Andy Murray squelched Aussie hopes on Tuesday at the Australian Open, defeating 19-year-old breakout player Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach his fifth Australian Open semifinal in the past six years.
“It was a tricky match. I tried to start as quickly as possible,” said the No. 6-seeded Murray. “I’ve seen Nick’s matches. I know exactly what he’s capable of. He’s a huge hitter of the ball so I tried to keep it out of his strike zone.”
The combustible Kyrgios went down a break at 4-2 in the first and was eventually given a warning for profanity before losing 6-3. In the tight second set tiebreak Kyrgios was the aggressor, but Murray stole the advantage with two exceptional lob winners off the forehand and backhand.
“That was my first Aussie Open Grand Slam match playing on Rod Laver [Arena], so that was really cool,” Kyrgios said. “But he was way too good for me tonight. There are some things I can take from that match and get better at. Yeah, he was just way too good for me…I said to him at the net, ‘This is your time; go get him.’ I think he’s got a really good chance of winning the whole thing.”
In the semis Murray will meet Tomas Berdych, who on Tuesday ended the tournament-long suffering of Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5).
“The plan that we put together was the right one,” Berdych said. “Everything was working. I was able to execute it really well. But until the last point you can’t think about anything else.”
Nadal, who has experienced physical troubles during the tournament after off-season issues, said he was not brimming with confidence to start the match.
“The third was the right set, the right game that I have to play,” Nadal said. “But is obvious that before I didn’t play with the right confidence, with the right intensity, losing court, playing very short. I make him play very easy. So you cannot expect to win matches in quarterfinals of Grand Slam helping the opponent to play well. That’s what I did…When you have injuries, are difficult the comebacks. Without being at my top level of tennis I was able to be here in quarterfinals. Is not a bad result at all for me arriving here the way I arrived — only with one match, only with five matches in seven months.”
In the women’s quarterfinals on Tuesday, No. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russian sent world No. 3 Simona Halep packing in an emphatic 6-4, 6-0 rout. Hoping to join the upset party, No. 7-seeded Canadian Genie Bouchard was less successful, seen off by world No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-2.
“I knew she was going to be aggressive in those first two or three balls,” said Sharapova, who relentlessly pounded the Bouchard second serve. “I tried to take that away a little bit from Genie. I managed to do that pretty well today.”
Bouchard booted 30 unforced errors during the match in the face of the Sharapova ground attack.
“I felt under pressure the whole time, a bit on my back foot,” Bouchard said. “That’s not how I want to play. I feel like I didn’t start well, and it kind of all went downhill from there. It’s definitely easier when you have a good start to the match…Just some bad errors. I didn’t feel like I was kind of dominating the ball like I usually want to. Yeah, I felt a bit under pressure, and I felt like I didn’t have enough time maybe to set up as I normally do.”
In the semis Sharapova will meet her fellow Russian Makarova.
“We’ve practiced a little bit I think during Fed Cup, but that was a few years ago,” Sharapova said. “We played already a few times. There’s no secrets in each other’s games, that’s for sure.”
For Halep there were many secrets, secrets that could not be deciphered during the quarterfinal beatdown which ended in a second-set bagel.
“Just I was a little bit stressed,” said Halep, whose unforced error count during the short match time jumped over 30, looking shell shocked in her post-match conference. “I don’t know why. I had experience from last year to play quarterfinals, so it doesn’t mean that I felt pressure. Just I didn’t feel the game, the ball. Was a very bad day for me.”
The 26-year-old lefty has never figured Sharapova out in their career meetings, hoping 2015 is a different story in the semifinals.
“I never beat her, so it will be tough,” Makarova said of her Russian-American countrywoman. “Definitely she’s a great fighter. Like here on the second round, she almost lost, but she turned around. I’m looking forward. I need to believe to myself and don’t really think that it’s semis, that I’m one step from final. So it’s just a normal match like always, you know. Just go out there and enjoy my game.”
Wednesday in Oz will feature the blockbuster quarterfinals (18) Venus Williams vs. Madison Keys, (1) Serena Williams vs. (11) Dominika Cibulkova, (4) Stan Wawrinka vs. (5) Kei Nishikori, and in the late match (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (8) Milos Raonic.
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