With Australian Open Women’s Quarterfinals Set, There Will Be A New Champion

MELBOURNE, January 27, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

With the last of the fourth round women’s singles matches completed, rounding out the quarterfinal field, none of the remaining eight players have ever won the Australian Open. There will be a new champion crowned on Saturday.

No. 4 seed Simona Halep reached her fourth Australian Open quarterfinal on Monday afternoon. The reigning Wimbledon champion from Romania beat 2018 semifinalist and No. 16 seed Elise Mertens from Belgium, 6-4, 6-4 in Rod Laver Arena.

During a six-game swing, Halep turned around a 4-3 deficit and won the first set 6-4. Then, she went up 3-0 in the second set and took control of the match.

Playing focused and with purpose, Halep hit 21 winners and committed just eight unforced errors against Mertens. She displayed a tremendous counterpunching effort, and in doing so, pressured the Belgian into hitting 38 unforced errors – two more than her 36 winners.

After the match, Halep said: “I had in my head she came back in that match (at Doha in February 2019), and I have just to pay attention on every ball, not giving up at all, because she can come back strong.

“Mentally, I think I did a great job today at 4-all with all those break points, game points. But in the end, I got the game and then I served very well the last game. I feel like I played a better match than all the matches since I’m here.

“I feel happy about that, and I’m trying just to stay focused. I like how I feel.”

Next, Halep will face No. 28 seed Anett Kontaveit, who made history by becoming the first player from Estonia to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal. On Monday afternoon, Kontaveit came back to beat 18-year-old teen Iga Swiatek of Poland, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5 in two hours and 42 minutes.

After Kontaveit took a 5-1 lead in the final set, Swiatek made a comeback and made a match of it. “I was just trying to keep going and fighting as much as I could,” Kontaveit said after her win. “You know, there was a lot on the line, so I was just trying to do my best out there. 

“It was a really, really tough match. Iga is a really good player. She was really tough and she was playing great tennis.

“I just had to stay tough. I mean, of course it wasn’t easy. I feel like I could have done some things better, but I’m so proud of myself the way I was fighting through until the end.”

Kontaveit overcame 35 unforced errors by hitting 29 winners. She converted nine of 14 break-point opportunities. Meanwhile, Swiatek hit 41 winners while committing 42 unforced errors.

“I think it definitely gives me a little bit of confidence getting through those close matches,” said Kontaveit.

Looking ahead, the Estonian said she looks forward to playing Halep on Wednesday. “She’s a really great player, so I have got to play my best tennis. 

“She is incredibly consistent. She’s playing so well, moving so well, and I have definitely got to be consistent but try and play my game and be aggressive.”

Second straight Top 10 win for Muguruza

When Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain beat No. 9 seed Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in nearly two years, it was her second straight win over a Top 10 opponent. The victory, which came just two days after Muguruza upset No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, represented the third time Muguruza has beaten Bertens in six tries.

“I feel like she’s a very solid player, has a big serve,” the 32nd-ranked Muguruza said of Bertens. “She’s physically very strong. I was expecting that it’s going to be a tough match because every time we played, it has been like this. I was ready for it.

“I played my game, aggressive game. Right away, I felt it was working. … We both like the baseline. I found a way to disturb her game.”

Muguruza was steady during her 68 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, hitting six aces and 19 winners and she broke Bertens five times.

“I feel good in this tournament,” said Muguruza, who is now coached by former Grand Slam champion Conchita Martinez. “I’m super concentrated on every single match, especially because I started the tournament so-so. I feel like my body’s getting healthier. It’s a Grand Slam, we are all very concentrated here. For me, it’s one of the tournaments that motivates me the most.”

Next, Muguruza will face No. 30 see Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who advanced to her third Australian Open quarterfinal with her 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 2016 Australian Open champion and this year’s No. 17 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany. Pavlyuchenkova improved to 6-1 in Grand Slam fourth-round matches and has reached the quarterfinals in all four majors.

In discussing her two hour and 37 minute win on Margaret Court Arena, in which she hit 71 winners, Pavlyuchenkova, 28, gave props to her “attitude, fight and spirit.

“I was there pretty much every point – I mean, I tried to. That always, I think, pays off – or at least that gives you some sort of confidence. Sometimes, there were some moments or matches where I didn’t feel my best or I didn’t play my best, but I was still there.”

The win was Pavlyuchenkova’s eighth against Kerber in 15 career meetings and fifth in the last seven.

Kenin reaches first major quarterfinal

When No. 14 seed Sofia Kenin beat 15-year-old Coco Gauff in a battle of young Americans 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 on Sunday afternoon, it eliminated the rising star of women’s tennis. However, it also represented a breakthrough for Kenin, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

“Obviously it meant a lot to me,” Kenin expressed during her post-match press conference of her two hour and nine minute victory against the 67th-ranked Gauff. “I was just so happy to have won. It was a tough match. 

“I knew (Gauff is) playing well. I was just really happy with the way that I was able to handle my emotions and just fight through every point.”

Kenin hit 28 winners and outpointed Gauff by 20 points, 101-81. Her dominating play caused Gauff to commit 48 unforced errors, which were too many to overcome her 39 winners.

Kenin credited her ability to solidly hold her serve, winning almost three of every four points on her first serve. She was broken just once. After losing a close, tight first set, Kenin surged ahead in the second and third sets.

Meanwhile, Gauff preferred to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives in looking back at her loss to Kenin. She’ll always have her third-round win over top-seeded and World No. 3 Naomi Osaka to build upon.

“I’m definitely going to savor this and continue to kind of build and get better to work for moments like this, moments like that last match,” Gauff said during her post-match press conference. “Even today, even though I lost, I still had a lot of fun. I mean, now looking back, I’m not as disappointed anymore.

“Even though I double-faulted today a lot (seven), my serve is definitely better I think my return is better. I think I moved forward I’m happy with how I moved, transitioned, like the baseline to the net. I’m happy how I’ve been doing that this week. It’s something I want to continue to improve on for my next tournaments.”

Next, Kenin will face unseeded and 78th-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who has divided and conquered the women’s draw during the fortnight, taking out No. 12 seed Johanna Konta, unseeded Caroline Garcia, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and No. 27 seed Wang Qiang. Jabeur is the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. The Kenin-Jabeur winner will become a first-time major semifinalist.

Kenin has played Jabeur twice at the WTA level and won both times. “I’ve played (Jabeur) in Mallorca last year” she said. “I know her game pretty well. She’s playing well.”

During her post-match press conference after beating Gauff, Kenin recalled a moment Sunday in which she and Jabeur were biking next to each other in the players’ fitness center. “She’s like ‘Good job.’ I’m like, ‘You too.’ It was fun, a funny moment.

“She’s like, ‘Are you feeling tired?’ No, I’m good.’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, me too.’ I’m like, ‘Okay. I’ll see you on Tuesday then!’”

Another attendance record set

Attendance at Monday’s eighth day of the Australian Open continued to set records. The day session drew 41,781 spectators, breaking last year’s second Monday day session mark of 35,337. Combined with a night attendance of 16,293, the total of 58,074 set a second Monday day/night record, breaking the mark set in 2019 with 52,330.

Tuesday promises to be another great day at Melbourne Park as Ashleigh Barty, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic play their quarterfinal round matches.