The 4th round at the 2022 Australian Open is in the books. I can’t remember two polar opposite days like this. Sunday was one of the most lacklustre last 16 days. Monday was an absolute thriller! The quarter-final line-up is a nice mix of favourites and stories. Read on for highlights from days 7 and 8 in Melbourne.
4th round stories
I can’t help but reminiscence about last year’s middle Sunday at the AO which was one of the best tennis days of the entire 2021 season. There’s no sugar coating it – this year’s Sunday matches, while intriguing on paper, were all damp squibs. And that’s OK, it happens sometimes. The Rod Laver Arena schedule opened with a ding ding ding, first time meeting between last week’s tournament champs. The Adelaide champion, Madison Keys ousted the number eight seed Paula Badosa, 6-3 6-1. I think the scoreline was almost flattering to Badosa. This wasn’t even kind of close!
Keys played a great match. The serve has always been a weapon but she’s really hitting her spots right now. Even when she doesn’t hit the ace, it’s setting her up for the next point to take control of the rally. The backhand was good too which is often the shot that lets Keys down. Unfortunately it wasn’t Badosa’s day. Ten double faults and the serve fell to pieces in the second set. Definitely a sense that all the matches, the heat, it all caught up to Badosa. Playing Keys for the first time, Badosa wasn’t able to adapt to the weight of shot coming at her.
Next up on Rod Laver Arena was another clinic from the number four seed, Barbora Krejcikova who eased past the number 24 seed, Victoria Azarenka, 6-2 6-2. I was surprised that Azarenka went into this match as the favourite with the bookies. Krejcikova was supreme again, moving the ball around the court with effortless ease. Azarenka had the trainer on in the second set for a neck injury. Krejcikova is now 75% of her way to the sweep of Slam singles quarter-finals. I’m running out of superlatives for the Krej.
The third match of the day was another “upset” with the bookies as Jessica Pegula made it back-to-back Australian Open quarter-finals by beating the number five seed, Maria Sakkari, 7-6(0) 6-3. I haven’t seen much of Pegula so far this year. I think it’s safe to say that this was her best display of 2022 so far. Sakkari was flat from the start and she spoke in press about struggling with the faster conditions. Sakkari did get back on level terms in the first set when she broke back Pegula serving for the opener. In the ensuing tiebreak, Sakkari didn’t show up at all and got tiebageled. Never really a sense in the second set that a comeback was on the cards. All the net cords went Pegula’s way too so it just wasn’t Sakkari’s day.
In Sunday’s showcase match between two players unbeaten in 2022, it was the number one seed Ash Barty who overcame Amanda Anisimova, 6-4 6-3. The first set was tense. Anisimova had two break points but sent returns long on Barty second serves. Barty sealed the lone break as she twice forced Anisimova out wide before sending gorgeous floating backhand slices into the open court.
Barty’s incredible service game streak ended at 63. I’m kind of glad it ended as it was becoming a thing. After Anisimova secured the break, Barty noticeably upped her level, breaking straight back and easing through the final few games as Anisimova’s game rather unravelled. By no means vintage Barty but as ever, she handled a dangerous opponent in professional fashion. A fantastic few weeks for Anisimova. Everything crossed she can use this as the springboard for the rest of the season.
In complete contrast to Sunday, Monday’s matches were bloody awesome. All four matches went three sets and i’m still catching up. Monday’s OOP began with the number 27 seed, Danielle Collins beating the number 19 seed Elise Mertens, 4-6 6-4 6-4. I haven’t watched back the match yet but the result didn’t surprise me.
The number seven seed Iga Swiatek held off a fierce charge by Sorana Cirstea to prevail, 5-7 6-3 6-3. Swiatek came out on top in two lengthy games up 3-2 in the second set and down 1-2 in the third set which ultimately seemed to decide the course of each set. Cirstea fell away at the very end having played a pretty awesome match. Swiatek survived the onslaught to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the first time in her career. Swiatek was in tears at the end and this felt like a big win for Iga. Achievement unlocked.
The last match of the round was an absolute belter as Kaia Kanepi completed her set of Slam quarter-finals, beating the number two seed Aryna Sabalenka, 5-7 6-2 7-6(7).
