Australian Open 2016: Day 8 Preview

On an action packed Sunday at the Australian Open 2016, the defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Tomas Berdych were taken to the distance but came through in five sets against the Frenchman Giles Simon and the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut at Flinder’s Park in Melbourne.

The top seeded Djokovic made an astonishing 100 unforced errors but converted on 6 out of the 25 break point opportunities against Simon who had extended the then defending champion Roger Federer to five sets in the third round in 2011. Djokovic got an early break in the fourth game of the first set but Simon broke right break and had many break points at 3-3 in the first set. Djokovic would stave them off and would eventually take the first set 6-3.

Simon would go on to save 11 break points in the second set and in the tie-break, raise his level to take it 7-1 which included a 32 -shot rally that ended with a magnificent slingshot backhand winner. Djokovic seemed to take charge by winning the first three games of the third set, but Simon refused to go away. Djokovic finally broke in the tenth game and claimed the set to take a 2 set to one lead.

Simon responded by finally breaking serve after seven chances and claimed the fourth set 6-4 helped by Djokovic’s penchant for ill timed drop shots. For the match, Simon only converted on four of eighteen break points and despite a late fight back in the final set Djokovic reached his 27th consecutive grand slam final.

That win puts him even with the American Jimmy Connors and he trails Roger Federer who had 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances between Wimbledon 2004 to French Open 2013. The match lasted four hours and thirty two minutes. Djokovic will now face Kei Nishikori, who earlier in the day avenged his French Open five set quarter final loss to the Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga with a surprisingly easy 6-4,6-2,6-4 win at the Hisense Arena in two hours two minutes. Nishikori only lost serve once but converted on five out of twelve break point chances.

In the other quarter of the draw, Tomas Berdych overcame a stiff challenge from the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut to reach his sixth consecutive Australian Open quarter-final. Agut took the first set at 6-4 and had three break point chances at 3-3 and 0-40 on the Berdych serve. He failed to capitalize on any of them and Berdych would eventually break in the tenth game and then took the third set 6-3.

Agut replied by winning the fourth set 6-1. Berdych would break in the fourth and sixth game of the decider but Agut broke back in the seventh game. The Czech was not be denied as he sealed the three hour seventeen minute slugfest 4-6,6-4,6-3,1-6,6-3.

Berdych’s opponent in the quarterfinal would be the third seeded four time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland who breezed past the 15th seeded David Goffin in just 88 minutes 6-2,6-1,6-4. The diminutive Belgian was clearly undone by all the waiting in the locker room as the duo got on court at nearly 10:45pm local time in Melbourne.

The first set was completed in just 21 minutes with two breaks of serve as was the case with the second set in which the Swiss broke serve twice. The third set too seemed likely to head the same way but to Goffin’s credit he got one service break back and forced Federer to serve out the match. The 17 time grand slam champion had 39 winners in the match breaking serve six times and loosing his own delivery only once.

The following is a list of round of sixteen matches on day 8 with my pick mentioned first:-

Andy Murray (2) v. Bernard Tomic (16)
John Isner (10) v. David Ferrer (8)
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v. Milos Raonic (13)
Gael Monfils (23) v. Andrey Kuznetsov

There were no surprises in the ladies section of the draw as the last years finalist Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova registered straight sets wins and now clash in the quarter-finals which will be a repeat of last years final. Both the previous champions had straight set wins. Maria Sharapova opened up the day’s proceedings on Rod Laver Arena.

Sharapova took a 4-2 lead in the first set against the Swiss Belinda Bencic who broke back right away. The fifth seeded Russian claimed the first set 7-5. Both players held serve and the 2008 champion Sharapova would break in the twelfth game to win 7-5,7-5 in two hours five minutes. Serena Williams was the next on court and she raced away to a 6-2,6-1 win in just 55 minutes against the Russian Margarita Gasparyan.

The other quarter final in the top half of the women’s draw will feature the fourth seeded Agnieska Radwanska of Poland and the tenth seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro after both recorded hard fought three set wins against the German Anna-Lena Friedsam and the local favourite Daria Gavrilova.

The German took a two love lead to open the match but Radwanska broke back right away. Friedsam would take a 4-1 lead only for Radwanska to draw level at 4-4. Radwanska served for the set at 5-4 and had a set point which the German saved. There were breaks of serve in the eleventh and twelfth game and the set went to a tie-break which Friedsam won 8-6.

Radwanska took a 3-0 lead in the second set which she won convincingly 6-1 in just 26 minutes. Friedsam broke in the sixth game and led 5-2 in the decider. As Friedsam started cramping and struggling for fitness, Radwanska would then take charge reeling of the last seven games to clinch the win 6-7(6),6-1,7-5.

The evening session was delayed by almost an hour and the local lad from Melbourne Gavrilova wasted little time as she bageled the experienced Suarez-Navarro in just twenty five minutes. The Spaniard would finally take her first game of the match in the second game of the second set.

Suarez-Navarro found her range to break in the fifth and ninth game to force a decider. Gavrilova broke early in the second game lasting ten minutes after five dueces. From there on it was the Spaniard all the way as she reeled off the last six games of the match winning 0-6,6-3,6-2 in two hours two minutes.

– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@gmail.com]

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