Top seeds packed off
The round 4 matches at the Australian Open got under-way at the Melbourne Park. The Fab 2, Andy and Federer, face contrasting opponents. While Andy faces unseeded German Mischa Zverev, who is the elder brother of Alexander Zverev (he lost to Nadal yesterday), Federer takes on fifth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan.
However, Andy Murray’s dream of a maiden Australian Open title took a blow as the Scott was beaten by world number 50 Mischa Zverev 5-7,7-5,2-6,4-6 on the Rod Lever Arena to crash out of the Open. The world number 1 lost serve eight times in the match and it was the Scott’s earliest defeat in Melbourne since 2009 and the lowest ranked player he has lost to at a Grand Slam since the 2006 Australian Open. The first set was closely fought with Murray holding on to a 4-1 lead, but the German pulled one back in the fifth and ninth game to take the set 7-5. Though under constant pressure, Murray found his rhythm in the second set and tied the match one set all. But midway from the third set, Zverev was in command and reeled off five straight games to take a 2 set to 1 lead and with a break in the fourth set, closed out the match in 3 hrs 30 minutes. It was a missed opportunity for Murray to land his first Australian Open crown as his arch rival Novak Djokovic was a surprise looser in round 2.
Federer is meeting Kei Nishikori for the 23rd time. with Federer way ahead at 17-5. Nishikori started strongly to race to a 5-2 lead, breaking Federer twice. When serving for the set, Nishikori was affected by nerves and lost his serve of his own twice, allowing Federer to come back. Both held serves to take the set to a tie breaker where Nishikori came through 7-4. The revival by Federer created the momentum needed and continued his rich vein of form into the second set, breaking Nishikori to go 4-3. He served out the second set to tie the score one set all. Three breaks in the third, fifth and seventh game ensured the third set for Federer in 26 minutes. With 60% of first service in and 8 winners, the Swiss floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee at crucial times. After a short bathroom break, Federer started with an ace and ended the game with an ace. In game two, the frustrated Nishikori flung his racquet angrily after committing his fourth double point. After a long drawn fourth game, Nishikori breaks Federer’s serve to lead 3-2 and starts to dictate terms with Federer. Nishikori was showing sign of discomfort, often massaging his abdomen. He holds serve to tie the score 2 sets all to push the match to the fifth set. Federer’s record in winning 5 setters stands at 56.41% (22-17) till date. Can he win for the 23rd time is the question?
Nishikori calls for a medical time out and a physio massages his back to relieve the pain. Federer holds serve in the opening game of the fifth set. Nishikori is determined to stop Federer from running away with the match. Federer gets an early break, forcing Nishikori to hit a backhand into the net. A second medical time out was called for at the end of game 3 and it took almost 6 minutes to start game 4. Nishikori’s mobility was restricted and Federer took advantage and bombarded with forehand and backhand winners. The Japanese warrior hung on grimly to hold serve in game 6. However, it was Federer’s day and he closed the match in 3 hrs 22 minutes and through to the quarter finals for the 49th time in all Slams. Federer had 24 aces and 83 winners to his credit and now gives himself a chance to win a record 18th Grand Slam title.
In other important matches, fourth seed Stan Wawrinka and twelfth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga make their way to the quarters with comprehensive victories. While Stan got the better of Andreas Seppi in 3 tight sets, Tsonga stopped the giant killing run of Daniel Evans. The women’s event saw Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza moving to the quarter finals in style. It was a mixed day for Indians as Leander Paes won his first round mixed doubles match partnering Martina Hingis. However, Sania Mirza and her Czech partner Barbora Strycova lost a close match to Japan’s Hozumi and Kato. In the junior girl’s singles first round, Mihika Yadav was a surprise winner against Ali Collins of Great Britain. At the time of writing this post, world number 1 Angelique Kerber is on her way out. The talented German did not find her bearings in the straight set loss to CoCoVandeweghe of USA losing 2-6,3-6 in round 4 and giving an opening to Serena to regain her top ranking. Serena can overtake Kerber if she wins the Australian Open.