Never write off the Bourne-GOAT… Ekaterina Makarova maintained her sensational record in Melbourne by reaching the second week for the seventh (!) consecutive year. In a bruising battle on Rod Laver Arena, Makarova beat the number six seed, Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3. And if you’re wondering why I keep calling Makarova the Bourne-GOAT then check out the tweet below.
Based on how the match progressed, i’m surprised that Cibulkova didn’t prevail considering how clutch she was in three setters last year. Makarova blew a 6-2 4-0* 40-30* (!) lead with a classic Cibulkova comeback looking on the cards as the Slovak player won the second set tiebreak to force a decider.
Cibulkova had her chances in the third set; she missed three break points at 3-3 and then wasted game points serving at *3-4. Cibulkova spoke in her press conference about the missed chances. It sounds like this match could stay in the memory for a while.
Next up for Makarova will be a repeat fourth rounder at the Australian Open against Johanna Konta. The pair played out an absorbing match last year with Konta winning, 8-6 in the third set. The Brit continued her serene progress through this year’s draw with a sensational 6-3 6-1 victory over Caroline Wozniacki, winning 10 of the last 11 games. The match had been shaping up nicely with Wozniacki’s defence and movement getting quite a few errors from Konta’s side.
From 2-3, Konta’s level went up a gear and Wozniacki just couldn’t match it, looking overwhelmed during most of the second set. I’ve written a lot about Konta’s serve but today it was the second serve that really shone as the Brit won 65% of points behind it. The poll was a really close one!
The fourth quarter has held up well with Serena Williams and Barbora Strycova advancing to a knock-out fourth rounder. Serena dropped four games against Nicole Gibbs, while Strycova produced another consistent display to beat Caroline Garcia for the sixth consecutive time, 6-2 7-5.
Strycova saved two set points from 3-5* 15-40* down in the second set and went on a 14 point winning streak to wrap up the win in straights. When I say save, unfortunately it was mostly a Garcia collapse. However, this was such a smart performance from Barbora who is into the second week of the Australian Open for the second year in a row.
In her press conference, Strycova was asked about how her game matches up against Serena – “I am so small” 😂
Omg this is hysterical. Barbora is just the best.
2017 Australian Open, 4th Round – Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (79) v Jennifer Brady (116)
Oh how I love you, tennis!
Lucic-Baroni fought back from a set down to beat Maria Sakkari, 3-6 6-2 6-3, while Brady knocked out the number 14 seed, Elena Vesnina, 7-6(4) 6-2.
In the doubles, I was delighted to see Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua beat the number five seeds, Martina Hingis and CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-2 7-5. Ones to watch out for in the draw for sure!
*Updated part of the post*
I was out for the day as Karolina Pliskova and Daria Gavrilova both survived three setters in an eventful night session. Pliskova was pushed to the brink by Jelena Ostapenko, eventually surviving, 4-6 6-0 10-8. Ostapenko twice failed to serve out the match from *5-2. This is still only the second time that Pliskova has reached the second week of a Slam so a big result. Surviving this test i’d guess will only make her stronger going forward. Gavrilova fended off a late charge from Timea Bacsinszky to confirm her 100% record against the Swiss player with a 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory in two hours and 35 minutes.
Rafa-Sascha was superb. I’ve always been big on Sascha – I am certain he’s a future star and will be top ten by the end of the year. I’m sure this match will be a momentous one in his career and he won’t want to experience that feeling again having struggled physically in the fifth set. Great win, Rafa.
Apologies for the lack of previews last night. It’s been a tough week what with my job, keeping up with matches and a lack of sleep. The weekend brings some respite and a chance to watch and write more tomorrow! Here are some quick takes on Sunday’s 4th round matches…
Angelique Kerber v CoCo Vandeweghe (2nd night match on Rod Laver Arena) – This is a really dangerous match-up for Kerber as Vandeweghe has been playing well in 2017 and has weapons that, on song, will take her to the victory. I wouldn’t write Kerber off just yet as Vandeweghe is not exactly reliable and I think Kerber will be fully aware of the challenge that the American presents and know that she’ll need to do more than she has done through her first three rounds. Kerber leads the head-to-head, 2-0 although their last match in Wuhan ended in a retirement for the American.
Garbiñe Muguruza v Sorana Cirstea (4th match on Margaret Court Arena) – All of Muguruza’s matches have had at least one close set but she’s been competing so much better than at any point in 2016 aside from perhaps the French Open. Cirstea played a great, great match against Riske and has that nothing to lose vibe as the underdog. I’m edging towards the Spaniard in a similar scoreline to her match against Sam Crawford in the second round.
Venus Williams v Mona Barthel (2nd match on Rod Laver Arena) – Loveee the sound of this match-up and the rallies we could get between two fine ball strikers. Barthel’s done brilliantly, but I do think that all the matches could catch up with her (as she kind of said in her post-match interview against Barty) against a player with so much experience like Venus. The American spent less than an hour on court against Duan so i’m guessing she’ll be OK for this one physically.
Svetlana Kuznetsova v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (1st match on Rod Laver Arena) – The only all-seeded match-up from the top half is definitely the toughest to call on paper. I wouldn’t read too much into Pavlyuchenkova’s straight set win in Sydney; Kuznetsova leads Pavlyuchenkova, 5-2 in their head-to-head and it’s been a wild match-up with no pattern in who prevails and quite a few one-sided results. I’m actually favouring Kuznetsova after the brutal match against Jankovic. I think coming through that one was huge and it will improve her focus going forward.
And finally, make sure to check out Grand Slam Gal for lots of brilliant photos from the first week of the Australian Open.