MELBOURNE, January 26, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
Former World No. 3 Milos Raonic opened Sunday’s proceedings on Margaret Court Arena with a flawless straight-set win, prevailing 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 against another former No. 3, Marin Cilic, to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year.
The No. 32 seed from Canada fired past 35 aces, won 80 per-cent (55/69) first serve points and managed to save all four break points he faced on his way into his fifth quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne. Further, he struck 55 winners compared to 23 unforced errors.
“It feels pretty damn good, I’ve got to say,” Raonic said after his win. “I can’t complain about it and I’m just happy with how things are going. I’m happy I have another chance to play in two days here and it’s been an exciting tournament for me so far, but hopefully there are more exciting things ahead.”
The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up has not dropped a single set so far, which, however, will be difficult to hold up in the quarterfinals, as he meets none other than Novak Djokovic, who leads their Head2Head series by 9-0.
Asked about facing 16-time major champion Djokovic next, Raonic answered: “I’m going to have to serve well, clearly, and then I think I’m going to have to get my return at a high percentage, make him play a lot of those points, and then try to be efficient on my service games and be the one dictating.”
Djokovic remained untroubled in his fourth-round match against No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman, securing a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory in two hours to get a step closer to a potential title defense. On the way to victory, Djokovic hit 8 aces, won 75 per-cent first serve points (41/55) and converted four of eight break points.
“It’s the fourth round of a Grand Slam and Diego is a quality player. He’s had a terrific tournament in the first three rounds. I knew if I gave him time, he could do a lot of damage. He’s one of the quickest players on the Tour,” Djokovic said. “I tried to mix it up a bit, hit a few slices and bring him into the net sometimes. It worked well today.”
Djokovic extended his winning streak to 13 matches and improved his record to 10-0 in 2020. He dropped just one set so far at Melbourne Park during his first-round match against German player Jan-Lennard Struff.
While being asked about his next opponent, the 32-year-old Serb had only good words left and praised Raonic in the highest tones: “A quite different match than the one today. He’s one of the tallest and strongest guys physically on the Tour. He has one of the biggest serves. I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net.”
Sandgren repeats 2018 Australian Open run
For the second time in his career, Tennys Sandgren managed to pull out his A-level in Melbourne to make another deep run into the quarterfinals Down Under after overcoming world No. 12 Fabio Fognini 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-4 in three hours and 27 minutes.
Take a bow @TennysSandgren 👏
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2020
The world No. 100 struck 21 aces, saved five of eight break points and hit 43 winners during the entire match. ”Playing him is just a war,” Sandgren said in his on-court interview. “He’s so good and you can never count him out at any stage. I was expecting a fight and we had a fight.”
Back in 2018, the 28-year-old US-American made his maiden appearance in a major quarterfinal when he upset Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Park.
“You gear your schedule to peak in these weeks. I’m getting get better at that as I get older. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser. I take my weeks off so I can prep for these weeks,” Sandgren said four days ago when he sealed his first upset of the tournament over top-10-player Matteo Berrettini.
Today’s victory has certainly not been a cakewalk for the American. Sandgren dealt with a hip injury and therefore needed to take a medical time out after calling the trainer, telling him he would “suffer a little bit of pain, like it’s stuck.” Earlier in the encounter, Fognini already called the trainer since he was struggling with several blisters on his fingers.
Nevertheless, in the end, Sandgren prevailed in an exhausting match, which at some point also included a psychological aspect, when Fognini was granted a bathroom break even though large time had already passed during the change of sets.
“It was time. Just because Gerry says it’s OK, doesn’t mean it’s within the rules of tennis,” Sandgren said. “It means subjectively, Gerry says, ‘sure you can go to the bathroom now’ to make sure it doesn’t break all of his racquets and walk off the court. So he gets his own rule because you’re afraid to step on his toes.”
The Tennessee native will next face No. 3 seed and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, who fought back from a set down to eventually beat Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 11 minutes to reach his 57th career major quarterfinal. It will be their first ever Head2Head encounter.
With a tough five-setter in his bones, Federer started the match up-and-down and struggled with his serve due to windy conditions. After losing the first set, however, Federer recovered and steadied his game, varied more and served many balls on Fucsovics’ forehand side, being well-aware of the fact that the Hungarian struggled a lot to produce a good length with his forehand.
Federer hit five aces, won 76 per-cent (48/63) first serve points and saved seven of nine break points. Most important to mention, is that the “Maestro” has been almost flawless today at the net, winning 84 per-cent (31/37) net points.
Asked about his next opponent, Federer joked: “He was not going to be a baseball player, that is for sure […] I’ve never played against Tennys. Played a lot of tennis in my life, but never against Tennys [Sandgren].”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2020