Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are within one win away from their 53rd career meeting after they advanced to the semi finals under contrasting circumstances at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. While the second seeded Nadal continued his superb form with a 6-3,6-4,6-2 win over the American Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday, top seeded Novak Djokovic advanced after Japan’s Kei Nishikori retired trailing 1-6,1-4 on Wednesday due to injury.
They have been joined by the fourteenth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece who followed up his dramatic upset of six time champion Roger Federer with 7-5,4-6,6-4,7-6(2) win over the 22nd seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday, while the 28th seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille defeated the top Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded 16th, with a 7-6(4),6-3,6-7(2),6-4 win on Wednesday.
The 2009 champion Nadal who is still to drop a set in five matches started the match with a break in the second game and served out the first set with ease. He got a break in the opening game of the second set and that was all that was required to seal the second set.
Even though Tiafoe served 13 aces to Nadal’s tally of 11, Nadal broke serve twice to book his place in the last four. His opponent will be the 20 year old Greek sensation Tsitsipas who served 22 aces against Bautista Agut who had already spent 19 hours on court in his first four matches at the Open. The Spaniard had beaten Novak Djokovic enroute to his Doha title in the first week of the 2019 season and was on a 9-0 run going into the round of eight match.
In what was the most entertaining match of the four quarter-finals, the Frenchman Lucas Pouille won 83% on first serve against the big serving Raonic who served 25 aces. After dropping sets to Daniil Medvedev and Denis Shapovalov, the six time former champion from Serbia reached his 34th major semi final and improved to 66-8 in Melbourne as the eighth seeded Nishikori retired 52 minutes into the match.
In the women’s section of the draw, Serena Williams blew a 5-1 lead in the third set as she lost 4-6,6-4,5-7 to the seventh seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the reigning U.S. Open champion beat the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-4,6-1. The Williams loss deprives a rematch of the controversial U.S. Open final against Osaka and also ensures the 23 time grand slam champion will have to wait for her record equaling 24th title with Margaret Court.
The two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, seeded eighth trounced the Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-1,6-4. The American Danielle Rose Collins beat the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6,7-5,6-1. Collins who had not won a single match in a grand slam before the Open next faces Kvitova.
Following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first :-
Men’s singles :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Lucas Pouille (28); first meeting.
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Stefanos Tsitsipas (14); Nadal leads 2-0.
Women’s singles :-
Naomi Osaka (4) v. Karolina Pliskova (7); Pliskova leads 2-1
Petra Kvitova (8) v. Danielle Rose Collins (-); First meeting.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]