2014/04/23

Radwanska Ends Defending Champ Azarenka’s run at Australian Open

Agnieszka-Radwanska-021-405x450

(January 22, 2014) Agnieszka Radwanska ended Victoria Azarenka‘s run at a third straight Australian Open title on Wednesday when the fifth seed knocked out the defending champ 6-1, 5-7, 6-0. The victory for Radwanska moves her into her first Australian Open semifinal.

With defending champion Novak Djokovic knocked out of the tournament by Stanislas Wawrinka with both he and Victoria Azarenka losing in the quarterfinals it is the first time both the defending champions have lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in the Open Era.

The last time the two defending champions lost in the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam in the Open Era was at 1997 Roland Garros when 1996 champions Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Steffi Graf lost in the last eight.

The win snapped Azarenka’s 18-match win streak in Melbourne. It also ended Radwanska’s 7 match losing streak to the Belarusian dating back to 2011 and her three consecutive quarterfinal losses at the Australian Open. It was just the Polish women’s fourth win against Azarenka in 16 attempts.

“I think it’s hard to play someone I lost so many times before,” Radwanska said.  “I knew she’s great player.  Especially here, she’s playing amazing tennis.

“On the other hand, I really have nothing to lose.  She was defending the title, not me.  I was really trying to play my best tennis, go for every shot I could.

“You know, I’m just very happy because I really was playing great tennis.”

Radwanska used an all-court game – at times scrambling for every shot to playing finesse tennis to confuse and dismantle a usually hard-hitting Azarenka.

“I think it’s hard to talk about the game plan against someone that can do everything on court,” said the Pole.  “Pretty much everything is going back.  Not really much mistakes.  So I think I was just trying to play aggressive, not in the middle.  I think focus on the serves as well.

“I think you really have to do everything to beat those kind of players like Vika.”

“A lot of good rallies definitely,” she continued, “amazing points, and running forward, backwards, side to side for so many times.

“Well, I was really feeling good on court today.  I think, you know, I was feeling I could really do everything, trying and fighting for every point, every ball.”

“The first set and the third set, I think there was just too many mistakes and too many easy mistakes on important moments,” said Azarenka.  “Like from the dropshot to the dropshot, or just I had the full court.  Of course, she was passing amazing today and getting to every ball.

“But I just didn’t have the focus on finishing the point so accurate.  That definitely changed the momentum.  She really took advantage of that.  It was hard to come back.

“But, I don’t know, my game wasn’t there today as I wanted it to.  But she definitely played really well.”

“She was aggressive,” the world No. 2 said.  “She was making everything.  She was guessing right.  I was just playing a little bit too predictive, you know.

“In the second set I managed to fight back.  Third set, you know, the first game was important.  I let it go, like easily let it go.  From there just couldn’t get back to it.  It was tough.”

In an upset-ridden Australian Open in which the top three women’s seeds – Serena Williams, Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, have all been ousted by the quarterfinals, there will be a first-time winner in Melbourne among the remaining women. The semifinal line-up: Radwanska against No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 4 Li Na against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

“I’m so happy and pleased, especially that I beat one of the best players in the world, Radwanska said.  “Was not easy draw, not easy quarterfinal.

“I’m very happy that I made my first semifinal here.

I think every semifinal, every final is a huge experience with tennis.  Those experience I just had from Wimbledon.  Of course, I’m just very happy, you know, to reach the semifinal at other Grand Slam.

“So I think this is the level everybody playing great tennis.  Well, it’s a bit more pressure.  This is the semifinal of a Grand Slam.  Especially here, first time for me.

“Hopefully I will play the same tennis as today.”

Radwanska said that her match-up against Cibulkova next,  will be a challenging one, since she been playing against since she was 9 or ten:

“I think it’s always tricky to play someone that you know for so long, play so many times, as well.  Like I’m saying, every match is a different story, especially when it’s a semifinal of a Grand Slam, the first semis for me and for her as well.  Well, we’ll see.”

 

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Cibulkova Dominates Halep to reach Australian Open Semifinal

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(January 22, 2014) No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova routed No. 11 Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 to move into the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday. For the Slovak it’s her second major semifinal, the first coming at the 2009 French Open. Cibulkova is now 2-5 in Grand Slam quarterfinals

In a match which lasted 60 minutes, Cibulkova won the last 8 games to close the match. Halep only managed to win 10 points in the second set.

