Australian Open 2013 Issue 10: 23 January

January 22, 2013 · Print This Article

by: Tom Cochrane

David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro treated the crowd on Rod Laver Arena to an enthralling battle on Day 9, the two Spaniards going toe-to-toe for 5 gruelling sets before the fourth seeded Ferrer finally prevailed.

Day 9 Recap

Early on it appeared as if tenth seed Almagro would record his first career win over his compatriot, the man from Murcia striking his one-handed backhand brilliantly to take a commanding 2 sets to love lead. Ferrer was battling just to stay in the contest, but Almagro, in sight of his first ever Grand Slam semi-final, tightened up significantly and starting pressing for the victory. Three times Almagro served for the match, but Ferrer was not to be denied, winning the fifth set 6-2 as Almagro’s body started to break down in the heat.

Ferrer will now face world number one Novak Djokovic for a place in Sunday’s final after the Serb defeated Tomas Berdych in the evening session on Day 9. The top seed, hoping to avoid a repeat of his marathon match against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round, raced out of the blocks against Berdych, dropping just one game in the opening set. Berdych hit back to claim the second set, but the Serb was generally in control of the match, eventually claiming a 4 set win over the Czech star.

In the women’s quarter-finals on Day 9, sixth seed Li Na is now just one win away from a return to the Australian Open final after upsetting in-form Pole Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 6-3. The Chinese superstar, who reached the 2011 final at Melbourne Park, come out on top in a hard-fought first set before recovering from an early deficit in the second set to take the win.

Maria Sharapova will be Li Na’s semi-final opponent, after the Russian again thrilled her many fans with a clinical 6-2 6-2 demolition of fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova. Makarova upset Serena Williams in Melbourne last year, but there was no fairytale win this year, with Sharapova far too good in all departments.

Matches of the Day – Day 10

1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

They might not be saying anything to the press, but there’s no doubt both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka are gearing up for a blockbuster semi-final against one another. To my mind, they are the best two players in the women’s game right now, but each of them needs to get past a tough quarter-final opponent before the dream semi-final becomes a reality.

Svetlana Kuznetsova’s career seemed done and dusted last year, but the dual Grand Slam champion has shown during this tournament that she is far from a spent force on the WTA Tour. The Russian is moving well, and as Azarenka noted herself, Kuznetsova looks more relaxed and refreshed on the court than she has in the past few years. I think Azarenka will take this one but I expect Kuznetsova to make the top seed fully earn the victory. Azarenka in 2.

2. Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens

Riding a 20 match winning streak that includes a recent win over Sloane Stephens at the Brisbane International, Serena Williams has to be a red-hot favourite going into this clash. Williams has helped Stephens a lot in the twenty-ninth seed’s career-to-date, but as Williams stated, the term “mentor” is not really appropriate when you are still competing against your protegee.

Stephens is a good mover and ball-striker, and plays her tennis with a whole heap of enthusiasm and competitiveness. She’s unquestionably one of the rising stars in the women’s game, but I don’t think she’s quite at the stage where she can truly compete with the great Serena Williams. The match against Williams in Brisbane will probably aid Stephens in some ways, but on the big stage I think Williams will be too good for her fellow American. Williams in 2.

3. Jeremy Chardy vs. Andy Murray

Twenty-five year old Jeremy Chardy has taken down a couple of seeds en route to his first Grand Slam quarter-final and the Frenchman has absolutely nothing to lose in this match against two-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray. Chardy has to be given some sort of chance against Murray after upsetting the US Open champion on hard-courts in Cincinnati last year.

That win over Murray was a fine one indeed, but it did come in between Murray’s gold medal triumph at the Olympics and his maiden Grand Slam win at Flushing Meadows. In other words, I’m not sure how focused Murray was on winning the tournament in Cincinnati last year.

Chardy will be going for his shots against the third seed, and if the Frenchman runs hot Murray could struggle, in the same way that Djokovic suffered against a red-lining Wawrinka in the fourth round. But that’s a big if, especially over 5 sets, and the probabilities suggest a fairly routine victory for the Scotsman. Murray in 3.

4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Roger Federer

Does Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have the ability to beat Roger Federer in this high-profile night clash? Most definitely, especially with the words of wisdom that are now being channelled into the Tsonga mindset courtesy of renowned Austalian coach Roger Rasheed.

The Frenchman has taken down all of the big names at one time or another, including Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer himself, but at the most important stages of the biggest matches, Tsonga is prone to poor shot selection, bad decision-making and generally erratic play. To my mind, that’s probably the only thing that separates him from the Big Four.

After taking an extended break leading into the Australian Open, I was unsure as to what Federer’s form would be like at Melbourne Park. But the Swiss star knows his game inside out and has been in scintillating touch to date, taking down young guns Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic without so much as losing a set. In this vein of form, I like Federer’s chances of weathering anything that the flamboyant Tsonga throws at him. Federer in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.

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