Australian Open:The Sharp End

ROGER Always My Number 1!  Slogan of Federer fans in the crowd

Carnage for high seeds in Melbourne

By Roger Childs

Angelique Kerber, last year’s winner, congratulates Coco Vanderweghe

It’s quarter finals time and many of the top eight seeds haven’t made it. Both number ones -Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber – are out, as are Simona Harap, Agnieszka Radwanska, Dominika Cibulkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic.

Some young talent is coming through, such as the Zverev brothers from Germany. In the fourth round Mischa beat Murray 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, while Alexander took Nadal to five sets. Relative unknown, American Coco Vandeweghe, thrashed Kerber in the fourth round to set up a quarter final clash with the talented Garbiñe Muguruza.

However in among the great matches in the round of 16, there was tennis of high quality between Roger Federer, returning from injury, and Kei Nishikori the world number 5.

 The first set sets the tone

Provided a five set thriller

Nishikori raced out to 4-0 with two service breaks and at 5-1 seemed to be cruising to an easy first set win. In amongst some dazzling winners Federer was making too many unforced errors but then the tide turned.

The Swiss Maestro reeled off two love service games and in breaking the Japanese star’s service twice went 6-5 up. Nishikori won the tie-break, however the crowd sensed they were in a for a long, high quality match.

Sets two and three went to Federer 6-4 6-1 and it looked as if he would close it out in four. His serving was on average 15 kph faster than the Japanese, and the latter had trouble picking where the Federer thunderbolts would go.

There were plenty of vintage Federer winners with backhands down the line, sweeping forehands to the back hand corner and tightly angled cross-court classics close to the net.

Nishikori’s comeback shortlived

Federer served three times as many aces as Nishikori: a key factor in his victory

However Nishikori was up to the task in set four. There was some great play by both players and the Japanese excelled in retrieving seemingly impossible balls and hit a number of winners down the line and cross court.

He weathered several deuces in the 10 minute fourth game and hung in to level at 2-2.Then he broke Federer’s serve and took the set 6-4.

However, the Swiss was lasting better and Nishikori needed physio on his back in the final set. Nevertheless, there were still some excellent rallies, and classy winners from both players. However, Federer’s ability to fire down aces when under pressure, greater ground stroke power and occasional creative masterpieces, saw him through to 6-3 in the fifth set.

The quarter finals beckon

Serena – definitely the favourite

It’s hard to pick winners on the men’s side, as with top seeds Murray and Djokovic gone, it’s wide open. Former grand slam winners Wawrinka, Nadal and Federer are still there, along with a clutch of younger players.

As for the women, Serena must be the favourite, however there is plenty of other talent in the last eight.

One thing is certain, the eventual champions have to win three tough games.