On Day 5 of the first grand slam of the year, the fancied players finally faced some resistance in their third round matches in Melbourne, but barring the exception of the U.S. Open 2014 champion Marin Cilic of Croatia all the seven fancied players took their appointed places in the pre-quarter finals to be played on Sunday.
Led by Roger Federer who reached yet another career milestone and became the the first men’s player in the history of the game to register 300 match wins in grand slams. He dropped the first set of the tournament to the Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov but was mostly in command for the better part of the match as he won 6-4,3-6,6-1,6-4. He will next play the 15th seeded Belgian David Goffin who proved too strong for the Austrian teenager Dominic Thiem winning in four sets 6-1,3-6,7-6(2),7-5 in just under three hours.
The top seed and five time champion Novak Djokovic also faced a few anxious moments against the Italian Andreas Seppi. The Italian 28th seed had upset Roger Federer at the same stage last year but could not repeat the heroics against the Serb who recorded his 35th match win out of 36 matches at the Australian Open, since 2011. Djokovic raced through the first set in just 25 minutes and his winning scoreline was 6-1,7-5,7-6(6). Next up he faces the 14th seeded Frenchman Giles Simon who demolished the Argentine left hander Federico Delbonis 6-3,6-2,6-1.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori played his third consecutive match in the day session but dropped a set to Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5,2-6,6-3,6-4 and next faces a big test against the 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfred Tsonga of France who ended the run of his compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert – who is the defending doubles champion (with Nicholas Mahut). Tsonga triumphed 6-4,7-6(7),7-6(4) to set up a repeat of last years French Open quarter-final which he won over the 7th seeded Nishikori in five sets.
In the eagerly anticipated evening session, the Canberra native Nick Kyrgios went down to the disappointment of the home crowd as Tomas Berdych kept his nerves to win in four sets 6-3,6-4,1-6,6-4 in a match lasting 2 hours and 26 minutes. Berdych had six double faults and 35 unforced errors and despite trailing 8 aces to 18 by Kyrgios, won the important points when it mattered as he converted on 3 out of the 8 break point opportunities.
The Czech who reached the last four in 2015 had 44 winners to 42 from Kyrgios. He now takes on the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut who followed up his two five set wins with a straight set drubbing of the 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4,7-6(5),7-5.
The following is a list of matches in the bottom half on the men’s draw round of 32 action on Saturday with my pick mentioned first :-
Andy Murray (2) v. Joao Souza (32)
Bernard Tomic (16) v. John Millman
John Isner (10) v. Feliciano Lopez (18)
David Ferrer (8) v. Steve Johnson (31)
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v. Lucas Rosol
Milos Raonic (13) v. Victor Troicki (21)
Gael Monfils (23) v. Stephane Roberts
Dudi Sela v. Andrey Kuznetsov
In the women’s top half of the draw five seeded players have taken their appointed places in the round of sixteen led by the defending champion Serena Williams who breezed past the Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-1,6-1 in the opening match of the evening session on the Rod Laver arena. Also moving into the last 16 is the fourth seeded Agnieska Radwanska of Poland who beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-4,6-0.
In the first match of the day the Swiss miss Belinda Bencic came from behind to defeat the Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6,6-2,6-4 and Maria Sharapova followed her on the Rod Laver Arena as she overcame the American Lauren Davis 6-1,6-7(5),6-0. The fifth seed served 16 aces but converted only 7 out of the 15 break points and despite having 44 winners also made 42 unforced errors. The Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro advanced after her opponent Elizaveta Kulichkova retired in the second set with the score 6-4,2-0 in the favour of the 10th seeded Navarro.
Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany defeated the U.S. Open finalist Roberta Vinci, seeded 13th, 0-6,6-4,6-4. The Australian Daria Gavrilova won a marathon third set 11-9 against the Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in a match lasting 2 hours 50 minutes. The scoreline was 6-4,4-6,11-9. In a battle of unseeded players the Russian Margarita Gasparyan put out Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3,6-4.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]