Cibulkova kept the ball deep in her rallies with the Romanian, who committed 25 unforced errors.

“I couldn’t play today,” Halep said.  “I had emotions, big emotions, and I couldn’t manage this.  Before the match I was very nervous and I didn’t feel the ball at all.  I couldn’t move my body and I couldn’t play.

“But she played really well today, and she hits all the balls very strong and she moves really well.”

 

Cibulkova came into the quarterfinals by upsetting No. 3 Maria Sharapova in three sets.

“Of course I’m really glad with the way I played, especially with the way I handled it mentally,” Cibulkova said. “It was a big win against Maria.

“But I wasn’t favorite in this match again against Halep, you know.

“I walked on the court with the confident that I can do it again today.  I was so focusing what I have to do, to do the right things.  That was all what I wanted to do, and of course enjoy my tennis again.

“I’m not so tall, but I’m intense on the court,” the 5’3” Cibulkova said, “and I’m powerful.”

“Obviously I’m not a tall player.  I would say I’m the smallest on tour.

“But, you know, I would say I’m pretty quick on my feet.  I do a lot of good footwork.  I’m really powerful on the court.  I have very good groundstrokes.  My forehand is pretty fast.

“Yeah, when I play my great tennis, I’m really aggressive.  I don’t know, that’s what I do the best.”

 

Dispite the poor performance by Halep, reaching the quarterfinals has been her best result at a major to date.

“I think I will have many chances to pass quarterfinals in Grand Slams,” Halep said.  “But I have to work hard like until now.  So I have my chances in this career and I want to get them.  I want to be more prepared before the big matches.

“So I have to work, hard work.”

“Yes, I am happy that I could play a quarterfinals here in Grand Slam,” she continued.  “Was my dream before this.  I don’t want to disturb my mind very much this sh– today, this match.

“But I just want to enjoy the day and to go home very happy.  I have to enjoy my best result in Grand Slam.”

Cibulkova will face the winner of the Victoria AzarenkaAgniezska Radwanska winner in the semifinals.

“Every match I play against of them, it was me who was doing pressure on them,” Cibulkova said of her potential opponents.  “I was the one who was dictating the game, the one who was going for bigger shots.

“So they both are great players.  I just want to keep my focus, you know, to stay aggressive.”

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Australian Open Results for January 21, 2014

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Melbourne, Australia
January 13-January 26, 2014
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Women’s Singles – Quarterfinals
(4) Li Na (CHN) d. (28) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 62 62
(30) Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) d. (14) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 57 75 62

Women’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. (6) Black/Mirza (IND/IND) 62 36 64
(3) Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. (7) Hlavackova/Safarova (CZE/CZE) 62 26 76(4)
(4) Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO) d. Gajdosova/Tomljanovic (AUS/CRO) 75 46 64
(8) Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Cornet/Garcia (FRA/FRA) 46 64 64

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[8] Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. [2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 26 64 62 36 97
[7] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. [3] David Ferrer (ESP) 61 64 26 64

Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
[8] Daniel Nestor (CAN)/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) d. Alex Bolt (AUS)/Andrew Whittington (AUS) 62 76(1)
Eric Butorac (USA)/Raven Klaasen (RSA) d. [12] Treat Huey (PHI)/Dominic Inglot (GBR) 67(3) 76(6) 64

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Wawrinka stuns Djokovic in Epic Five-Set Battle at Australian Open

 

Stan Wawrinka

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 21, 2014) MELBOURNE – A place in the Australian Open 2014 semifinals awaits an eager Stanislas Wawrinka after battling through five, gruelling sets and shaking off cramps toward the end of the fifth to dethrone defending champion Novak Djokovic in a four hour, heart-stopping upset, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.

 

It would be an understatement to suggest the epic quarterfinal rematch merely lived up to the hype of the past couple of days, the Swiss rapidly gaining momentum in the third set when he began to really dictate play during the long, testing rallies.

 

Sometimes forcing the error off his opponent and, at other times, sticking it out until Djokovic faltered under the pressure of a critical point, this was how Wawrinka won the majority of his points throughout the match – neither player hitting many successful winners on the whole which made for a different kind of match to watch. The Swiss’ fine service combined with consistent returns upon Djokovic’s first serves gave him an edge over his more highly ranked opponent.

