Andy Murray AND Angelique Kerber, current world number ones and the top seeds in the men’s and women’s draws respectively, crashed out of the Australian Open on Sunday as both suffered upsets in their fourth round encounters.
Murray was ousted in four sets by late bloomer Mischa Zverev while Kerber was handed defeat by enigmatic American CoCo Vanderweghe. In both instances, the demise of the top seeds opened up potential pathways to glory for the resurgent veterans in this year’s draw.
35-year-old Roger Federer built on Friday’s emphatic win over Tomas Berdych by dispatching men’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori in five, setting up a quarter-final tie with Murray’s conqueror Zverev on Tuesday. He will be joined on quarter-finals day by 36-year-old Venus Williams, who won her fourth consecutive match of the tournament in straight sets, downing Mona Barthel 6-3, 7-5. Williams will meet Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday for the chance to play the winner of Vanderweghe and Garbine Muguruza in the semis, where she would have met Kerber had the defending champion advanced that far.
And Federer and Venus weren’t the only members of the old guard celebrating success on a weekend where experience generally trumped youth. In the third round on Saturday, Rafael Nadal came through a grueling encounter with Mischa’s 19-year-old brother, the widely acclaimed ‘future of tennis’ Alexander Zverev. The Spaniard came through 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2 in a contest that endured four hours and six minutes, to reach a fourth round meeting with Gael Monfils on Monday and a likely quarter-final with Milos Raonic.
A prospect that was unthinkable on the opening day of the tournament, there now stands a real possibility that we could see both a Federer-Nadal and an all-Williams sister final, with Serena in last 16 action tomorrow. The younger sister takes on Barbara Strycova for a chance to play the winner of Ekaterina Makarova and Johanna Konta in her quarter final. With Murray’s exit, and the spirited defeat suffered by Dan Evans as he battled in a four-set loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday, from the promising British contingent that lit-up this tournament in it’s early rounds now only Konta remains.
The 25-year-old world number 9 was the WTA’s most improved player in 2016 and has made a fantastic start to this season. Still on a high from lifting her second career title in Sydney a week ago, Konta stormed into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-1 demolition of Carolina Wozniacki on Saturday. A semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, the Australian-born Brit certainly loves playing Down Under, but her revelatory form over the past twelve months has proven she can be a threat to anyone on the women’s tour.
What an opportunity to prove just that if the Serena Williams quarter final comes to fruition.