Lots of fireworks Saturday on the men’s side at the Australian Open as the “next generation” of players attempted to take the main stage away from the veterans in Melbourne in third-round action.
Successfully stepping up was big-serving Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic, who shocked world No. 10-ranked Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
“I knew the chances were in his favor, but I knew I was prepared to fight for every point, however long it took,” said the not-so-shocked Raonic. “I can’t say I would be shocked if I wasn’t here. But I’m not really shocked I am here. I worked hard and I’ve put in the hours, so it’s all coming together.”
Fellow upstarts who failed to similarly close the deal Saturday were Aussie headliner Bernard Tomic falling to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in straight sets, former world No. 1 junior Ricardas Berankis getting only five games off No. 7 David Ferrer, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori straight-setted by No. 9 Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco.
Tomic thought he had a set in pocket when he led Nadal by two breaks at 4-0 in the second set, but it was not to be.
“I thought it was over at 4-love,” Tomic said. “Just shows how much he can come back. Against these guys, especially in the Top 10, you can’t afford to lose concentration. That’s the important part. Physically-wise he’s a machine. He just wears you down. That’s where I’m going to need to improve on in the next few years. I’m improving on that since the last year and the year before. It’s getting better for me physical-wise. I think there’s a lot more to improve on like that. The way I’m hitting the ball, I can’t say I’m not hitting it good, I’m hitting it really good.”
Also on the upset tip in third-round action were Alexandr Dolgopolov defeating No. 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 in the fourth and fifth sets, and No. 19 Stan Wawrinka beating No. 12 Gael Monfils in straights.
“Yeah, maybe fitness,” said the perpetually-injured Tsonga of only winning two games in the final two sets. “But for me it’s reasonable, you know. Because when you are used to play every day, two, three hours, to play one match every day, every week, after that you get used to play a match like this. But I’m not. So I need that. So maybe it’s good. I will go out of this tournament. Yeah, I’m out of this tournament, so I can prepare the next tournament. Maybe in the season I will feel better and better every day.”
Dolgopolov will next face No. 4 Robin Soderling, who dismissed Jan Hernych in straights.
Other winners were No. 5 Andy Murray putting a beating on No. 32 Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, allowing the Spaniard only four games, No. 11 Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer over No. 21 Marcos Baghdatis who retired with injury in the fourth set, and No. 15 Marin Cilic winning the serving contest against No. 20 John Isner 9-7 in the fifth.
Melzer’s result will line him up against Murray next, and will put him in the Top 10 rankings for the first time after the Aussie Open.
“It is a big accomplishment. I’m still in the tournament,” Tuna Melzer said. “I mean, it’s great to be there. But right now the focus is on Andy Murray. First of all, play doubles tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to playing Andy.”
Murray opined that it will be an interesting match against the 29-year-old Melzer.
“He’s very unpredictable on the court,” Murray said. “He played his best year last year on the tour. Yeah, he takes a lot of chances on the court. He can also make some mistakes, too. He plays quite high risk tennis. I played him quite a lot. I don’t think I played him last year. But he’s definitely improved, you know. The older he got, he’s started to play better. He’s started to understand his game better.”
Only some mild surprises on the women’s side Saturday in third-round action, as No. 25 seed Petra Kvitova toppled No. 5 Sam Stosur, No. 22 Flavia Pennetta came from a set down to beat No. 10 Shahar Peer, unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova outlasted No. 13 Nadia Petrova 8-6 in the third, and stick-like Czech Iveta Benesova outlasted chunky No. 16 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5 in the third.
“I actually thought I played really well so…It’s hard to walk off the court thinking you played well,” Stosur said after the loss. “It was so close, I mean, that first set. Don’t really know how I lost it, to be honest. Felt like I started playing a bit better and was probably on top of her and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was a set down. I thought she played extremely well pretty much the whole way through. I think it was a match of a point here and a point there and she got the ones that really mattered.”
World No. 1 Vera Zvonareva put away No. 31 Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-6(9), while No. 3 Kim Clijsters likewise had a tight contest against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, triumphing 7-6(3), 6-3.
“She was a tricky player,” Clijsters said of Cornet. “I think, like I said out there on the court, I think her forehand and backhand, it’s like two different players almost. She really has a lot of variety in her game, not so much by touch, slice and everything, but I think with her forehand she was really putting a lot of heavy spin on it, moving a lot of balls as well. With her backhand, she was hitting shorter, low over the net flat balls. It was up to me to keep my footwork on key every time ready to adjust.”
Zvonareva said she let Safarova into the match in the second set before eventually prevailing in the tiebreak 11-9.
“I think there was a moment where maybe I was not aggressive enough, and I let her dominate a little bit before I was dictating the game, and then I let her step up and go for her shots a little bit,” the Russian said. “So that was the reason she was able to get back on the scoreboard in that second set. Then I maybe started playing a little bit too passive and just doing the same thing over and over again, so I couldn’t close it out.”