 

The Serbian put it down to a mental edge and a bigger serve, also perceiving Wawrinka to have better handled the big stage in comparison to their meeting in Melbourne the previous year.

 

“He served extremely well from the beginning to the end. Every time he was in trouble, he was coming up with big serves,” Djokovic said, reflecting on the match shortly afterwards.

 

​”He took his opportunities. He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. There is nothing I can say, you know, I gave it my best. I gave it all… I tried to fight until the last point as I did in a very similar match we had last year in the fourth round, same court, but it wasn’t to be this time.

 

“These are kind of matches that you work for, you live for, you practice for… I gave my best. It wasn’t enough.”

 

The Serbian did, after all, execute his game to perfection in the opening set. He pressed himself forward to the net and exhibited some beautiful drop shots and winner volleys which sent Wawrinka scrambling to no avail.

 

Once the Swiss found his rhythm and his killer backhand began to explode off his racquet, there was no stopping him. Djokovic was forced to go for big shots but was uncharacteristically inconsistent as his errors continued to accumulate. And no wonder, when he had over 200 km/hr serves hurling down at him including an abundance of aces; 17 serves with which the Serbian could not even make contact.

 

“After losing two times against him at Grand Slams in five sets, I’m really happy to take that one. It’s great for me,” an excited Wawrinka said following his recovery ice bath after the match.

 

​​”It was a really tough battle. I started to cramp a little bit (in the) middle of fifth set, so I had to deal with that. I had to relax a little bit more. I was returning well. I had to do more with my serve, mix it up more, and stay really aggressive.

 

​”In the last one, He missed easy shots. But, in general, in the fifth set I think I went for it.”

 

With an extraordinarily strong top 5 or 6 contenders dominating the men’s field over the past decade or so, Wawrinka has found himself, time and time again, being beaten down by the best of the best. When describing how he felt after Tuesday night’s special victory, he could not help but smile with a glimmer of pride.

 

“​It’s never easy. I have had so many losses against them, it’s always a tough challenge to play them. But, you know, I think last year I took a lot of confidence out of the match with Novak. It was really close. I was playing good. We always have some great battles. I came out on the court tonight with a lot of confidence in myself knowing that, if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him.

 

“I had to fight within myself to fight against him and… that meant being really aggressive, to serve better. That’s what I did. That’s why I won the match tonight.”

 

He will enter his semifinal on Thursday with heightened trust in his own game plan, set to face Tomas Berdych who defeated David Ferrer in four sets earlier that day.

 

​”He’s going to be a tough player to beat. He already made one final in one slam. He already made semifinals in every Grand Slam. So he’s there. He’s really close to the top, top guys. It’s going to be a tough battle.”

 

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Bouchard Upsets Ivanovic to Gain Spot in AustraliaA Open Semis

Eugenie Bouchard volley

 

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 21, 2014)MELBOURNE – With the Genie Army on court side cheering her every move, 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard upset former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in three sets, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, which should boost her ranking up into the top 20 come the end of the tournament.

 

The first Canadian to have reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Patricia Hy-Boulais in 1992, Bouchard worked towards disturbing the momentum of an ever so confident Ivanovic following on from the Serbian’s shock upset of No. 1 Serena Williams earlier in the week.

 

The two women had encountered one another previously, on which occasion Bouchard had clinched the match in straight sets. So the mature, young Canadian was fairly confident that sticking to her own game while playing more aggressively would enable her to pose a significant threat to Ivanovic despite her opponent’s recent success.

 

“I think it was really just staying with her, battling,” Bouchard said, reflecting upon the key aspects which led to her winning the match.

 

“I played her once last year. I feel like she’s playing at a much higher level right now. I know she won a tournament early this year. She was playing really well. I just had to stay with her and try to control the point a little bit more. I think late in the second set I decided to use my forehand a little bit more and I think that worked well.

 

“I tried to be aggressive. Obviously it’s good to mix it up, but I think I just really try to take the ball early. I think that’s good because it takes away time from the opponent. She has less time to guess where I’m going or try to read where I’m going. I think that’s an advantage I try to use on the court.

 

“​In the point, I really just want to play my game, be aggressive, take it to my opponent and not just wait around for opportunities. I think it’s a good thing to take my chances when I’m on the court.”

 

Upon losing the first set where Ivanovic squeezed in a break at the very last minute while the Canadian made a string of poorly timed unforced errors, Bouchard maintained composure and exhibited poise beyond her years to rise to a 3-1 lead in the second.