The third set was an absolute clusterfcuk and I loved every second of it 😂😂😂. The first set was actually high quality which is somewhat of a rarity when two big hitters collide. Sabalenka squeaked out a break at the end of the opening set but as her first serve percentage dropped, Kanepi took control of the match as she won the second set and front-ran the decider.
The end of the third set… it was a battle between Sabalenka’s serve and Kanepi’s nerve. Sabalenka was broken at *4-4 with three double faults. Kanepi missed four match points at *5-4. Sabalenka held serve at *5-5 in barely over a minute. Kanepi calmly held to force the third set tiebreak. To and fro and edge of your set tennis. Of course Kanepi celebrated the win at 8-7, forgetting about the extended tiebreak 👀. Thankfully that premature celebration didn’t come back to bite as Kanepi sealed a famous win on the next point.
Sabalenka looked crushed at the end. Another tough loss at a Slam but seriously, I bow down to Sabalenka. To go out there with the yips on the serve and battle like she did was admirable.
Best match 🎆
Stories like these is what makes this sport so special. In her 63rd Slam, Alizé Cornet has broken new ground and reached her first ever Slam quarter-final. In a bruising match played in the heat of the sun, Cornet won a slugfest to beat the number 14 seed, Simona Halep, 6-4 3-6 6-4.
This match was very different to my two other favourite matches this tournament, Osaka-Anisimova and Collins-Tauson, but I loved it just as much. Both players were struggling in the heat. The third set though was the best of the lot and both players were giving their absolute all to the contest. There were so many long, drawn-out rallies and every point was a battle.
I was very surprised to see the head-to-head in favour of Cornet who has now won four of their five meetings (note – one of those wins by retirement). I’m still kind of stunned that Cornet won this match having lost 16 straight points in what was a bit of a collapse at the end of the second set. Such an impressive reset. And then having worked so hard to get into a winning position in the third set, to then see two match points disappear. Both saves were clutch from Halep. The strength and character then to serve it out having fallen at this hurdle five times before and from two match points up at the Australian Open in 2009! Goosebumps.
Funny moment 🤣
When Jim Courier tells Ash that she’s already played Pegula before 😂. Side note – interesting that Barty was clearly watching some of the Pegula-Sakkari match.
Super snap 📸
Press highlights 📰
Loved Madison Keys’s press conference. She’s a gem. Madison is very open about the struggles of last year and her mindset for 2022. Jessica Pegula is always a good listen in press too. She acknowledged the second year syndrome and interesting remark about almost wishing she hadn’t done so well during the year with so many points to defend. Pegula also talked about being pumped up from watching Osaka-Anisimova and Collins-Tauson .
Recommended media 📺
Highlight of the tournament so far 😭. Jelena Dokic is doing a great job with these on-court interviews and this was one of the best.
R4 stats: 3/8 on TDC
R4 highlights: Barty and Krejcikova in the top half. Swiatek in the bottom half remaining. Anyone with more than three correct predictions at this stage has done really well!
QF Previews 🤔
(1) Ash Barty vs. (21) Jessica Pegula: I do think Pegula’s game, at its best, can cause Barty some problems. After watching Pegula-Sakkari, I’m not convinced Pegula’s level is where it needs to be for Barty but she’s improving with each match and can go out swinging against the world #1. Sticking with Barty.
(4) Barbora Krejcikova vs. Madison Keys: Ding ding ding, a first time meeting! Most intriguing of the four QFs IMO. I think the keys for Keys are to be aggressive and get that first strike in quickly before Krejcikova can start building the point and doing her thing. It’s a head says Krejcikova, heart says Keys sitch. I’d love to see Madison win this.
(27) Danielle Collins vs. Alizé Cornet: Hysterical that Keys mentioned this match-up in press on Sunday and now it’s happening! I’ve noticed before when a player breaks through a barrier like Cornet did, they often get through the next one immediately… but I do tend to think Collins has the weapons to hit through Cornet.
(7) Iga Swiatek vs. Kaia Kanepi: Kanepi has the game to blast Swiatek off the court. I feel the longer this goes, the more confident I am about Swiatek’s chances. The last 16 win over Cirstea felt like a big moment so i’m sticking with Swiatek.