Well… the 2020 Australian Open was reasonably calm through the first four days. On the fifth day, carnage ensued! We had a high-profile retirement with Caroline Wozniacki’s last match and a huge upset on Rod Laver Arena as Wang Qiang knocked out the favourite, Serena Williams. There were other notable results as well which left me feeling overwhelmed this morning trying to make sense of everything. Read on as I try to recap the madness of Freaky Friday, what will surely go down as one of the most impactful Slam days in recent years.
Top stories 📚
1. Wozniacki’s last match
Caroline Wozniacki’s career came to a close on Friday as Ons Jabeur won a nailbiter on the Melbourne Arena, 7-5 3-6 7-5. It was a classic Woz match to end her career. Jabeur felt like the better player for most of the third set but Wozniacki kept battling, pushing the match deeper and deeper. In the end, it was a superb win for Jabeur who has broken new ground to reach the last 16 of a Slam for the first time in her career.
They had a nice ceremony on court to celebrate Wozniacki’s career as Chanda Rubin conducted the interview. Her family came out on court, her dad picked her up and then they played Sweet Caroline which gave me goosebumps. To see the outpouring of support and love from fellow WTA players on social media has been😭😭😭 . Go and watch Caroline’s Instagram Stories to see all the messages!
2. Celebrating Caroline’s career
I always admired Wozniacki’s commitment to the tour, playing week in, week out. She always gave it her all and was an absolute fighter out on court. I think she was one of the best closers on tour. She’ll always be known for her battling qualities and getting ball after ball after ball back in play but I feel her improvements over the past since reaching world number one for the first time were underrated .The forehand, which she joked about in her post-match interview, has improved, the serve has become a weapon and she has been more willing to come forward and finish at the net!
This feels like such a big deal because i’ve followed most of Wozniacki’s career since as I started watching women’s tennis around 2007. My favourite personal moments include watching Wozniacki during my first ever trip to Eastbourne in 2010. I remember that Wozniacki was one of my favourite players back then (along with Jankovic and Clijsters). While she sadly lost in three sets to Aravane Rezai, I was so excited to see her live for the first time!
Other memories including watching Wozniacki save match points and come from 1-5 down to beat Jana Fett the year she went and won the Australian Open and getting to ask a question to Woz in press in Eastbourne in 2017. Wishing you all the best for your post-tennis life, Caroline! Thanks for all the memories 🙂.
Wow. So as you’ll tell by my dismissive prediction on the day 4 review, I didn’t give Wang Qiang much hope against Serena. However, Wang Qiang proved me, and I think many others wrong, with the performance of her career to knock out the favourite, Serena Williams, 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes. Taking a step back from the upset, this was a fabulous match! So many quality rallies, so much intensity, so much drama and the crowd were totally hooked. My favourite match of the year so far.
The most impressive aspect of Wang Qiang’s performance was her court positioning. She spent most of the match on or inside the baseline. You could see it in her eyes and demeanour in the first set that she meant business and she believed in herself. She served tremendously well, particularly in the key moments. Wang Qiang served for the match at *5-4 in the second set but Serena played a mean return game, breaking on a 24-shot rally with a lethal cross-court forehand, and arguably the point of the match. Serena then went onto win the tiebreak and force a decider.
Wang Qiang didn’t do a lot wrong in the second set but for her to reset having been so close to victory was surprising. The final set was just great. Even on catch-up and knowing the result, I was on the edge of my seat! Serena started to serve better with more first serves in play towards the end of the match but she didn’t land enough returns in court to put pressure on the Wang Qiang serve. The Chinese player kept holding like a boss and then managed to break for the victory on her third match point.
4. Gauff’s best win, another favourite out!
The surprises kept on coming as Coco Gauff scored the biggest win of her career to knock out the defending champion, Naomi Osaka, 6-3 6-4. This was an odd match and Osaka never really got going. The Japanese player was error-strewn off the backhand and could barely put a return in court in the final game as Gauff served out the match with ease. It was a solid and steady display from Gauff, spearheaded by her improving serve.
5. Best of the rest
The higher ranked player won in four of the matches but they didn’t get much of a look in with the headlines on Friday!
(1) Ash Barty d. Elena Rybakina, 6-3 6-2 – Barty called it the best match of her summer so far as she eased past the in-form, Rybakina.
(7) Petra Kvitova d. (25) Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-1 6-2 – Kvitova snaped Alexandrova’s 12 match winning streak in dismissive fashion.
(14) Sofia Kenin d. Zhang Shuai, 7-5 7-6(7) – Kenin recovered breaks in both sets for a gutsy straight sets victory. Kenin is now the highest seed remaining in the second quarter of the draw!
(18) Alison Riske d. Julia Goerges, 1-6 7-6(4) 6-2 – Riske’s resurgence continues with her best ever result at the Australian Open.
Super stat 🔢
0-7 in third round matches at the Slams, Maria Sakkari FINALLY broke new ground at a Slam to reach the second week! In a first ever meeting, Sakkari beat the in-form, Madison Keys, 6-4 6-4. A superb win for Sakkari considering Keys had played a great match in the second round and had come into Melbs in form having reached the final of Brisbane.
I liked Jabeur going to give Wozniacki a hug after her post-match interview.
Press conference 📰
Serena’s press conference was fascinating. She was very hard on herself. I respect her honesty but I was disappointed she didn’t give Wang Qiang a bit more credit.
Recommended media 📺
I wish I could find a video for the entire Wozniacki post-match ceremony but here were my favourite bits where she was joined by her family on court and they played Sweet Caroline 😥.
R3 previews 🤔
Elina Svitolina vs. Garbiñe Muguruza: While not the most enjoyable match-up on tour, i’m fascinated to see how this one pans out. I haven’t seen Svitolina yet this tournament but she seems to have put that Brisbane opening loss behind her and is quietly sneaking through the draw. Muguruza has had to battle her way into the last 32 and played a really great match against Tomljanovic.
Svitolina leads the H2H, 6-4 but it’s worth noting that Svitolina owns Muguruza on a hard court and has won five of their six meetings. The only one Muguruza won was at Indian Wells which is practically a clay court! Definitely a shot for Muguruza with her general spark so far this year but i’ve written Svitolina off before in these occasions and I think the record on hard courts is key.
Belinda Bencic vs. Anett Kontaveit: I was gutted when Kontaveit pulled out of the US Open as these two were due to play each other. The draw gods were sad too as Bencic and Kontaveit are set to finally clash! Kontaveit is dangerous and is actually one of my favourite players on tour. It feels like another 50-50 clash for Bencic after a toughie against Ostapenko. Slightly leaning towards BB.
Donna Vekic vs. Iga Swiatek: Another first time meeting and should be a funky one between two different game styles. Both have impressed so far this week. Vekic beat Sharapova in the first round. Even with Sharapova’s lack of matches, it felt like a big moment for Vekic to win that one out on Rod Laver Arena. Swiatek hadn’t played since the US Open but is back in the swing of things quickly with straight set wins over Babos and Suárez Navarro. If I had to pick an upset from all the matches then i’d probably go for this one. Swiatek is one to watch this year.