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AFP
January 26, 2020

Nadal, Halep move on as shocks rattle Australian Open

Sports

AFP
January 26, 2020

MELBOURNE: World number one Rafael Nadal and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep dodged an exodus of seeded players as the shocks kept rolling at the Australian Open on Saturday.

After Serena Williams and title-holder Naomi Osaka fell by the wayside on Friday, second seed Karolina Pliskova crashed out on a day of carnage in the women’s draw.Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, the sixth seed, won only one game against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, the world number 31, as she bombed 6-0, 6-1.

And a resurgent Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Major-winner, thrashed fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-2 as six of the top 10 women’s seeds exited in round three. Tenth seed Madison Keys lost to Maria Sakkari on Friday.

“I was very concentrated and focused on what I wanted to do, it all went fast my way,” said Muguruza, who raced through the first set in just 23 minutes.Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic also crumbled to lower-ranked opposition when she lost 7-5, 6-3 to Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who is returning from a stress fracture in her foot.

While the women’s seeds fell, Nadal had few problems against fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta — despite staying up to watch Roger Federer’s thrilling late-night win over John Millman, which went to a fifth-set tie-breaker. “I watched it until one o’clock — it was impossible to sleep watching this match,” Nadal said.

But he showed no signs of tiredness, racing through 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in just 1hr 38mins in what he called his “best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt”.

“I’m improving every day, so super-happy. I did well on my serve and hit good forehands down the line, which is a key shot for me,” he said.

Nadal, 33, who can equal Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam titles with victory in Melbourne, will now meet either Karen Khachanov or Nick Kyrgios — the outspoken Australian with whom he has a running feud.

Kyrgios, who labelled Nadal “super salty” last year, and mimicked his serving routine during his second-round win, has his biggest test yet against the Russian 16th seed, who won their only meeting in Cincinnati last year.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev dismissed Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to set up a last-16 clash with Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who remained unbeaten this year with his win over David Goffin.

Halep put away Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-4 to reach the last 16, where she will play Belgium’s Elise Mertens, who won in three sets against CiCi Bellis — ending the American’s Grand Slam return from long-term injury. Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, shrugged off the departure of some of the tournament favourites, saying defeats can happen to anyone.

“It’s just a tournament, and I’m sure that for you guys (media) it’s a little bit of shock when the top-10 players are losing, but it’s life and we cannot be 100 percent every day,” said the Romanian.

Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, beat Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 to set up a meeting with Russia’s 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who knocked out Pliskova 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3).

“I was about 40 percent today of my game,” said Pliskova, who was at a loss to explain her lack of form. “I don’t know. I was just down.”

In other results, Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem came through 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 against Taylor Fritz, and Russia’s Rublev beat Goffin 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Stanislas Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, progressed to the last 16 when John Isner retired in the second set, and Gael Monfils beat Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3.

World number four Daniil Medvedev eased past Alexei Popyrin in straight sets Saturday to set up a last-16 clash with former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

The tall Russian had few problems dispatching the unseeded Australian 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena as he steps up his quest for a maiden Grand Slam crown.

Results: Men’s singles 3rd round: Nick Kyrgios (AUS x23) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS x16) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/8); Alexander Zverev (GER x7) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 6-4; Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2; Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP x27) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4; Gael Monfils (FRA x10) bt Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3; Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Taylor Fritz (USA x29) 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4; Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x15) bt John Isner (USA x19) 6-4, 4-1 ret; Andrey Rublev (RUS x17) bt David Goffin (BEL x11) 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Women’s singles 3rd round: Kiki Bertens (NED x9) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-2, 7-6 (7/3); Anett Kontaveit (EST x28) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI x6) 6-0, 6-1; Iga Swiatek (POL) bt Donna Vekic (CRO x19) 7-5, 6-3; Elise Mertens (BEL x16) bt Catherine Bellis (USA) 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-0; Simona Halep (ROU x4) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-1, 6-4; Garbine Muguruza (ESP) bt Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) 6-1, 6-2; Angelique Kerber (GER x17) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS x30) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3).