 

Up a break, Bouchard did not allow even a brief medical timeout – during which Ivanovic received massage treatment to her thigh from her trainer – to distract her from her purpose. While the Serbian was determined to prevent the match from progressing into three sets, Bouchard seized three break point opportunities at 5-5. She followed through by launching a forehand winner, setting it up perfectly to serve out the set. Ivanovic double faulted under the pressure of set point to hand Bouchard the second, 7-5.

 

It was not until the third decider, however, that Bouchard really upped the ante. A star quality was brought out in her game, presenting a rather similar aura to that which had shone through in Ivanovic’s game earlier that week when rising to the occasion against Williams.

 

​”There are crazy ups and downs in matches all the time. You never know. Even if you’re up, you can still lose. ​I think I handled it well today, being up. I just kept trying to play and kept trying to put pressure.

 

​”I think the matches I had last year on the big, centre courts, like Sharapova at the French Open and Ivanovic at Wimbledon, just being on those big stages gave me a lot of experience. Now walking out on centre court in Australia, I feel like I’ve been here before. I’ve been able to perform on big stages well. It gives me that extra confidence.”

 

Bouchard next faces the world No. 4 Li Na in the semifinals, who cruised through her own quarterfinal match against Flavia Pennetta in straight sets.

 

“She’s a great champion,” Bouchard said.

 

“She’s won a slam, as well. It’s going to be really tough. I played her once in Montréal two years ago and we had a close match. But it was one of my first bigger matches, so​ it will be interesting to play her again. I know she’s very solid, very good from the back. It’s going to be hard, but I’m looking forward to it.

 

“I’m just going to try my best. Even if I’m down, I always fight.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Li Na Cruises into Australian Open Semis

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(January 21, 2014) World No. 4 Li Na has moved into her fourth Australian Open semifinal in the last five years by crushing Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday in Melbourne.

After dismissing the two youngest competitors in the opening rounds of Melbourne, Li escaped the third round by saving a match point against Lucie Safarova.

“After saving the match point, I think I got a lot of confidence,” Li said in her on-court interview after the 67-minute match. “Even more belief in myself.”

It was a match between a pair of “thirty-somethings” and Pennetta commented on what she thinks keeps them going.

“I think we still working in a good way,” she said.  “We try to have a good team with us.  They can help us in every moment.

“Is good to see older player, no, in the court and fighting.  Today I think she was perfect in everything.  I mean, I didn’t have a lot of chance at all.”

Li responded to a question about her dominance throughout the match: “I think I prepare for at least like one and a half day to prepare for this match.  I know she was a tough opponent because I was play her four time.  Every time was like tough, you know.

“I don’t know what happen today.  Maybe I just play so well.  And, yeah, or maybe I try to prepare for the match before I come to the court.”

Li jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, but the 28th seeded Pennetta saved herself from being shut out of the set by taking the next two games in the 35 minute set.

Li jumped out to 4-0 lead in the second set and a succession of forehand errors gave the Italian her first game of the second set on a break of serve.

Two-time Australian Open finalist Li will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Ana Ivanovic and Eugenie Bouchard. Li lost to Victoria Azarenka in the 2013 final and to Kim Clijsters in 2011.

The 31-year-old is now 9-0 for 2014. She defended the title in Shenzhen to begin the year.

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Australian Open Results for January 20, 2014

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Melbourne, Australia
January 13-January 25, 2014
$13,615,654/Grand Slam
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Monday, January 20, 2014
Women’s Singles – Fourth Round
(2) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (13) Sloane Stephens (USA) 63 62
(20) Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. (3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 36 64 61
(5) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) 61 63
(11) Simona Halep (ROU) d. (8) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 64 26 60

Women’s Doubles – Third Round
(3) Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. (15) Hantuchova/Raymond (SVK/USA) 64 67(5) 62
(6) Black/Mirza (IND/IND) d. Bouchard/Dushevina (CAN/RUS) 64 63
(7) Hlavackova/Safarova (CZE/CZE) d. Keys/Riske (USA/USA) 64 63
(8) Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Cornet/Garcia (FRA/FRA) 46 64 64

Men’s Singles – Fourth Round
[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. [16] Kei Nishikori (JPN) 76(3) 75 76(3)
[4] Andy Murray (GBR) d. Stephane Robert (FRA) 61, 62, 67(6), 62
[6] Roger Federer (SUI) d. [10] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 63 75 64
[22] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) d. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 63 36 62 64

