The women’s draw at this year Australian Open has suddenly become very open with fourth-round defeats for World No. 2 Angelique Kerber and World No. 5 Sloane Stephens.
Ahead of the remaining fourth round ties, the quarterfinal lineup so far is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Danielle Collins and Petra Kvitova (8th seed) v Ash Barty (15).
Seeds will tumble further out of Melbourne in the other fourth round ties, with Simona Halep (1) v Serena Williams (16) and Garbine Muguruza (18) v Karolina Pliskova (7), Naomi Osaka (4) v Anastasija Sevastova (13) and Madison Keys (17) v Elina Svitolina (6).
It would not be a surprise to see a new Slam winner despite 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka being in the fourth round. No woman has won consecutive Slams since Serena Williams in 2015. The only two players left in the draw with experience of lifting the trophy in Melbourne is Williams.
Shock defeats for Stephens and Kerber
One semifinalist will be either the World No. 42 or World No. 35 after shock triumphs for Pavlyuchenkova and Collins.
The Russian secured an impressive win over World No.5 Stephens despite losing the opening set in a tiebreak, eventually prevailing 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3.
She advanced into her second Melbourne quarterfinal in three years, confirming her victory at 2am local time. After beating World No.9 Kiki Bertens and Aliaksandra Sasnovich in previous rounds, Pavlyuchenko is aiming for her first Slam semifinal.
Collins surprisingly found it easier as she blasted her way past Kerber, winning 6-0 6-2 in under an hour. The American has had an impressive run to this point despite having never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament. She has seen off No. 14 Julia Goerges in the first round and No. 19 Caroline Garcia in the third.
Barty’s impressive run
Ashleigh Barty triumphed in a thriller with Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 to reach her maiden Slam quarterfinal.
Home favourite Barty faces a tough test against two-time Slam champion Petra Kvitova but will have plenty of support. The Australians have waited long time for a run like this, Barty becoming the first Australian women for 10 years to reach this stage.
The 22-year-old has had a different route to this position than expected due to swapping a tennis racquet for a cricket bat. She took a break from the circuit to compete in the Women’s Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat. After 18 months away, Barty had rediscovered her love for tennis and returned to the Tour.
Can Osaka win back to back Slams?
There could have been another shock in the fourth round as Osaka was two games from defeat against Su-Wei Hsieh. However, she produced a stirring comeback to prevail 5-7 6-6 6-1 to set up a meeting with Sevastova. These two players faced off as recently as in Brisbane, with Osaka winning after losing the first set.
The Japanese star has should be confident though as she looks to win another Major and highlight the burgeoning career ahead of her.
The women’s draw looks like one to keep a watchful eye on and will surely see further thrilling matches in the second week.