Plenty of quality tennis
By Roger Childs
The first grand slam in Melbourne is always a showpiece for the world’s best embarking on another year of professional tennis.
It is a chance to see if the highly experienced stars are still up to it, and who are the up and comers.
As usual there has been some carnage for the seeds and among the women’s quarter finalists only Angelique Kerber has previously won a grand slam.
The men’s singles is always more predictable, and five of the top six seeds are likely to be in last eight.
Three of the fourth round matches showed just how much depth there is in the men’s game.
Top seed Rafael Nadal was pushed hard by the talented Diego Schwartzman before winning 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 in over three and a half hours. The Argentine matched Rafa much of the way in power and placement, and had the better serve. However the Spaniard had the edge on retrievals, and needed to produce his best A game to win.
Gregor Dimitrov and Martin Cilic had to survive three tie break sets to beat Nick Kyrgios and Pablo Carreno Busta respectively. Both matches had plenty of excitement with powerful serving, ferocious rallies and superb retrievals. Great entertainment for the packed arenas.
Sadly for the Australians, this is another year when none of the home players have gone on to the singles quarter finals.
Two matches against top seeds have shown up the talent of younger players. Hyeon Chung from South Korea impressed in Auckland when he beat John Isner. In his third round match in Melbourne he beat fourth seed Alexander Zverev in five sets, winning the last 6-0!
Called “the professor” because he wears glasses, Chung shows a maturity which belies his age and his game has no weaknesses. He has a strong serve, powerful ground strokes, excellent placement and superb retrieval skills. His big test comes tonight as he faces 12 times grand slam winner, Novak Djokovic.
American women have been very impressive over the last nine months and this is with Serena sitting things out, All four semi finalists in the September US grand slam were women from the home country.
Laura Davis wasn’t one of then, however on Friday in Melbourne she very nearly upset top seed Simona Halep. In the third set she had four match points, including three in a row, but just couldn’t do it. A broken toenail certainly didn’t help and eventually the Romanian prevailed in intense heat, 15-13.
Davis has excellent ground stokes and generally impressive placement. She goes for winners and sometimes it doesn’t pay off. Nevertheless, the young American is a player to watch and if she improves her serving and consistency, she could be a star in the future.
Plenty of top play to come
The quarter finals beckon and there is plenty of quality tennis in prospect. Caroline Wozniacki is playing very well as is less well known Ukrainian, Eline Svitolina. Kerber and Halep are still there too and it is very hard to pick a winner.
Among the men, the usual suspects are featuring: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Thiem, Dimitrov and Cilic. Again it’s not easy to predict who will be the new champion.
One thing is certain, there will be plenty of quality matches in the coming week!