After the masterly exhibition of Roger Federer it was the turn of his legendary rival Rafael Nadal to take center stage and launch a customary fightback as he ended the run of the 19 year old GenNext superstar Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 in four hours and five minutes on the Rod Laver Arena.
Zverev broke serve to open the match and held his own throughout the first set which he won 6-4. Nadal then broke again in the fourth game of the second set as he won 6-3. There were no break point chances for either player in the third set which went to a tie-break and unlike he did at Indian Wells in March 2016, Zverev who had missed a straight forward volley on match point, the 24th seed won it 7-5. The remaining two sets were won easily by the 30 year old Spaniard who has been on the wrong end of closely contested matches going to the distance lately.
Nadal next faces the colourful Frenchman, Gael Monfils, after the sixth seed won a fairly straightforward contest, 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4 over another German, Phillip Kohlschreiber, seeded 32nd. The third seeded Milos Raonic of Canada, who reached the last four in 2016 before loosing in an epic five setter to Andy Murray, this time prevailed over the 25th seeded Gilles Simon of France 6-2, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3 on the Hisense Arena in just two hours and thirty four minutes.
In an all Spanish encounter, the thirteenth seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, winner of the warm up event in Chennai, had a 7-5, 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4 win over the veteran David Ferrer, seeded 21st. Agut will next play Milos Raonic in the round of sixteen on Monday. The eighth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem rallied from a break down in the third set against the tall and stylish Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. He will now play the 11th seeded David Goffin of Belgium who had a surprisingly easy 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over the 20th seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
Denis Istomin, the wildcard from Uzbekistan who caused the stunning upset of the six time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, had a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over the 30th seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.
Following is the line up of round of sixteen matches in the top half of the men’s draw with my pick mentioned first:-
Andy Murray (1) v. Mischa Zverev (-)
Roger Federer (17) v. Kei Nishikori 5)
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v. Andreas Seppi (-)
Jo Wilfred Tsonga (12) v. Daniel Evans
Serena Williams who is going for her 23rd grand slam title had a routine 6-1, 6-3 win over Nicole Gibbs of the U.S.A., while 16th seeded Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic accounted for the 21st seeded Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5. Ninth seeded Johanna Konta of Britain was a 6-3, 6-1 winner over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, while 30th seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia had a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 upset win over the sixth seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. 34 year old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia was a 3-6,6-2,6-3 winner over Maria Sakkari of Greece. Another American Jennifer Brady was a 7-6(4),6-2 winner over the Russian Elena Vesnina.
Fifth seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic had a 4-6, 6-0, 10-8 win over the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko. There was a win for the hometown favourite Daria Gavrilova of Australia who recorded a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over the 12th seeded Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.
The final match of the day got underway after midnight local time and the resurgent Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria was a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 winner over the Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Dmitrov, the 15th seed, who won the warm up event in Brisbane won in two hours and two minutes slamming down 11 aces. He would convert on five out of nine break point chances, while Gasquet could get only one break from the seven chances he had.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]