Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quarter-Finals Summary

There were four monumental matches on Day 9 of the Australian Open. And I think that they all ended with the right result.

First was the battle between Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Vika Azarenka
Vika Azarenka celebrates her Quarter Final win
Azarenka averaged at three games lost per match till today. It took a tight first set and a shocker of a tie-breaker to bring back that form into her. After 6-6 in the first set, the crowd was probably anticipating a tight tie-breaker. Instead, Radwanska ran away with it with seven consecutive points. Enough the shake Azarenka and bring out the best in her. Sure, the shrieks reached shattering frequencies, but it clearly meant that Vika was in the groove now.

She completed a convincing comeback to take the match 6-7 6-0 6-2.

The second clash was between Wonder Mum, Kim Clijsters and the slamless No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki.

Kim Clijsters after defeating Caroline Wozniacki
After her victory against Li Na, in what was, by far, the best women’s match in this Australian Open, yet, many wondered if she will be able to play at her best today. Especially after the tumble she took in that match, early in its first set. And despite the seedings, no one was fooled into believing that the Dane was the favourite, or the Belgian, the underdog. And after making it almost official in her previous match that this would be her last Australian Open, Kim Clijsters is on a dream run here. And she was not going to let the World No. 1 stop her.

She convincingly defeated her opponent 6-3 7-6 to progress to the semi-finals. And this meant that Wozniacki is set to lose her No. 1 ranking. She could be replaced at the top by either of Azarenka, Kvitova or Sharapova.

The third match was between Roger Federer and the rejuvenated Juan Martin Del Potro.

Federer and Del Potro shake hands after their match
To grasp just how talented and quick to learn the Argentine is, all one needs to do is look at four matches from 2009. The first one was here in Melbourne, in the quarter-finals. Federer won that encounter in a display of sheer dominance, 6-3 6-0 6-0. The next match is again between these two, this time of the clay of Paris. Federer almost had to dig the clay up to record a win. Five tight sets, with Federer even down a break in the fifth. In fact, the only reason Federer probably won that day was because he was on a highly motivated run to claim his first Roland Garros title after Nadal was disposed by Soderling. The third match is between Nadal and Del Potro, US Open semi-final. Only once before has Nadal ever had such a beating in a Grand Slam match. Del Potro decimated the Mallorcan, 6-2 6-2 6-2. The last one is the US Open final. No one, not even Del Potro himself probably believed that he could upset the five time champion. Five sets later, when he did accomplish that, he had become the first man ever, to defeat Federer and Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament.

He even had a shot at the coveted top two ranks, but for that brutal wrist injury. Missing almost the entire 2010 season, he plummeted from 4th to somewhere close to 500th in the world.

But the Argentine is back. He is he 11th seed now and true to his ability, had progressed till the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, the confidence is still not quite back. It also does not help to run in a Federer who is playing brilliantly. Federer took just a minute less than two hours to win the match. The final score was 6-4 6-3 6-2.

For some records at statistics, this was Federer’s 1000th tour level match. And he won his 2000th, 2001st and 2002nd sets as well.

The last epic was between Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych.

Nadal celebrates a point
After the rather acrimonious spar between Berdych and Almagro, and being booed by the Melbourne crowd, Berdych was in no happy mood. He does not have a happy history with Nadal either. Nor is his head to head with Rafa something to cheer about. But Berdych is in the best form of his career. He is playing exceptionally well, on all wings. Unfortunately, so is Rafa.

After several nervous holds till 4-5 in the first, Berdych jumped to a 0-40 lead on Nadal’s service. Nadal then upped the ante and played three screaming points (not that Berdych was going easy, mind you) to draw level. Then in the tie-breaker, Nadal was the first to draw blood. But an excellent service return and an error in judgement related to the Hawk-Eye challenge meant that Nadal was suddenly another set point down. Berdych calmly aced it.

Again in the second set, Nadal raced to a 5-2 lead. But a challenge on his serve resulted in him having to replay the point, despite Berdych having been hardly any position to make a return. The service was broken and another tie-breaker followed. This time however, Nadal kept his nerve to close it 8-6.
For two sets, both Nadal and Berdych pounded the ball till it pleaded for mercy. After a set apiece, only Nadal had juice left in him to keep on going. Berdych was clearly out of gas. The first two sets lasted for two hours and twenty six minutes. And after four hours and sixteen minutes, the Spaniard triumphed. The score card read 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-3.

With both Federer and Nadal winning, this means that for the first time since the 2005 French Open, the two players will meet in the semi-final of a major. The only other time these two played in Australia was in the epic final of 2009.
This one on Thursday has all the makings of a classic.

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