Serena outslugs Halep, Zverev implodes

  • Djokovic passes Medvedev test
  • Pliskova eases past Muguraza
  • Osaka sets up Svitolina clash
  • Nishikori survives Carreno Busta scare
- Agence France-Presse, MELBOURNE

Jan 22, 2019-

A fired-up Serena Williams slugged past world No 1 Simona Halep on Monday as she inches ever closer to a 24th Grand Slam title on a day that saw Alexander Zverev implode at the Australian Open.

In a towering performance, the American great scored her biggest win since giving birth to break down the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and move into a quarter-final against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova. Czech Pliskova is another form player easing past two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to set up the Williams clash. “I’m such a fighter, I never give up,” declared Williams after the epic encounter. “It was an intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here and I love this court, it’s really cool to be back.”

While Williams stayed cool, highly-rated German fourth seed Zverev lost the plot against Canadian Milos Raonic, crashing 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) and demolishing a racquet in a massive meltdown. Women’s fourth seed Naomi Osaka was more composed as she beat crafty Latvian Anastasija in three sets to set up a meeting with ambitious Ukrainian Elina Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals.

But it was the dominant Williams who overshadowed them all and is overwhelming favourite to win an eighth Australian title, with defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber already out. She has been in ominous form at Melbourne Park as she seeks one more major title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24, and it looked like French Open champion Halep would be another easy scalp after a first set rout.

But the nuggety Romanian isn’t world No 1 for nothing and she bounced back to set up a huge power struggle that Williams finally won with a break in the seventh game of the third set. “I really needed to elevate my game. She’s a great player,” said Williams.

Fourth seed Osaka emerged from an error-strewn first set against Sevastova to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. “I think the biggest thing for me is the belief. I think I believe in myself more this year than I have last year,” said the bubbly 21-year-old, who beat Williams in the US Open final last year. She next faces sixth seed Svitolina, who battled past American Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.

It will be a new experience for whoever wins that showdown, with neither going beyond the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park before. Svitolina needed to dig deep to overcome 17th seeded Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017.  Svitolina was a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year and has set her sights high after her breakthrough in Singapore, targeting a Grand Slam win and world No 1.

Earlier on Rod Laver Arena, Zverev self-destructed to slump out at the hands of Raonic. The German has routinely been anointed as the flag-bearer for the next generation, but again failed to live up to his reputation and has now missed out on making the last eight of a major 14 times in 15 attempts. So furious was he with his form, the 21-year-old had a major temper tantrum in the second set, whacking his racquet into the ground eight times to leave it a crumpled mess. “I just tried to stay composed and it worked out well for me today,” said cool 16th seed Raonic, who will now face Frenchman Lucas Pouille after he battled past Croat Borna Coric in four tough sets.

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic, dropped a set for the second match running but survived a tough examination by 15th seed Daniil Medvedev to reach quarter-finals. The World No 1, who won 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3, will play Japan’s eighth seed Kei Nishikori.

4th round results

Men’s Singles

M Raonic (CAN x16) bt A Zverev (GER x4) 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5); L Pouille (FRA x28) bt B Coric (CRO x11) 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7/2); K Nishikori (JPN x8) bt P Carreno-Busta (ESP x23) 6-7 (8/10), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 7-6 (10/8); N Djokovic (SRB x1) bt D Medvedev (RUS x15) 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3

Women’s Singles

N Osaka (JPN x4) bt A Sevastova (LAT x13) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; E Svitolina (UKR x6) bt M Keys (USA x17) 6-2, 1-6, 6-1; K Pliskova (CZE x7) bt G Muguruza (ESP x18) 6-3, 6-1; S Williams (USA x16) bt S Halep (ROM x1) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4

Published: 22-01-2019 08:14

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