2021 Australian Open, Day 8 Highlights: Barty vs. Muchova set for the QFs, Pegula’s best win

The last 16 at the 2021 Australian Open is now complete. Monday was a bit of a dull day compared to an exhilarating Sunday. I’m rejoicing at finally managing to sleep until 6am this morning 😂. Just two women’s singles matches a day now so already feeling on the home straight. Read on for my notebook from day 8 with thoughts on all four last 16 matches from the top half.

Day 8️⃣ Highlights

Jessica Pegula d. (5) Elina Svitolina, 6-4 3-6 6-3

Pegula has been quietly impressive over the past few years and it feels like everything is coming together for her at this year’s Australian Open. Before this tournament, Pegula had won just three main draw matches at the Slams. Now she’s into a first ever Slam quarter-final and she achieved it with the best win of her career over Elina Svitolina.

Pegula played a brilliant match. First set super, second set not so good as the errors flowed, third set back to the first set level. It was such controlled hitting and Pegula managed to push Svitolina back behind the baseline. I loved how she finished points at the net – Pegula won 21 of 29 points coming forward. Pegula’s best passage of play was early in the third set as she held her own in the extended rallies, finishing with a flurry of winners. While she was lost the early break, it was that third set surge that kept Pegula ahead in the scoreline and ultimately helped her to win the match. Pegula served out the match from 0-30. A really impressive hold as she continued to go after her shots.

It was another disappointing result for Svitolina who had been impressive in the first three rounds and was the highest seed remaining in her quarter. I thought she played an OK match. Unfortunately it was the same old story as Svitolina was outplayed by an in-form opponent and spent too much time behind the baseline.

(25) Karolina Muchova d. (18) Elise Mertens, 7-5 7-5

Muchova is becoming the comeback queen in sets at this tournament. Against Pliskova, she rallied from 0-5 down in the second set. Against Mertens, she came back from 0-4 down in the first set. It took Muchova time to find her range and Mertens was excellent at the start. The game point at 3-0 in the first set was a particular highlight as Mertens was scrambling all over the court before finding a wonderful lob to reset the point.

Mertens twice failed to serve out the first set at *5-2 and *5-4. A bit of a trend and I don’t think Mertens is the best of closers. I thought Mertens went into her shell and Muchova began to feel her forehand. Mertens faltered serving at *5-5 in the second set. Muchova, on the other hand, was a serving machine when she served out the match as she landed four first serves in play. Muchova has just been solid this tournament. I don’t think she’s peaked but she hasn’t dropped a set yet. My only concern going forward is that Muchova appeared to be holding her stomach/side and wincing in pain during the second set. Muchova pulled out of the Gippsland Trophy with an abdominal injury so fingers and toes crossed that she hasn’t reaggravated that injury.

(1) Ash Barty d. Shelby Rogers, 6-3 6-4

On the whole, this was Barty’s most convincing performance of the tournament. Just one wobble at the end as she appeared to lose her focus when serving out the match at 6-3 *5-2. Second time round there were no such problems. Barty was otherwise stellar on serve and played a near-perfect opening set as she saved the two break points she faced. I thought she neutralised Roger’s intent with the slice and generally was in control. Barty didn’t allow Rogers to play her game.

Barty plays Muchova in the next round and I am SO excited about this match! They are two of my favourite players 😃 .

(22) Jen Brady d. (28) Donna Vekic, 6-1 7-5

Gosh Jen Brady is playing well. This was the first full match i’ve watched and I thought she was absolutely clubbing the ball. Her gameplan seemed simple and effective, constantly trying to open up the court and land the first heavy strike in the rallies. Brady has danced through the draw up till now and I think it was good for her to be challenged in that second set. Brady had to serve with scoreboard pressure at *4-5 and she came through.

Vekic had her knee strapped which became mummified in the second set during a medical time-out. She was barely moving at the end. I guess this might explain Vekic’s tactics as she tried to bail out of many points with low margin shots, especially in the first set. For Brady, this is now back-to-back hard court Slam quarter-finals and she’s done it both times without dropping a set!

Best point  🎾

One to savour from yesterday in the Halep-Swiatek match.

Press conference 📰

We are not worthy with all this tremendous Su-Wei content.

Recommended media 📺

Loved this 😂.

Day 9 watchlist 📺

Simona Halep vs. Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka vs. Hsieh Su-Wei

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