Australian Open 2014 Day 10: Reviewing Wawrinka vs. Djokovic & Previewing Nadal vs. Dimitrov and Federer vs. Murray
January 21, 2014 · Print This Article
Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka delivered another classic on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night, delighting the crowd with another 5 set epic. However, unlike last year’s Melbourne Park thriller, which Djokovic won 12-10 in the fifth set, Wawrinka managed to upset his higher-ranked opponent this time around, taking the match 9-7 in the decider.
Day 9 Recap
After Djokovic came out all guns blazing in the first set, claiming it in 31 minutes thanks to a pair of service breaks, the eighth-seeded Wawrinka started to find his range, claiming the second set thanks to an early break. The Swiss star put himself in a familiar position by breezing through the third set, the third time that he has led Djokovic by that score in their last 3 Grand Slam meetings. But this time around, Wawrinka refused to surrender, rebounding from the loss of the fourth set and benefitting from serving first in the deciding set to pile the pressure on the defending champion.
Games went on serve in the final set until the sixteenth game, when a fatigued Djokovic pushed a crosscourt volley wide to hand the win to Wawrinka. As indicated by the statistics, it was a fiercely competitive match, with both players making the same number of unforced errors and Wawrinka having a slight advantage in terms of winners, hitting 51 to Djokovic’s 45.
Earlier in the day, Tomas Berdych won his first ever match on Rod Laver Arena and made it through to the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time, the seventh seed defeating third seed David Ferrer in 4 sets. The Czech star was dominant early, dropping the first set for the loss of just one game and then assuming a 2 sets to love lead. The ever-tenacious Ferrer hit back to claim the third set, but Berdych steadied the ship in the fourth set to claim his third win in his last 5 matches against Ferrer. The former Wimbledon finalist has now reached the final 4 at all of the Grand Slams, and will square off against Wawrinka for a spot in Sunday’s final.
In the women’s tournament, two-time finalist Li Na won the battle of the 31 year old veterans, dismissing Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-2 6-2 in just 67 minutes. The fourth-seeded Li has bounced back from her self-described “near-death experience” in the third round, where she was down match point to Lucie Safarova, with barnstorming performances in the round of 16 and quarter-finals. The Chinese star raced out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and was never troubled from there, the twenty-eighth seeded Pennetta managing just 17 points in the second set.
In order to make a third Australian Open final, Li will need to overcome Canada’s rising star Eugenie Bouchard, who scored a terrific fighting win over former world number one Ana Ivanovic. The Serb took the first set 7-5 after a run of 5 consecutive service breaks, but was hampered by right leg problems and was forced to take an injury timeout midway through the second set. Notwithstanding Ivanovic’s injury woes, Bouchard was the better player over the course of the match, the former junior Wimbledon champion controlling the majority of the rallies and finishing many of them with her punishing double-handed backhand. In the end, it was a 5-7 7-5 6-2 win for the 19 year old Bouchard, much to the delight of the “Genie Army” in the stands of Rod Laver Arena.
Matches of the Day – Day 10
1. Simona Halep vs. Dominika Cibulkova
Serena Williams might have been the best player on the WTA Tour in 2013, but Simona Halep was not far behind the legendary American, the Romanian capturing an astonishing 6 titles for the year and rightly being awarded the WTA Tour’s Most Improved Player for the year. Halep has started off 2014 much like she finished 2013, knocking out former world number one Jelena Jankovic en route to the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.
What the diminutive Dominika Cibulkova lacks in height she makes up for in aggression and tenacity – think of her as a female equivalent of David Ferrer – and the Slovak scored a tremendous upset win over Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. Cibulkova has now reached the quarter-finals of all 4 Grand Slams, and will be eager to make it through to her second major semi-final. However, I think Halep is the more consistent performer and will triumph in this encounter. Halep in 3.
2. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Victoria Azarenka
With Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams having been ousted from the tournament, Victoria Azarenka is the clear favourite to capture a third consecutive women’s singles title at Melbourne Park. The Belarusian loves playing Down Under and turned in a very good performance against Sloane Stephens in the previous round.
This will be a tough clash, however, as former Wimbledon finalist and fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska has the court coverage and consistency to annoy all of the best players on the WTA Tour. If Azarenka has her eye in, she should overpower Radwanska. If not, the Pole could cause some problems for the second seed. Azarenka in 3.
3. Rafael Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Rafael Nadal had a lot of things not go his way in his round of 16 clash with sixteenth seed Kei Nishikori – the Spaniard had an irritating blister on his hand, his opponent was striking the ball well, his knee appeared to bother him, and he received multiple time violations from umpire Eva Asderaki. Still, for all of that, Nadal showed the composure and the competitiveness that have made him a champion, hanging tough in the crucial moments to see off Nishikori in 3 tight sets.
Nadal holds a perfect record against Grigor Dimitrov from their 3 previous encounters, although each of the matches has gone to a deciding set. Perhaps that is what gives the young Bulgarian confidence going into this match, with Dimitrov claiming that he “likes his chances” of causing an upset against the world number one. Dimitrov has been playing exceptionally well at Melbourne Park so far in this tournament, and did upset Novak Djokovic in Madrid last year, but over 5 sets I think Nadal will be too strong, both physically and mentally. Nadal in 3.
4. Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer
I thought the clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the round of 16 represented something of a danger match for 17-time major champion Roger Federer, but the Swiss star turned in a vintage display, approaching the net with conviction (and success) and serving particularly well. By those indicators, the new partnership with Stefan Edberg appears to be working very well.
Having got past the unpredictable Tsonga, I think this match against Murray is very winnable for Federer, especially since Murray is still not back to his best tennis following his back surgery. The Scot cruised for the most part against Stephane Robert in round 4, but did look shaky when he dropped the third set. If Federer can keep up his standard from Monday night, I’ll back him to prevail in a tight 4-setter. Federer in 4.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.