Teenager Madison Keys is through to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park after surviving a testing 3-setter against veteran Venus Williams on Day 10. Day 11 sees Keys up against another Williams star, Venus’ younger sister and world number one Serena.
Day 10 Recap
Whilst Keys and Venus Williams combined for a total of 83 unforced errors, it was nonetheless an absorbing battle between the 7-time major winner Williams and the up-and-coming star Keys. Swinging freely and exhibiting the shotmaking ability that has earned her a bunch of admirers, Keys took the first set, 6-3, before Williams upper her intensity and first serve percentage to level the match at a set apiece. The deciding set featured plenty of twists and turns but, up 5-4, Keys produced a flawless return game, breaking Williams to love to secure an historic victory.
Serena Williams avenged her sister’s loss with a decisive 6-2 6-2 victory over last year’s Australian Open finalist, Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. Although still troubled by a cold, Williams was never seriously threatened by the eleventh seeded Cibulkova, who seemed to use up all of her energy in taking down Victoria Azarenka in the round of 16 and was unable to find her best form against the world number one.
In the men’s quarter-finals on Day 10, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic each recorded superb straight sets victories to set up a clash at Melbourne Park for the third consecutive year. Wawrinka produced a sublime serving performance, sending down 20 aces en route to a 6-3 6-4 7-6(6) win over fifth seed Kei Nishikori. However, the win wasn’t without its share of nerve-wracking moments for the Swiss star. With Wawrinka up 6-1 in the third set tiebreaker, it seemed as if the match was over for Nishikori before the Japanese star reeled off 5 points in a row. Alas, a poorly executed drop shot from Nishikori gave Wawrinka another match point and this time he made no mistake.
Djokovic was clinical against the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, the world number one notching a 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2 victory. The Serb was clinical in the first set tiebreaker and broke down the Raonic serve in the second and third sets, as the eighth seed was unable to make any inroads on the Djokovic serve and showed that he is lacking a plan B to move to when things are not going his way.
Matches of the Day – Day 11
1. Maria Sharapova vs. Ekaterina Makarova
Left-hander Makarova is the sort of player that no big name wants to play in the latter rounds of a Grand Slam. The Russian is ultra-consistent from the baseline, a good mover around the court and deceptively efficient on serve. Tenth seeded Makarova made it through to the semi-finals of the US Open last year, going down to eventual champion Serena Williams, and I’m sure that the experience will stand her in good stead for into this match.
After getting out of jail against Panova, Sharapova has looked better and better with each successive match, the 2008 Australian Open champion completely dismantling the games of Peng Shuai and Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round and quarter-finals respectively. In her current form, I think Sharapova will have too much firepower and self-belief for her countrywoman, however if the second seed is unable to maintain her high standards then Makarova is the sort of player who will take full advantage. Look for Sharapova to move through in a couple of tight ones. Sharapova in 2.
2. Serena Williams vs. Madison Keys
She might be battling illness off the court, but on court Serena Williams shows no signs of giving up, the top seed in vintage form against Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals. It took the top seed a while to hit top gear against Muguruza, but Williams was straight out of the blocks against Cibulkova. Williams and Keys have never met in a tour level match, and I expect that coach Lindsay Davenport will be telling Keys to get out there, enjoy herself, and go for her shots, just as Keys did so well against Venus Williams in the quarter-finals.
Unlike older sister Venus, whose best tennis is behind her, Serena is still at the top of her game and I think she will be seeking to avenge Venus’ loss and to move one step closer towards reclaiming the Australian Open crown. Keys is a star of the future and I don’t think she will be too far off Williams’ level in this clash; that said, I think Williams will be smarter on the big points and will overwhelm Keys with her intensity and competitiveness. Look for Keys to compete strongly for a set and a half, and for Williams to weather the early storm before pulling away for a straight sets win. Williams in 2.
3. Andy Murray vs. Tomas Berdych
I can’t wait for this match-up between 2 of the most in-form players on the ATP Tour at present. Berdych has been in blistering form at Melbourne Park so far this year, the Czech snapping his lengthy losing streak against Rafael Nadal with a most emphatic victory. Murray, meanwhile, produced a mature performance to outclass Nick Kyrgios in straight sets in the quarter-finals, the Scot moving so well that veteran Lleyton Hewitt was forced to remark that Murray was covering the court better than he had for many a year.
There are plenty of sub-plots to this match, with Berdych leading the head-to-head record 6-4 but being unable to beat Murray when it really counts, such as at the US Open in 2012, when Berdych, fresh from defeating Roger Federer, was outsmarted by Murray on a windy day in New York. Murray went on to win the title, and has since added another major to his collection, whilst Berdych is still searching for his maiden major.
Another sub-plot features the coaches, with long-time Murray aide Dani Vallverdu now coaching Berdych after allegedly being unhappy at taking a back-seat to Murray’s new coach, Amelie Mauresmo. Obviously Vallverdu knows Murray’s game inside and out, and will be able to provide Berdych with certain insights in that respect, but as Murray noted, the Scot has had the benefit of Vallverdu’s assessment of the Berdych game in previous years.
I think this will be a cracking encounter, with both players full of confidence and looking extremely fit. If Berdych is able to hit with the power and the consistency that he showcased against Nadal, then a strong case can be made for the Czech making it through to his second Grand Slam final.However, I am leaning towards Murray, the sixth seed a narrow favourite in my mind due to his formidable record at Melbourne Park and his greater experience at this stage of big tournaments. Murray in 5.
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.