Rafael Nadal used his experience to slip past feisty young gun Alexander Zverev in five sets on Saturday. Zverev tested the Spaniard with a powerful serve, and a hammering forehand, but Nadal’s movement and defense exhausted the young German, allowing him to win the final two sets of the match with relative ease. Zverev started on fire, and a game plan to take it to Nadal and play aggressively. Rafa was pushed back, and dropped the first set. He recovered in the second, and then edged out the third set tiebreak, but Rafa broke his will in sets four and five. By the fifth set Zverev was sucking air, and dragging his legs through points. Rafa reached the round of 16 with a 4-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-2 victory.
The in-form Jo Konta continued her winning streak, it took less than an hour and a half for the Brit to defeat Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-1, as Wozniacki faded after going down a break.
Makarova Staves off Comeback, Brady and Lucic-Baroni Setup Storybook Round of 16 Match
Ekaterina Makarova was a set and 4-1 up against Dominika Cibulkova, but Cibulkova wasn’t one to give up, fighting hard to make it a match, and pushing it into a third set with a tiebreak victory in set 2. Makarova was up a break in the third, that Cibulkova got back, but the Russian finally put the match away 6-2 6-7 6-3 in nearly three hours of play. Makarova has recently been a solid performer in Grand Slams.
Qualifier Jennifer Brady and veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni setup a storybook round of 16 match. Brady upset Elena Vesnina 7-6 6-2 for her sixth straight victory in Melbourne. Lucic-Baroni, who was a competitive player back in the late 1990’s, posted her best ever result in Melbourne by defeating Maria Sakkari in three sets 3-6 6-2 6-3. Either the young American or the veteran Croat is going to be a Grand Slam quarterfinalist having survived tough battles.
Karolina Pliskova was made to work against Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian took the first set, got bageled in the second, but instead of fading, forced Pliskova into overtime, the #5 seed finally winning 10-8 in the third set, as Ostapenko’s upset bid was finally halted.
Daria Gavrilova won a narrow three setter 6-3 5-7 6-4 over Timea Bacsinszky. Dasha has now reached the fourth round for the second straight year, despite Bacsinszky’s best efforts. Serena Williams and Barbora Strycova setup a round of 16 match with straight set victories. Nicole Gibbs was easily dispatched by a somewhat shaky Serena in straight sets, while Caroline Garcia was Strycova’s victim.
Raonic, Monfils, and Thiem Round out Men’s Round of 16
Milos Raonic dropped a set, but Gilles Simon never really threatened him, as the Canadian, who continues to suffer from the Flu, got the job done on his serve and won in four sets, with a tiebreak victory mixed in. Gael Monfils didn’t drop a set against Philipp Kohlschreiber, as he simply had better movement, and more shotmaking against the steady veteran German.
Dominic Thiem had a complex match against Benoit Paire, Thiem experienced shoulder pain near the end of the match, but Paire was too sloppy to take advantage. The 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-4 win for Thiem was more complicated than it looked, and should have gone five sets, but Paire only converted 5 of 17 break point chances. Thiem’s serving was the biggest victim of his shoulder problems, and he’ll need to quickly recover if he’s going to win his round 4 match.
Raonic will face Roberto Bautista Agut in round 4, after Agut grinded past David Ferrer in four sets. The Spanish pair split tiebreaks, but RBA got the two breaks to take two sets when he needed them, playing just slightly better than Ferrer. David Goffin eased past a tired Ivo Karlovic in straight sets, as Karlovic was abysmal on return. Richard Gasquet also played much worse than expected, as Grigor Dimitrov made quick work of him in a straight set victory.
Miracle worker Denis Istomin kept on rolling, winning in five sets against Pablo Carreno Busta. Istomin didn’t let dropping the fourth set bother him, as his superior ball striking won him the match in the fifth set 6-4 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-2.