26/05/2024

Ash Barty cruised through to the quarter finals of the Australian Open. Photo: Tennis Australia www.tennis.com.au

Ash Barty closed out the fourth round of the Australian Open with a dominating victory, flying the Aussie flag into the quarter-finals.

The Inner Sanctum has recapped the 16 singles matches played in the last round of action.

DAY 7

Men’s

In the only five-setter of the fourth round, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev came back from two sets down to defeat 20-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Dubbed Russia’s ‘secret weapon’, Karatsev has fought all the way through Australian Open qualifiers in Doha to make the first Grand Slam of his career, and will now advance to the quarter-finals. He is the first qualifier to make the quarter-final of a Slam since Bernard Tomic in 2011, and the first debutant to achieve the feat in 25 years.

Standing in his way will be Grigor Dimitrov, who produced the upset of the round, comprehensively defeating 3rd seed Dominic Thiem in straight sets. The Bulgarian has enjoyed career-best performances down under and will advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the fourth time. The first-ever meeting with Aslan Karatsev awaits the crowd favorite.

Grigor Dimitrov stunned Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.
Photo: ATP Tour www.atptour.com

6th seed Alexander Zverev got broken early by Dusan Lajovic before assuming control of the contest. The German won through in straight sets but will face the toughest task in tennis –  Novak Djokovic – in the next round.

After defeating Canadian Milos Raonic in four sets, yet, questions remain about Djokovic’s apparent injury. The Serbian superstar has been known to call medical timeouts at important moments in matches but insists his injury is real and refuses to disclose what is bothering him.

A matchup with the talented Zverev will be a serious test for the 1st seed if he is indeed not 100 percent fit.

Women’s

35-year-old Su-Wei Hsieh started the fourth round with a bang, defeating 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets. In her tenth Australian Open, the 71st ranked player on the circuit will be competing as the oldest first-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist and will take great confidence from having beaten her opponent, Naomi Osaka, at the Australian Open previously.

It took Osaka three sets and several heart-stopping moments but she survived one of the matches of the tournament against last year’s runner-up Garbine Muguruza. Down a break and match points in the third set, the 3rd seed pulled her best tennis out when she needed it and now faces Hsieh in an enthralling quarter-final contest.

In a match between the two biggest hitters on the women’s tour, it was Serena Williams who pulled out a classic win against rising star Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian was the form player coming into the Australian Open, and it took the American’s best tennis to prevail in the deciding set.

Simona Halep booked a blockbuster matchup with Williams after overcoming 15th seed Iga Swiatek in similar circumstances. The Romanian 2nd seed was down a set against the teenager but was able to draw on all her big-game experience to pull out the victory over the reigning French Open champion and continue her search for a maiden title at the Australian Open.

DAY 8

Men’s

Daniil Medvedev cruised past American Mackenzie McDonald and into slight favoritism for the Australian Open title. The Russian 4th seed is in the best form of his career and has been encountering few problems on his preferred surface so far.

Andrey Rublev set up a mouth-watering all-Russian encounter after Casper Ruud retired at the conclusion of the second set due to an abdominal strain.

It is a maiden Australian Open quarter-final for the young gun 7th seed, who will need to defeat Medvedev for the first time to progress.

In the final quarter of the draw, Rafael Nadal dispatched of the eccentric Fabio Fognini. Fognini troubled the Spaniard for periods of the match, but the Spanish superstar never let the Italian get a sniff, coming back from a 4-2 deficit in the second set to close the match out in straight sets.

The 2nd seed now turns his attention to a fresh Stefanos Tsitisipas who progressed to the quarter-finals after Italian Matteo Berrettini pulled out before their fourth-round clash. The Italian 9th seed also suffered an abdominal strain in the third set of his hard-fought win over Karen Khachanov and was unable to recover in time, meaning the 5th seeded Tsitsipas will face Nadal well rested.

Women’s

Coming into the first Grand Slam of the year ranked 61st in the world, Jessica Pegula played her best tennis to upset 5th seed Elina Svitolina in three entertaining sets.

The 26-year-old had never made it past the first round in Australia, but will now face countrywoman Jennifer Brady for a semi-final berth.

Ensuring there would be three women representing America in the quarter-finals, Brady closed out 28th seed Donna Vekic in straight sets.

The second-ranked American woman has looked dangerous in the tournament so far and will fancy her chances against her inexperienced countrywoman Pegula in the quarter-final.

Karolina Muchova continued her giant-killing run, prevailing over Belgian 18th seed Elise Mertens to book her place in her second quarter-final of a Grand Slam. It took seven games in both sets for the Czech 25th seed to upset Mertens.

In the final match of the fourth round, It was world number 1 Ash Barty who delivered a sensational performance, easily accounting for American Shelby Rogers in an hour and eleven minutes.

The Australian found her best form, dictating points with her serve and slice backhand, running Rogers all over the court. The 1st seed advanced to her third consecutive quarter-final appearance and will now take on Muchova for a place in the semi-finals.

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