Svitolina sails into quarter-finals

Elina Svitolina charged into the last eight of the Australian Open with an assertive 6-3, 6-0 steamrolling of Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova.

The fourth-seed needed just 57 minutes to dispose of her less fancied opponent. It was a thoroughly dominant performance that was characterised by powerful serving and accurate groundstrokes from the back of the court.

"I am very pleased with the performance," said Svitolina afterwards.

"It is not the first time I am going into the tournament as one of the favourites. It adds more pressure, but also gives you extra confidence."

She now faces Elise Mertens in the last eight after the Belgian star overcame a stiff challenge from Petra Martic, eventually winning 7-6(5), 7-5.

Mertens, in her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final, is on a nine-match win streak having won the Hobart warm-up event.

She is now the first Belgian to reach the last eight in Australia since Kim Clijsters in 2012. 

Cilic battles back to beat Carreno Busta

Marin Cilic had to work hard in his fourth-round victory over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta at the Australian Open on Sunday before eventually triumphing in four sets, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-7(7-0), 6-7 (7-3).

The sixth seeded Croat raced into a 5-2 lead in the opener only for Carreno Busta to claw it back, saving three set points before claiming the set in the tiebreak.

But Cilic showed great mental strength to overcome that disappointment as he took the second set 6-3 after breaking serve in the third and ninth games.

The next set was tighter with the Spaniard gaining an early break and serving for the set before Cilic turned it around, rattling off seven straight points in the tie-breaker to gain the upperhand before closing out the fourth set and the match in a third tiebreaker after another tight set.

Cilic, who claimed his 100th grand slam win, now faces the winner of the Rafael Nadal-Diego Schwartzman match in the quarter-finals.

Federer and Djokovic advance unscathed

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both secured their places in the Round of 16 with straight set wins at the Australian Open on Saturday.

Federer, the defending champion, continued on his superlative run in Melbourne, easing past Richard Gasquet 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours in the Rod Laver Arena.

On a day that featured record crowds of over 80 000, the Fed Express did not disappoint. Federer’s metronomic serve was on display once more, notching up 12 aces and finishing many a service game in under a minute.

After cruising through the opening set, Federer met some resistance in the second with Gasquet holding his own. A tiebreaker seemed imminent but all it would take was a couple errors from Gasquet to hand a break and set point to Federer, which he converted.

Federer flew to a 4-1 lead in the third set but Gasquet broke the Swiss for the first time in the tournament and levelled matters at 4-4. Undeterred, Federer bounced back to break Gasquet win the match.

The 19-time grand slam winner face the unheralded world number 80 Marton Fucsovics in the fourth round.  

Meanwhile, ormer world number one Novak Djokovic looked to be returning to form of old with his straight set 6-2, 6-3 victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

After casing the opening set, there was a moment of concern early on in the second, where the Serb called for a Medical Time-out and his physio worked on a lower-back issue. But Djokovic returned niggle-free, saved two four break points and broke the Spaniard once on his way to winning the set.

Djokovic then fired ten winners in the final set to earn a routine win. He faces rising Asian Star Hyeon Chung in the fourth round.

“Matches are going to get tougher from now on… Chung made a great win today against Zverev, who was in form,” Djokovic said.

“The good thing about Grand Slams, you always have a day off between the matches so I’ll try to use that for recovery training and getting myself in shape for the next one.”

Elsewhere, Tomas Berdych was sublime against 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, hammering 50 winners which included 20 aces for a 6-3, 6-3,-6-2 scoreline.

Berdych faces the fiery Fabio Fognini next in the Round of 16. 

Kerber KO's Sharapova in Melbourne

Angelique Kerber showed she is finding form of old with a dominating straight set win over Maria Sharapova at the Australian on on Saturday.

The 2016 champion rolled over the five-time grand slam winner in just 65 minutes on the hard court of the Rod Laver Arena with a 6-1, 6-3 scoreline.

It was a disciplined performance from Kerber, who made just five unforced errors, while Sharapova, forced to chase the match, racked up 24.

Kerber - who is yet to drop a set in the tournament - went flying out the blocks, countering aggressively and running out to a 4-1 lead after two breaks in the opening set. 

Sharapova’s serve continued to be impotent in the second set, with Kerber able to attack seemingly at will. However, the Russian did have a moment of reprieve when she broke back to level matters at 3-3. 

