Australia’s Ash Barty has stormed into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a confidence-boosting win over her Wimbledon conqueror Alison Riske on Sunday night.
Barty got on top of the American early, lost the second set badly, then was too strong in the third to finally win 6-3 1-6 6-4.
With tricky wind conditions on Rod Laver Arena, Barty held her nerve in the final stanza, saying she had to “hang in there” to win.
“It was very tough from different ends, playing very differently,” Barty said in her post-match interview.
“I just had to hang in there, try and give myself a chance.
“It was exceptionally hard when the balls were new from this end.
“That end you can’t really feel it, but this end, you really feel it, have to be smart, use it.
“I struggled tonight, but was able to get big holds I needed.”
Barty will now play Czech champion Petra Kvitova, who had earlier fought back from a set down to beat Greek 22nd seed Maria Sakkari 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-2.
Kvitova knocked Barty out of the Australian Open at the same stage of the tournament last year.
“I love Petra, well, let’s hope she doesn’t break my heart on Tuesday night or Tuesday,” Barty said.
Yeah, it’s been, you know, an incredible year for me the last 12 months. It has been amazing. I’m just excited I get another opportunity in a quarter-final of a grand slam. You don’t get those every week, so I’m really excited.’’
Kvitova had been beaten by Sakkari in their past two meetings at Cincinnati and Rome last year, but showed her good form to prevail after a tough first set.
“It’s really tough to play Maria,” she said.
“Last time I lost to her, so I really knew it would be a difficult match.”
There were also tears all on Sunday afternoon as Sofia Kenin ended teenage sensation Coco Gauff’s Australian Open run.
In an all-American fourth-round affair on Melbourne Arena, Kenin kept her cool to overturn a set deficit and score a 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-0 victory to make her first grand slam quarter-final.
The 21-year-old, who won three WTA titles last year, was emotional after the breakthrough three-set triumph.
“It was such a tough match,” Kenin said.
“It means a lot to me. I’m so happy to be through to the next round.”
Gauff has been the talk of the tournament at Melbourne Park after claiming the scalps of defending champion Naomi Osaka and seven-time major winner Venus Williams.
She’s projected to rise to a career-high ranking of world No.52 when the latest WTA rankings are released.
“She’s such a tough player,” said Kenin, the tournament’s 14th seed.
Federer drops a set, then storms home
Roger Federer let a set drop against world No.67 Marton Fucsovics before smashing his way into the quarter finals.
The Swiss legend steamrolled the Hungarian 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 on Sunday night to set up a meeting with unseeded American Tennys Sandgren.
The American and Federer have never played but the 20-time grand slam champion will be a red-hot favourite against the world No.100.
Federer, who won through to his 57th grand slam quarter-final, admitted feeling fatigued after his four hour and three minute marathon against Queenslander John Millman.
“It was a tough start,” Federer said. “I thought that Marton played clean. I struggled … it was the rest of the Millman match of course. I got beat down the baseline (against Millman) and it took my confidence away a little bit.
“The morning after John’s match and this morning, I lie in bed for an hour, I was like, when are we going to stand up, one, two, three and how do I feel?
“That’s almost how it felt. But I’m good and I was able to recover and play a good match.”
Defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic also cruised into the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win over Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Sunday.
Djokovic, who has dropped only one set in the tournament so far, took the match 6-3 6-4 6-4 and will play his 46th grand slam quarter-final against Canadian Milos Raonic.
In his post-match interview, Djokovic said he had a lot of respect for Raonic, who defeated Marin Cilic 6-4 6-3 7-5.
“Quite a different matchup than the one today,” Djokovic said.
“He has one of the biggest serves and I have to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net.
“I have played him here five years ago in the quarter-finals and I remember it really well.
“I’m really glad to see him being healthy and playing on a really good level again.”
Cilic, beaten in five sets by Roger Federer in the 2018 Australian Open final, was unable to convert any of his four break points, with Raonic slamming down 35 aces to his five.
Raonic has reached the quarter-final stage at the season-opening grand slam five times, with his best result a semi-final appearance in 2016 when he lost to Andy Murray in five sets.
It’s a welcome change in fortunes for Raonic, who has been been beset in recent times by injuries.
Getting to the bottom of Kyrgios’ injury time
Nick Kyrgios has pledged to “give everything” in his quest to bring down Rafael Nadal in their much-anticipated grudge match at the Australian Open on Monday night.
Last time the two met, Nadal prevailed in a thrilling four-setter after Kyrgios was backing up from a night out at Wimbledon Village’s Dog & Fox pub.
After his epic 6-2 7-6 (5) 6-7 (6) 6-7 (7) 7-6 (8) third-round triumph over Karen Khachanov, the Australian indicated that he would be fit and firing after a day off on Sunday.
“Physically I think I’ll be fine. A whole day off tomorrow … do all the right things,” Kyrgios said after needing a medical time-out in the first set on Saturday night.
<br /> I just served and felt my left bum cheek get sore. Feels better now, yeah.
“I’m super excited, honestly. Playing one of the greatest tennis players on centre court at your own slam, it’s pretty damn cool. I’m looking forward to it. That’s why you play.”
Coming up Monday …
1-Rafael Nadal (ESP) v 23-Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Theyre will be no love lost as these foes rekindle their rivalry in a much-hyped Australian Open blockbuster. Kyrgios branded Nadal “super salty” last year but the Spaniard had the last laugh, beating Kyrgios in four sets at Wimbledon. That victory gave the 19-time major champion a 4-3 edge across their career meetings but Kyrgios has fared the better on hardcourts (2-1). The victor will book a quarter-final date with the winner of the Dominic Thiem-Gael Monfils clash. Expect fireworks.
4-Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v 15-Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
Wawrinka knows how it feels to walk in Medvedev’s shoes. The Russian has been branded the next most likely to break the ‘Big Three’ dynasty, a tag the Swiss veteran wore well before claiming his maiden major at the Australian Open in 2014. Medvedev beat Wawrinka in the quarters during his run to a first grand slam final at the US Open last year. Could history repeat itself at Melbourne Park?
7-Alexander Zverev (GER) v 17-Andrey Rublev (RUS)
Rising star Rublev will continue to press his claim as this year’s Australian Open dark horse. He could equal his career-best performance at a major – a last-eight appearance at Flushing Meadows in 2017 – with victory over Zverev. Fighting to shed his grand slam flop label, the seventh-seeded German has shown no signs of his ATP Cup struggles across his three straight-set wins in Melbourne. Zverev has also had the wood over Rublev thus far, winning all three of their previous meetings.
17-Angelique Kerber (GER) v 30-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Kerber had to overcome a hamstring injury to take her place at Melbourne Park, but the 2016 Australian Open champion has moved well on her way to the fourth round. Pavlyuchenkova didn’t drop a set in the first week and dumped No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova, who she hadn’t beaten in six previous attempts, out of the tournament in the third round. The tour veterans have played each other 14 times, for seven wins each.
4-Simona Halep (ROM) v 16-Elise Mertens (BEL)
With the shock third-round exits of fellow contenders Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Belinda Bencic, the draw has opened up for Halep to make another deep run at Melbourne Park. Runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, the fourth seed has waltzed into the fourth round for a third straight year and not dropped a set in the process. Mertens will be out to change that and the Belgian 16th seed will fancy her chances after upsetting Halep in the Qatar Open final last February.