The most promising players born in the 90s (Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic) still aren’t capable of making the noise in the second week of Grand Slam tournaments. Roger Federer keeps them in the queue. Tomic and Raonic have different styles but the outcome of their back-to-back matches against Federer was the same: 6-4 7-6 6-1, well, Raonic won two games in the 3rd set, but he was broken in that set twice, just like Tomic in his ‘1-6’ set. Thanks to those 2nd set tie-breaks, Federer has surpassed the all-time Pete Sampras‘ record of the most tie-breaks won #. It was a French day in Melbourne: four Frenchmen showed up, all couldn’t advance to the quarterfinals because first match on Rod Laver Arena was an all-French affair of Top 10 players. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga showed bigger strength and stamina overpowering Richard Gasquet 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2. They met in the fourth round at the Australian Open also five years ago, and Tsonga prevailed in four sets losing the 2nd one as well. Gasquet becomes an eternal fourth round loser at the majors, he is now 1-14 in his Grand Slam fourth rounds (fifth straight major he finishes at this stage). Not surprising that he gently broke his racquet in frustration as he lost his serve for the second time in the last set. It’s his first defeat of the season after eight consecutive wins. “I’m practising well,” said Tsonga. “When you work hard and you’re focused on what you’re doing, I mean, you are obliged to improve again. Even if it takes time, for sure I will improve my game.” A third Top 20 Frenchman, Gilles Simon had little chance to beat Andy Murray, to whom suffered nine consecutive defeats. Murray displayed stable form during a 6-3 6-1 6-3 win, advancing to his ninth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal. Simon seemed physically exhausted after his match against Monfils, but I can’t put the emphasis on it as far as the match with Murray is concerned because the Frenchman presents very similar game-style to Murray, what separates these two it’s the execution, the Scot is simply better at it which had been displayed in all their previous meetings except the first one. He loves to play in Australia, he has advanced third time to the quarterfinals there, not dropping a set: lost just 22 games in 2011, 33 in 2010, 34 this year. Without losing a set have been Federer and Berdych too, Federer not even broken yet… It’s tough to say where Jeremy Chardy‘s shape comes from. The 36th ranked Frenchman started this year with two defeats, he hadn’t won a match in Melbourne in his three previous trips. Now he is in the quarterfinals after a solid 4-set win over Andreas Seppi, 5-7 6-3 6-2 6-2. Admittedly Seppi had two consecutive 5-setters in his legs prior to the encounter with Chardy, but the Frenchman encountered a 5-setter in the third round as well, he also played a tough 3-set match in doubles on Sunday. Chardy reminds me of Younes El Aynaoui, he sets up strategy on powerful serves and forehands, his double-handed backhand is rather awkward, he usually either replaces it by decent slice or tries to run it around as much as he can. El Aynoaui reached the Grand Slam quarterfinals four times, so maybe Chardy is going to do the same. “After my first win, I feel more relaxed, more confident. Now I’m in a quarter-final,” said the 25-year-old Frenchman. “It’s just like a dream. I played very well on court. I feel very well. I played solid. It’s good for my tennis. I know I can beat everybody. So when I feel confident, I believe in me.” Seppi perhaps wasted his lifetime opportunity to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, but good start of the year in Australia (SF in Sydney) awards him being a seventh Top 20’er from Italy in the Open era, next Monday.