But Kerber continued to apply the pressure and reeled off the final three games of the match to advance to the fourth round.

“This court is so special for me, so I came out here and I was trying to enjoy every point and with you guys it’s even more special,” the 30-year-old said on court afterwards.

“I knew before the match it would be a tough one. I was really trying to play my game. I am so happy it is 2018 and not 2017 any more. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment right now.

“I learned a lot from the last 24 months. I had a great 2016 and last year was a little bit tougher, but everybody who knows me knows I never give up.”

Asian stars shine in Melbourne

Hyeon Chung caused the biggest upset in the men’s draw after he sent fourth seed Alexander Zverev packing, while Naomi Osaka also advanced on Saturday.

The South Korean star earned one of the biggest wins of his career when he twice came back from a set down to knockout Zverev 5-7, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the Rod Laver Arena.

There was just one break of serve in the opening two sets that were evenly contested by the pair, neither giving an inch on serve. But Zverev gained momentum in the third withy some heavy hitting earning him two breaks.

The German was unable to keep his concentration on court and was distracted by off court happenings in the fourth, leading to a double fault which aided Chung in getting the break, after which he served out the set to force a decider.

Then the wheels came off for Zverev, who would double fault three times in the final set and find himself 3-0 down in no time. Chung kept his composure while Zverev continued to tank, wrapping up the fifth in just 24 minutes.

The victory sees the 21-year-old Chung reach the fourth round of a major for the first time in his young career.

Elsewhere in the men’s singles, fifth seed Dominic Thiem racked up 42 winners his 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Adrian Mannarino and fiery Italian Fabio Fognini needed five sets to defeat Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Meanwhile, in the women's draw, Japanese starlet Osaka also reached the fourth round of a slam for the first time when she upset 18th seed Ashleigh Barty  6-4, 6-2 in the Margaret Court Arena.

The unseeded 20-year-old crunched 24 winners and saved all four break points she faced in a commading victory. 

Meanwhile, in an all-Czech affair, sixth seed Karolina Pliskova was too good for Lucie Safarova, defeating her 7-6(6), 7-5, firing 11 aces in the process. 

Halep survives scare to win epic encounter

Top seed Simona Halep survived a major scare to progress to the last 16 of the Australian Open after triumphing in an epic encounter against Lauren Davis.

In a marathon match that last three hours and 45 minutes, Halep eventually secured victory 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 against Davis after the world number 76 was desperately close to causing a major upset.

Halep served for the match on four occasions, before eventually closing out a final set that lasted more than two hours.

But Davis also had her chances - failing to profit from a 0-40 position in the 22nd game of the third set, before Halep eventually managing to hold serve.

Davis - who twice received treatment for blisters - saved five break points in the 23rd game, but the end came when the American hit a forehand wide on Halep’s first match point.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova booked her place in the Australian Open fourth round for only the second time after beating Lucie Safarova.

It was a tight contest between the two Czech players, yet Pliskova’s serving ability ultimately proved to be telling in her 7-6, 6-5 triumph after sending in 11 aces.

After winning the first set tie break 8-6, Pliskova gained an invaluable break in the penultimate game of the second set to progress.

Earlier, US Open runner-up Madison Keys enjoyed a relatively straightforward passage into the fourth round after overcoming Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-4.

The 17th seed had to endure a dose of the jitters at the death though after being forced to save three break points when she was serving for the match.

Keys went through after making her first match point count, when Romania’s Bogdan sent a backhand into the net.

The American will face number eight seed Caroline Garcia in the next round after she beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

 

Wozniacki too good for Bertens

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki eased past Kiki Bertens in straight sets to reach the Round of 16 at the Australian open on Friday.
 
The former world number one outclassed the 30th seed, needing just 85 minutes in the Rod Laver Arena to defeat Bertens 6-4, 6-3.

It was a measured performance from Wozniacki, who made just seven unforced errors on her way to reaching the fourth round for the sixth time in Melbourne.

The opening set saw Wozniacki run off to a 5-2 lead and while Bertens pulled one back, the Dane broke her one last time to claim the set.

The 27-time WTA winner continued her dominance in the second set, though the match would close out with a marathon final game where Bertens saved three match points before Wozniacki finally took advantage.

