American Coco Vandeweghe pulled off the biggest win of her career, defeating world #1 Angelique Kerber in just over an hour 6-2 6-3. Kerber played a miserable match, struggling on serve and posting just seven winners as Vandeweghe secured two breaks in each set to take the match, being broken just one time (early in the second set) herself. Vandeweghe showed no signs of stress, or nerves, as she was confident in her comprehensive victory to reach the quarterfinals for the second time in her Grand Slam career.
Early in the day, Mischa Zverev earned the biggest win of his career, defeating world #1 Andy Murray 7-5 5-7 6-2 6-4 with family watching on. Zverev had never made the second week of a Grand Slam before, but he played like he’d been there many times before. The German’s serve and volleying flummoxed Murray, who was glued to the baseline at times. Zverev served well, and his whippy forehand threw Murray’s timing and anticipation off. Earlier in the tournament, Novak Djokovic lost because his normally elite returning was off, and Murray suffered the same fate. Zverev won well over half of his service points and broke Murray eight times, while he was broken just five times himself. Murray at times seemed lulled into bland baseline rallies, without aiming to hit outright winners. When Zverev got to net, Murray was at times forced to try for superhuman passing shots, that are hard to repeat time and time again.
It was a close match, but it just felt like Murray never got going, or was in an advantageous position against Zverev. Murray served for the first set, but dropped it, and late in the match he faded. After he went down a break in the fourth, Zverev locked down his serve, facing no break points in the final set of the match. Murray was left looking for answers, while Zverev is a new Grand Slam quarterfinalist, playing a serve and volley style of tennis that has been mostly absent from the pro game in the past decade.
Murray will remain the world #1 by virtue of Djokovic’s round 2 loss, but he not only failed to capture a fourth Grand Slam when the opportunity was ripe for the taking, he also missed the chance to gain a significant ranking points lead against Djokovic in the ATP standings. Both the world #1 and world #2 ran into determined opponents in Melbourne, who didn’t buckle on key points, and believed in themselves. By contrast, the game’s two elite players were simply not playing elite tennis for the duration of their losses.
Wawrinka and Federer Claim Victories
Swiss tennis fans can relish in Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer’s continued success. Wawrinka had a close match with Andreas Seppi, but Seppi didn’t really threaten him. In the end, just eleven points total decided the match, as Wawrinka prevailed in three tiebreaks 7-6 7-6 7-6. Murray and Djokovic’s losses creates the opportunity for Wawrinka to stunningly capture a fourth Grand Slam, something few could have expected at the start of the tournament.
Federer played two shaky sets against Kei Nishikori, but came out the victor in five sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3, as Nishikori again came up short against a seasoned campaigner in a crucial grand slam match. Federer was misfiring early, and was down 5-1 in the opening set. He went on to reel off five striaght games and force an opening set tiebreak, but finally Nishikori got a set point chance and took it. Sets two and three saw Federer continue his momentum from late in the first set. The Swiss was unbroken, while he broke the Japanese number 1 four times in total, to secure a 2 sets to 1 lead. Nishikori deserves credit for buckling down though, he saved two break points early in the fourth, broke in the next game, and then held onto what had been a shaky serve most of the match to force a fifth set.
Federer’s pressure on Nishikori’s serve finally won him the match in set 5 though, at 35 Federer still looked fit in the 4th, and he generated break points in two of Kei’s service games, an early break was enough for Federer to power through in the end, dropping just one point on serve his last two service games.
Joining Federer in the quarterfinals is former AO finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman recovered from dropping the first set against Dan Evans to win 6-7 6-2 6-4 6-4, as Evans faded after the first set and looked tired by the end of the match. Tsonga’s serve left Evans frustrated, and allowed Tsonga to dictate the tenor of the contest.
Venus Williams Reaches Quarterfinals
Venus Williams got off to a good start, and stayed in control against Mona Barthel, defeating the qualifier 6-3 7-5, and avoiding being draw into a lengthy battle. Venus has preserved her body and is playing great this tournament, with her experience, she remains a threat to anyone in the draw.
Joining Venus in the quarters are Ana Pavlyuchenkova, who dominated countryman Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-3, and Spanish hope Garbine Muguruza, who was a bad matchup for Sorana Cirstea, and won easily 6-2 6-3.
On day 8, the remaining quarterfinal spots will be decided, as we get to the money end of the tournament.