Men’s Doubles – Third Round

Eric Butorac (USA)/Raven Klaasen (RSA) d. [1] Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA) 76(9) 64
[14] Lukasz Kubot (POL)/Robert Lindstedt (SWE) d. [4] Ivan Dodig (CRO)/Marcelo Melo (BRA)[4] 57 64 64
[8] Daniel Nestor (CAN)/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) d. [9] Mariusz Fyrstenberg (POL)/Marcin Matkowski (POL) 64 67(5) 63
Max Mirnyi (BLR)/Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) d. [11] Julien Benneteau (FRA)/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 62 46 63

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Roger Federer Beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

Federer 3

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 20, 2014) MELBOURNE – Without having dropped even a single set on his road to the quarterfinals, Roger Federer has set up yet another clash with old rival Andy Murray this Wednesday after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, on Monday night.

 

The crowd roared in anticipation of the first true high-profile match of the tournament. From the get-go, Federer was focused in the moment, reading the motion of the ball and setting up opportunities to approach the net for cross-court winner volleys. The serve and volley tactics, reminiscent of his earlier days in the field, became a theme of his service games and saw him to hold each and every one of his serves.

 

Tsonga began attacking Federer’s backhand which was perhaps not at its strongest that evening. But with the exception of seizing a couple of break point opportunities here and there, Tsonga did not come close to backing up such chances at crucial moments or breaking ahead to a comfortable position on the scoreboard.

 

The former world No. 1 exhibited elegant shot-making of astounding precision and it was refreshing to watch him mix in the occasional net play rather than remain baseline bound for which he has become known in more recent times.

 

While Tsonga hit some breathtaking winners, he was shockingly inconsistent, claiming only about half of the points upon his second serve, and he failed to play anywhere near aggressively enough to pose any threat to the great Roger Federer.

 

“Don’t think I got broken today. That, against a great player. So I’m extremely happy with how things went for me tonight. I was able to play my game, offensive, mix it up, come to the net,” Federer said.

 

“I was good at net. I was consistent. I was solid. I was quick. I had the right mindset. I think the plan definitely worked out well for me tonight.

 

“I definitely felt like momentum was on my side, no doubt. I started the match well.”

 

This rising momentum worked against the Frenchman as the crowd often began to applaud a would-be-winner of Tsonga’s only to disband into a thrill of cheers as Federer would somehow manage to hit the ball back over the net.

 

Federer, however, identified some aspects of his game he could indeed improve on moving forward.

“I had some missed opportunities midway through the second set. I think I twice had 0-30, so I thought I could have done a bit better. But Jo did well to hang around and serve well when he had to.”

 

Reaching the quarterfinal round at the Australian Open for the eleventh year straight, the Swiss will contest Murray for a position in the semifinals. Federer is eagerly awaiting the challenge.

 

​”I think we’re both coming into this match with a good feeling. We’re both coming into this match, though, with some doubts slightly. I don’t know how he’s feeling. I haven’t seen him play much, to be quite honest.

 

“​It will be interesting because we both had an interesting year last year with some ups and downs. It’s a good start to the season for both of us already.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray Win Tough Challenges to Advance in Melbourne

Nadal fingers

(January 20, 2014) No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Andy Murray survived challenges from opponents to move into the Australian Open quarterfinals on Monday.

Nadal beat a tough Kei Nishikori 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3).  Nadal survived a fall in the first set in which he broke his shoelace and had to get shoes from his locker, two breaks of serve in the final set and being called for time violation.

“We need referees who understand the game,” said Nadal in regard to his time violation.  “The rules cannot go against the good show.  That’s all.

“If you are playing with 40 degrees, you cannot expect to have 20 seconds recover, 25 seconds recover.  If you are playing crazy rallies, you cannot have 25 seconds recover because then you will not have more rallies because the players cannot have it.  So that goes against the fans, against the show.

“But I repeat:  nothing against the rules.  I accept the rules.  Sometimes I am wrong.  Sometimes I am too slow and I accept that.  I respect the decision of the referee even if I am not happy for that, because was not the right moment to do it, in my opinion, before an advise.  But she did.  That’s all.

“I going to try to go quicker for the future.  But is important to have people on the chair that really understand the game and people who manage this sport who understand the game, and that’s it.

