The bottom half of the women’s draw will take centre stage on Monday with the final four fourth round matches to be played. This post covers the two matches from the third quarter of the draw including Victoria Azarenka against Barbora Strycova and Angelique Kerber playing Annika Beck.
1. Victoria Azarenka v Barbora Strycova (AO, R4)
The biggest upset on day 6 saw Barbora Strycova defeat the number three seed, Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-3 6-2. While it makes sense for Strycova to be a tricky opponent for the Spaniard, she hadn’t won a set in two previous encounters. Strycova has had an excellent week and took out a seed in the first round, beating Caroline Garcia, 6-2 6-4, in a match she was ALL over.
While I would have loved to see a first career match-up between Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka, I think that Strycova-Azarenka should be a fun one. Azarenka continued her absolute dominance in 2016 with a 6-1 6-1 victory over Naomi Osaka in the third round. Osaka has been one of my favourite things about this first month of 2016 and I think we will see plenty more of her during the next few months. For more about Osaka, check out the No Challenges Remaining Podcast episode 141d which included plenty of content from her first two press conferences.
Head-to-head record: As per the tweet above, Azarenka and Strycova will be playing each other for the third consecutive year at the Australian Open. Strycova hasn’t won a set in four previous encounters and furthermore, hasn’t won more than four games in any of the eight sets they have played. Azarenka won their last match in the third round of the Australian Open last year, 6-4 6-4.
Interesting stat about Azarenka: Azarenka has dropped just 22 games in 8 matches this year including just FIVE games in Melbourne.
Interesting stat about Strycova: Strycova will be competing in just her second fourth round Grand Slam match. Her only previous 4th rounder was at Wimbledon where she beat Wozniacki in 2014.
Analysis: Azarenka looks in great form and is speaking a super game in press too… It’s almost a little bit too perfect! I think it’s important to note that while she has been extremely dominant, Azarenka has only played three matches against top 50 players. I’d love to see how Azarenka copes with a little bit of pressure because she really hasn’t been tested yet this year. Strycova can certainly complicate matters and I enjoyed their match at the AO last year. I’m still going for Vika in 2 but I think a sharp Strycova would make this more of a challenge for Vika.
Prediction: Azarenka d. Strycova in 2 sets
2. Angelique Kerber v Annika Beck (AO, R4)
The 2016 Australian Open has been a superb tournament for the WTA Germans and in this fourth round match between Angelique Kerber and Annika Beck, it is confirmed that at least one will be in the last eight. Kerber’s had a dreamy draw and I couldn’t think of ANYONE who has deserved it more. Kerber’s draws at the Slams were rough last year with her last three losses coming at the third round stage to Garbiñe Muguruza (X2) and Victoria Azarenka.
Kerber was on the verge of defeat in her first match at this year’s Australian Open against Misaki Doi, staving off a match point and eventually scrambling back to win, 6-7(4) 7-6(6) 6-3. I was disappointed with how Kerber played in that match as she let Doi dictate for large portions of the match. However, she did so, so well to win it in the end and fight through a back injury. Since then, Kerber has rolled through the draw with straight set wins over Alexandra Dulgheru (6-2 6-4) and Madison Brengle (6-1 6-3).
Beck has had her best week at a Grand Slam, reaching the second week for the first time in her career. The 21-year-old has yet to drop a set this week; in fact, she hasn’t lost more than four games in any of the sets she has won. Beck’s toughest match of the week came in the second round against Timea Bacsinszky who wasn’t quite on her game as she continues to get over a knee injury that thwarted her off-season. While it’s been a favourable draw, full credit to Beck for taking her opportunity.
Head-to-head record: This will be a first career match-up between Kerber and Beck.
Interesting stat: While Beck is bidding for her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final, Kerber will be trying to complete the Grand Slam sweep of quarter-finals with the Australian Open the only one missing from her collection.
Analysis: Beck has been in decent form although she hasn’t come up against a player of Kerber’s calibre. While nerves could be an issue, particularly if Kerber sits back, I fancy the more experienced German player to reach the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Kerber d. Beck in 2 sets