Sunday, January 22, 2017

AO Day 6/7: Murray Mowed Down... by Mischa?

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Well, that’s one week down. And it may be one of the best men’s weeks in recent memory. Andy Murray has crashed out, gone down to Zverev. No, not that one.


Apologies for missing yesterday’s games, but you do get a bigger post today, at least. And Murray’s defeat was momentous. Will he have another chance to win this slam? He will be well on his way to 31 next year. This is a huge blackspot on his career. This was a hark back to the good old days of WTA slams where seedings were more like guidelines.


But before we focus on the latest top ten seed to go, let’s go back to Friday and also catch up with Dasha. It’s all that sunshine she has. We need it right now, especially with Barack Obama leaving.

Rafa Nadal came back to outlast the younger Zverev (Alexander) 4-6, 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3, 6-2. If it had been a year later, you knew the German would have won it. Nadal managed to cling on and we could still have our ninth Federer/Nadal final in a slam. Because eight just aren’t enough. The rallies were exceptional, during which Nadal had no answer to Zverev’s backhand. The Spaniard had to use every ounce of his staying power just to hang around in this one. But you just can’t hit 20 more errors than winners against Rafa.

Grigor Dimitrov saw off Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. The most alarming thing is Gasquet played all right. Dimitrov played like 2009 Federer. He was everywhere. And his forehand literally bludgeoned the Frenchman to death. But while Gasquet’s head fell he never properly threw in the towel. He was never given a chance. There was a stretch of games in the middle of the second set where in every rally each shot was better than any shot this BACKSPINNER has ever hit.

In other news, Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic both got through in four, against Benoit Paire and Gilles Simon, respectively.

Denis Istomin got through to the fourth round in a fiery match against Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard got more games than Nole did. There were racket smashes, balls hit at umpires, and a general fracas. But Istomin’s run continues.

Heavenly forces are watching upon Gavrilova. Jelemufasa? Or maybe Mufakic?

Gavrilova is the player who won’t go away, who will never quit. She denied Naomi Broady and then Ana Konjuh. And she refused to back down against Timea Bacsinszky, winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. She should have won in straights but, even when she did not, she refused to back down. You could stand her up at the gates of hell and she won’t back down.

The two played a superb match, with the rallies long and varied. It was full of variety, slices and spins. This was a superb match. Australia has found their future champion. And if it isn’t her, well, it has to be Ash Barty. This BACKSPINNER read her and Dellacqua's success (def. Hingis/Vandeweghe) fairly well.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Gasquet d. Mott {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Tomic d. Estrella Burgos {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Nishikori d. Lacko {W}
MS 4th Rd: Dimitrov d. Istomin
WS 1st Rd: Wozniacki d. Rodionova {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Konta d. Osaka {W}
WS 3rd Rd: Venus d. Duan {W}
WS 4th Rd: Lucic-Baroni d. Brady

Finally, let’s get onto the fourth round action.

...For the first time at the Australian Open in 15 years, the men's top two seeds have both been knocked out before the quarterfinals of the opening slam of the year. Murray collapsed to a defeat against Zverev. Again, no not that one. The bitterest pill to swallow was the fact Zverev had a single game plan. And the ease of the 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Murray crashed out in three and a half hours, with little fight, little digging in. It was one of the least Murray-like performances this BACKSPINNER has ever seen. He couldn’t even get the passing shot going. He hit 72 winners and just 28 errors. He even broke five times. Somehow, almost against the run of play, he lost serve eight times. He wasn’t clutch. He couldn’t break down the German’s fairly simple game plan. Despite playing good aggressive tennis and not hitting many errors at all he has crumbled to an embarrassing loss. Murray won barely a third of his second serve points. He has always had trouble there and it came back to bite him today. Murray goes back to the UK, presumably, or maybe Miami. Zverev goes on to play Federer. Expect a lot of serve and volley plays. There could well be a breaker if the German can get his game going. But can you see past the Fed?
..Fedex kept chugging with a 6-7[4], 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the fourth round against Asia’s number one. It took three and a half hours, but how much out of Federer it took remains to be seen. But he is the 17th seed, like Sampras was when he won his last slam. During the match Fed hit 83 winners, Nishikori just 42. Up 4-0 and then 5-1, Nishikori served for the first set twice but stumbled before eventually putting it away. But Federer had the momentum. And when he took the first 6-4, he rolled through the third like a knife cuts through butter. And then in the fourth Kei, who had basically thrown in the towel, was serving at 1-2. In a lengthy deuce game, the Japanese man somehow held. Federer had it on his racket but shanked a backhand he had to have. And from there Kei got a second wind. He broke and then held on to take it to five. But in the fifth it was Roger with all the answers. He cruised through it and looked like he did in 2015, at times. Federer really is back. The last time he played Zverev he won 6-0, 6-0. He is 2-0 against the German. And he leads Wawrinka 18-3 in their head to head. While he only leads Tsonga 11-6, he has never lost to him in Melbourne. The Frenchman has beaten him the last two times they played. So Federer is probably hoping to meet his compatriot if he can get past the serve-volleying German.
...There is always a dud match. Just the way it is. Except today. Because this has to be the dud. But it just wasn’t. It was Wawrinka controlling the match expertly and winning 7-6[2], 7-6[4], 7-6[4] in two and three quarter hours. It was the Swiss never letting up and avoiding the upset. It is so difficult to be a favourite, especially against a fired-up opponent with momentum and an upset already under their belt. Wawrinka managed to win 74 per cent of his service points, as both men broke twice. Stan was able to make himself nigh on unbreakable for much of the match, limiting Seppi’s fantastic return game. 90 per cent of Wawrinka’s winners were aces or backhands. Seppi picked the wrong wing to go to. The Swiss fourth seed is one of only three former champions left in the draw, so he could win it. But Tsonga up next is playing with nothing to lose at his best major. Wawrinka needs to drag him into long rallies, into the lengthier exchanges.
...The Brit finally ran out of steam against Tsonga, going down 6-7[4], 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in just under three hours. 17 aces and 59 winners to just 29 errors off the Frenchman’s racket. Evans was only plus one in that category, and he never broke serve. He struggled to live with Tsonga, particularly in the last three sets. The Frenchman looks really good and moves on once again. Since 2010, Tsonga’s run at the Australian Open has always ended at the hands of Federer or Nishikori, apart from once. Some players just have those slams where they feel innately comfortable, where form goes out the window. Stosur in Paris, Lisicki in London, Nadal at Roland Garros and Tsonga here. It doesn’t matter the draw or the form. Watch out! Tsonga has efficiently moved through the draw, seeing off whoever has been put in front of him. And he has done it without drawing attention to himself. Wawrinka is up next, someone else nobody is talking about. Tsonga could certainly beat Wawrinka - he is 2-2 in Australian Open quarterfinals, after all. However, both men have a serious matchup issue with Roger Federer. But there’s no way a 36-year old man could possibly win a slam in this day and age. Right?

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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