“Because, if not, every time with Hawk Eye, the referee just start watching the watch, 25 seconds, then warning, so then we don’t need any more referees.  We only need lines.  That’s fine.

“Because if not, the referees don’t need to do all the rules.  That is my feeling.  We are making the referees worse than before with all the things that we are making for them easier.”

Nadal praised his opponent who gave him all he could handle for over three hours.

“Kei played fantastic match, in my opinion,” said Nadal.  “Just a few mistakes in some moments that was tough ones.  But for the rest, he played very aggressive, he went for the shots.  He came on court with determination to take the ball very early and go for the winners.

“He really had the right feelings to do it.  So just was a tough match, a very important win.  Very happy.”

Murray 88

Andy Murray failed to capitalize on four match points in the third set before dismissing lucky loser Stephane Robert of France 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

In a rare show of frustration, Murray smashed his racquet after the third set.

“Sometimes it’s necessary,’ Murray said with a smile.  “I had I think three match points.  I put a lot of hard work into that third set.  I maybe lost concentration when I served for it.

“In the tiebreak I didn’t lose concentration.  I just missed a couple of shots, one just wide on a forehand I hit clean, just missed.

“Then losing that set was frustrating because it obviously means you’re out there another 30, 40 minutes at least, when I would preferably had been in the locker room.

“My racquet bit the dust.  Unfortunate for it.  But, yeah, I was glad I managed to start well in the fourth.”

 

Despite Roger Federer’s fall in the rankings to No. 6, Murray expects a tough contest.

“I mean, four, five years ago he was losing like three matches a year.  I mean, it was ridiculous, you know, his record across all of the slams and on the regular tour.  I mean, you could count them on your hand how many matches he was losing during the year.

“I’d say the last couple years he’s lost a little bit more.  I think last year you could see at periods he was struggling with his back.  And if he’s fully fit, I’ve said all along, he’s always going to be there or thereabouts in the majors, and he’ll give himself opportunities to win more because he’s that good.”

For Murray, this is his first major tournament since back surgery in the Fall.

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Victoria Azarenka Moves Past Sloane Stephens into Australian Open Quarterfinals

Azarenka

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 20, 2014) MELBOURNE – Victoria Azarenka has raised her record in Melbourne to an 18-match win streak after disposing of Sloane Stephens in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 on Monday afternoon.

 

The all too familiar Australian Open match-up of Azarenka and Stephens may not have featured a controversial medical timeout this year, but it did not go without a couple of cringe worthy ‘pegs’.

 

Both ladies took to the stage in hot pink tennis gear. An aggressive Azarenka, who had no fear in going for the big shots, gifted herself the early break and, in turn, the psychological edge on young Stephens.

 

At 4-2 in the first set, Stephens propelled a body shot directly at her screeching opponent when, arguably, she had other options as to where she may have directed the ball.

 

No matter, the Belarusian maintained composure and served out the set, however not without receiving a time violation in between serves.

 

“I’m happy with the way I played. I think we were very competitive today,” Azarenka reflected.

 

“I know that Sloane is a great player, a very tough fighter. She was holding her serve really well. I felt like I had a few chances, but she managed to come back strong. So it was important just to stay in that zone and try to create another opportunity.”

 

The second set passed by more quickly than the first and as Azarenka rapidly gained momentum, dictating play, she kept the rally points to a minimum. All the while, Stephens’ unforced errors accumulated and a few poorly timed mishits contributed to the world No. 2 establishing a double break to clinch the match in straight.

 

“I just felt that I managed to pick it up on the important moments and really control the game. Even though sometimes I missed a few shots, I felt like I was doing the right thing. I just wanted to apply that and keep working on that.”

 

While the women’s draw has experienced major upsets over the last few days and the road ahead might appear as though to have opened up greater opportunities for the Belarusian world No. 2, since Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have been extinguished, Azarenka is not overly confident.

 

​”You have to stay alert. It doesn’t matter the level, that you’re No. 2 or whatever. Everybody has proven that anybody can beat anybody. The way I approach the matches, I have to be ready 100 per cent for every player.

 

​”It doesn’t matter. We still have high competition out there. The players who beat those players deserve all the credit because they’ve been better, so they are dangerous and they are competitive. For me it’s important to just keep focusing on my game and to play it one at a time. Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam are never easy, no matter who you play.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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