoreline was Murray d. Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.
Equally surprising was the Russian no. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova’s demolition of Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0 which set up a semi final with fellow Russian Maria Sharapova. Halep who later blamed her defeat to stress also prevented a rematch of the French Open 2014 final when Sharapova beat Halep in three sets. The Russian prevailed 6-3, 6-2 against Bouchard and should reach the final to be played on Saturday giving her a chance to win her 6th grand slam title.
In the other semi-final match on the woman’s side, World No.1 Serena Williams will take on the youngster from her own country – Madison Keys. Madison Keys continued her impressive run by adding another big name to her victims list and her 2nd fellow American in a row when she ousted Venus Williams in a hard fought 3 set encounter. Serena on her part, dismissed Cibulkova in routine fashion. However both the semifinalists in the top half have physical issues that they might have to address before their show-down – which comes with barely 24hrs separation from their quarterfinal matches. Serena is feeling unwell and will hope her condition will not be compromised by her illness while Madison Keys suffered a leg injury during the 2nd set of her match against the elder Williams sister. All things considered, the smart money will be on Serena Williams to make her 2nd consecutive GS final.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@ ]