On court Sunday in fourth-round action are (1) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, (9) Na Li vs. (8) Victoria Azarenka, (2) Roger Federer vs. Tommy Robredo, (30) Andrea Petkovic vs. (14) Maria Sharapova, (8) Andy Roddick vs. (19) Stanislas Wawrinka, (14) Nicolas Almagro vs. (3) Novak Djokovic, and (23) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. (6) Francesca Schiavone.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
INDIAN EXPRESS WON’T LET SPANIARDS BOARD – The Indian Express got into it in men’s doubles against Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez and Juan Monaco when Leander Paes kept yelling “Vamos!” during the match, so Lopez/Monaco started trying to tag Paes during points. Moral of the story: if you are not a Latino, don’t yell “Vamos!” when playing a Spaniard. “One of the players, he was trying to provoke us all the time,” F-Lo said after the match “At one point, we were a little bit tired of the style he was using on the court, and that’s all what happened. But at the end, I was talking to Mahesh [Bhupathi] and everything was fine…[Paes] was trying to provoke us all the time. I know it’s the style he been using the past 20 years.” Bhupathi said after the match, “They were probably not happy that we used the word ‘vamos.’ I don’t think they have a patent on that one. Small things like that added up. Kept adding to their frustration that we were playing good tennis as well.” The Indian Express say they will bring out the “Vamos!” in the next round against another pair of Spaniards.
Rafael Nadal has won 24 straight Grand Slam matches…Stanislas Wawrinka has won 8 straight matches. Wawrinka has 2-1 edge over Andy Roddick but he’s never won a match point over the American…Milos Raonic is the first Canadian man to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open. Roanic also leads all players with 79 aces…No player has even gotten to four games in a set against Andy Murray…For the second straight year Marin Cilic beat a big serving American in five sets at the Australian Open…Sam Stosur has never reached the QF at the Australian Open…Your daily reminder, Jurgen Melzer is still in the draw…Roger Federer has won 13 straight matches. Federer is 9-0 against Tommy Robredo…There are five Spaniards in the men’s R16…Maria Sharapova is the only former champion left in the women’s draw…Andy Roddick has hit a total of 2 backhand winners in three matches. Is that good?…Milos Raonic has the fastest serve of the event at 143 mph in the second round. David Ferrer has won 7 straight matches…Roger Federer is trying for his 27th straight Grand Slam QF (tying Jimmy Connors)…Serena Williams will slide down to at least No. 13 in the WTA rankings, Venus out of the Top 5…Caroline Wozniacki has reached seven straight Grand Slam R16s…Anastasija Sevastova and Caroline Wozniacki are the two youngest players left in the women’s bracket…Francesca Schiavone is trying to reach the QFs at all four majors…Li Na has won 8 straight matches…Andrea Petkovic got a walkover to reach the US Open R16, now got a quick retirement from Venus Williams to advance to the Australian Open final 16…Maria Sharapova has won 73% of her 3-set matches…Caroline Wozniacki’s agent, John Tobias, speaking to the NYT on the Woz switching to Yonex racquets: “It was a really strong commercial deal. It was also a little bit strategic, because we really want to get her into Asia and expand her brand in Asia, and a Japanese company does that for us.”…Seven years ago after introducing wife Steffi Graf at her induction, Andre Agassi in 2011 will be the only player in the Recent Player category inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport: “I don’t know what to expect,” Agassi said. “I think it’s probably doing yourself a disservice to expect anything one way or the other…I will put a lot of thought behind it — and I will make my best attempt to communicate what tennis has meant to me, what it means to others and what it means certainly to a lot of children’s lives here in northwest Vegas.”…No Australian has won the Aussie Open since Aussies won weak fields in the 1970s when few pros wanted to make the trip Down Under — Mark Edmondson won the men’s in 1976, and Chris O’Neil the women’s in 1978…Best Bernard Tomic headline, the Sydney Morning Herald, “The Great White Hype.”…From AFP: “Frenchwoman Camille Pin went out in style at the French Open last year, announcing her retirement with a flourish as she turned up drunk to the press conference. “I’m sorry. I’ve drunk two glasses of champagne on a bare stomach. I wanted to be totally drunk here. I thought it would be funny,” Pin said.”…Aussie Bernard Tomic gets all the headlines, yet to crack the Top 100, but Canuck qualifier Milos Raonic will be Top 100 after the Aussie Open…Andy Murray had the betting line straight before the Rafael Nadal-Bernard Tomic match: “Well, I see Rafa winning, and I think it will be pretty comfortable. The first set I think will be the tightest of the three sets. But, I mean, I think it will be a great experience for Tomic. I’m sure he enjoys it. I’ve seen a little of his matches so far; he’s played very well; he’s a nice player to watch. He’ll be very good in the future, that’s for sure.”…Canadian Milos Raonic moved his training camp from Canada to Barcelona three months ago. The Canuck says a big part of his success has been getting his temper under control: “It’s something that’s been talked about many times between myself and my coaches, especially my coach now, Galo Blanco. We’ve sat down numerous times and had a heart to heart talk about this. This was almost the reason why I lost last round in the quallies. I was able to change it around. I’ve been keeping it together. I feel it’s a thing I have to stay on top of myself to keep together, but I know I can keep it together.”
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