After routine first three rounds, Novak Djokovic was finally tested, intrinsically it was testing to the limits. His fourth round opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka has been known for many years as a player with one of the purest one-handed backhands in the last ten years or so, who isn’t able to produce wins over the best guys though. This time he was amazingly close, and besides the famous backhand, he displayed today phenomenal forehand skills, hitting the ball firmly and clearly throughout the match off both wings. He raced to a sensational 6-1 4:1* lead (the Serb lost his serve five times, hadn’t been broken in three previous matches in Melbourne!), Djokovic’s shoes took part in that astonishing scoreline though, he was constantly off balance and changed them at the beginning of the 2nd set. Wawrinka led 5:3 (30/0) on serve when for the first, and actually only time that evening, stiffed his arm to lose almost seven games in a row: Djokovic was broken leading 1:0 (40/0) in the 3rd set. Tie-break of the 4th set delivered fantastic rallies, especially Wawrinka’s three set points were awesome, Djokovic fought off two, but on the third Wawrinka outmaneuvered his rival during a fast rally, and finished him off with a forehand down the line. He broke in the opening game of the final set, but was broken immediately. Later on both players held service games 19 times in succession. Wawrinka squandered four mini-match points at 4-all: the first one was saved by Djokovic’s BH-dropshot, another three evaporated in a consequence of Wawrinka’s errors. The last, perhaps the most painful one, because Nole hit an average 2nd serve and Wawrinka sent a forehand-return long, to be precise the ball was good, but chair-umpire Enric Molina didn’t suggest anything, Wawrinka didn’t use the hawk-eye system. In the 22nd game, the Swiss led 40/15, then saved two match points with brilliant shots, and had another two game points – couldn’t capitalize; the defending champion converted his third match point after a breath-taking rally with a tight cross-court backhand passing-shot winner! After a hug with Wawrinka, Djokovic celebrated just like a year ago overcoming Nadal in the final, he ripped his T-shirt off with a roar. These two matches belong to a narrow group of 4 in which a 5-hour mark was broken in Melbourne #. “We are only midway through the tournament but this feels like a final” said Djokovic, improving his 5-set record when scoreline reached ‘5-all’ in deciding sets to 8-0 (!), however, it was the first time he was pushed beyond “7” ahead from his perspective (six times won 7-5, once 7-6). “When I was 6-1, 5-2 down, I believed that I can come back if I am two sets down. I’ve been in those situations before,” said Djokovic “I know I can recover. I know I have it in me. I wasn’t worried too much about the physical part. I was ready for it. I was ready to go the distance, and I’ve done so. Hopefully I can take that day off tomorrow and recover for the quarters.” Djokovic’s compatriot, Janko Tipsarevic paid the price for two consecutive 5-setters. His left heel bothered him, unfortunately when he isn’t fully fit – he isn’t eager to play, so he retired at 2-6 1-5 against Nicolas Almagro. It’s Tipsarevic’s seventh retirement at majors, Almagro advances to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal outside Paris, where he three times suffered straight set defeats to Rafael Nadal at this stage. This time Nadal isn’t playing, but it’s not a consolation for Almagro, because his other compatriot David Ferrer is the next opponent. Even though they are Davis Cup teammates, Ferrer is a nightmarish opponent keeping their Head-to-Head at 12-0! Ferrer dispatched Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-1 6-4 becoming the first man to book his place in quarterfinals. Well, the talented Japanese hasn’t physically improved within 12 months – he got seven games, as many as a year before when he lost in quarterfinals to Murray. “It is very difficult to win a Grand Slam because there are the Top 4. In this moment, the last three or four years, they are better than the other players,” said the older Spaniard. “But I am not thinking about if I have the chance to win a Grand Slam. I am only focused with every match I will play.” Almagro stated: “It is a big opportunity for me to be in a semi-final. I’m ready to fight, I’m healthy and I’m happy with my tennis. I think I’m playing really good. He’s hitting the ball with a lot of confidence, and we’ll see what happens on Tuesday.” In the only match scheduled on Margaret Court Arena (all other fourth round matches of both halves of the draw held on two main arenas), Tomas Berdych has maintained his perfect record this year in Melbourne (12-0 sets), but his 3rd set against Kevin Anderson turned into a titanic battle characterized by uncertainty to the very end. Berdych was playing with tremendous efficiency, and after grabbing first two sets, he led 2:0* in the 3rd. Anderson broke back, and had five set points (all as a receiver), the first one at 5:4, another four in a tie-break: 7:6, 9:8, 11:10 & 13:12. The closest to win the set, the South African was on his second set point as he attacked the net with very good approach-shot, but Berdych surprised him with a backhand passing-shot from difficult position running from corner to corner. The Czech converted his fifth match point when Anderson’s forehand-shank landed a few inches outside the baseline (challenge must have decided the final outcome). Berdych won 6-3 6-2 7-6(13) and remarked: “I think it’s more important to bring the best for the end of the set, and I think I was able to do so. I was many times actually serving the set points down and was able to keep on my serve, which with him is very tough because you don’t know what could happen, especially for your second serve. You can just go for it hundred percent and then you don’t have it in your hands at all.”
Longest match:5 hours, 2 minutes. Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10 Most aces: 19 – Milos Raonic, lost to Roger Federer (three sets)
329 – Roger Federer, 328 – Pete Sampras, 304 – Andy Roddick, 276 – Goran Ivanisevic, 257 – Greg Rusedski
## More than 5-hour matches at Australian Open:
5:53 Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal (2012, final) 5:14 Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco (2009, semifinal) 5:11 Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese (1991, third round) 5:02 Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka (2013, fourth round)