Just call me Nostradamus! The first four quarter-finals have kept the shocks coming in this most scintillating of Aussie Opens, my predictions have proved to be hopelessly wrong – so far at least.
Li Na def Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2
Two experienced hitters started proceedings but there was little drama here as the Chinese swept through benefitting from more experience in such situations and her Italian opponent looking tired. Pennetta would no doubt have prevailed if the two had met in the first week such was Li’s inconsistency.
Eugenie Bouhard def Ana Ivanovic 5-7, 7-5, 6-2
Recent Aussie Opens have produced at least one ‘surprise package’ in the women’s competition (Errani, Makarova to name but two) and whilst ‘Genie’ Bouchard is no journey woman, the 30th seed has still dispatched of enough big names to qualify for the same accolade. With a refreshingly attacking style and no fears of a volley or two plus the will and nerve to cope with immense pressure, the Canadian may well ask some big questions of Li next up.
Tomas Berdych def David Ferrer 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
In what was unsurprisingly a punishing, physical affair, the Czech (who has now reached the last four in all majors) remained calm and dictated play. Punishing groundstrokes and short points are of course the key against The Wall, but it’s a high risk strategy that Berdych hasn’t always been able to deploy. With a losing record of head to heads the seventh seed despite going off the boil to lose the third set, took his chances.
Stanislas Wawrinka def Novak Djokovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7
Unsurprisingly the match of the tournament so far, Stan the Man, Iron Stan or #stanimal finally got a victory long overdue against the four-times and defending champ. A year ago and then later on in the U.S Open semi’s the two had met and both times the Swiss had pushed the Serb all the way in marathon encounters that truly gripped the globe. Both times Djokovic had played second best but fell back on his umatched reserves and self-belief (two areas where Stan suffers) to win.
Having worked on his fitness off-season and simply being able to hold his nerve and maintain his belief, Wawrinka’s all-out attacking tactics finally prevailed. Djokovic retreated into another mid-match malaise but against an opponent playing so well simply couldn’t afford to this time.
It is a victory for the sport too and for the purists who enjoy some grace and effortless shot-making to their tennis. All too often the incredible elasticity and athleticism – coupled with unbelievable shotmaking – has seen the big three take the spoils.
Thanks goodness then that moments like this can still occur and the few players still embracing a more traditional gameplan are given their chance to shine against the very best.
Day 9 – Seeds to fall
Day 9 – Al’s Hero of the Day – Stanislas Wawrinka
The easiest decision so far this week – but Bouchard is right up there too.