Wozniacki will now face Magdalena Rybarikova in the Round of 16. The 19th seed fought hard to defeat Katerina Bondarenko 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 earlier in the day.

Elsewhere, Annet Kontaveit upset seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in a pulsating affair. Not one to die wondering, Ostapenko notched up no less than 42 unforced errors on her way to losing the final three games. The victory sees Kontaveit reach the fourth round for the first time in a grand slam.

Finally, Carla Suarez Navarro fought back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Kyrgios wins tense affair, Cilic advances

17th seed Nick Kyrgios defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets while Marin Cilic also advanced to the fourth round following Day 5's Night Session at the Australian Open.  

The Australian hopeful emerged victorious after a titanic battle with Tsonga, winning 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) in front of a packed house at the Rod Laver Arena.

It was the battle of the big serves, as there were only three breaks of serve the entire match, with the pair racking up 28 aces each. 

After Kyrgios edged the opening tiebreaker, a momentary lapse in concentration saw him concede the first break of serve in the second set, after which Tsonga held to level matters at one set all.

Neither player could so much as conjure up a break point in the third set as they headed to another tiebreak. The Australian hopeful saved a set point while 5-6 down and won the next three points to steal the set.

Tsonga pulled out a massive effort in the fourth to save three break points early on and was in the driving seat in the ensuing tiebreak, leading 5-2. But again a surge of form from Kyrgios saw him string five points together in a thrilling run that won him the match.

Tsonga will lament his unforced errors, 11 more than Kyrgios, with many coming in the clutch moments of the match.  

The win sees Kyrgios book a Round of 16 clash with third seed Grigor Dimitrov, who was victorious in four sets earlier in the day. 

Elsewhere, sixth seed Marin Cilic overcame Ryan Harrison 7-6(4), 6-3, 7-6(4) in the Hisense Arena, smashing 53 winners. The Croat faces Pablo Carreno-Busta in the fourth round. 

Nadal in cruise control Down Under

World number one Rafael Nadal barely got to fifth gear in his straight set win over Damir Dzumhur in Melbourne on Friday.

The top seed needed just less than two hours to roll over the Bosnia and Herzegovina player 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on the Margaret Court Arena. 

Right from the get go, it was clear that last year’s finalist was a cut above Dzumhur, racing out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set, winning a couple games to love. After just 23 minutes, it was all she wrote.

But the 28th seed put up a fight in the second set, firing nine winners in total and bouncing back from a break to claim Nadal’s serve and tie matters at 2-2. 

But that was Dzumhur’s last opportunity against Nadal, who reeled off four breaks of serve on his way to finishing the match, earning a spot in the fourth round for the 11th time at the Australian Open.

The victory books Nadal a Round of 16 date with 24th seed Diego Schwartzman, who defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7(1), 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 earlier in the day. The Spaniard has dropped just one set against Schwartzman in their three previous encounters. 

Dimitrov survives another scare

Grigor Dimitrov was put through the ringer once more in Melbourne, needing four sets to overcome Andrey Rublev on Friday.

The third seed was on the cusp of going two sets to one down but rallied to overcome the talented Rublev 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a touch over three hours on the hard courts of the Rod Laver Arena.

Dimitrov was coming off the back of a five set epic against the unheralded MacKenzie Macdonald on Wednesday. 

Against Rublev, Dimitrov eased through the first set despite losing his opening service game, but came unstuck in the second set as the Russian reeled off four consecutive games to tie things up.

The duo toiled in the Melbourne heat - which again reached the high thirties - and Rublev continued his momentum in the third, leading 4-2 at one point. Dimitrov cleaned up his double faults and battled back to take the set in fine fashion.

A nervy fourth set saw Dimitrov perform better in the big moments, saving all five breakpoints Rublev had on offer while breaking him in the seventh game. A strong hold followed from Dimitrov, who saved two breakpoints in the final game before taking the match.

Elsewhere, tenth seed Pablo Carreno-Busta was made to work hard for his 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over 23rd seed Gilles Muller. 

Carreno-Busta survived no less than 40 aces from the powerful Luxembourgian, whose unforced errors would prove the difference. 

Finally, Britain's Kyle Edmund continued his good showing in Melbourne, reaching the third round of the Australian Open for the first time following a five set 7-6(0), 3-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 marathon win over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.