Maria Sharapova stunned defending champion Caroline Wozniacki to sweep into the Australian Open Last 16 on Friday and join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who clinically disposed of their opponents.
Marin Cilic, last year’s runner-up, looked like he was heading for an early exit. But the Croat turned the match around, saved two match points before prevailing in a marathon five-setter.
Former champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 31st birthday with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kimberley Birrell and Sloane Stephens notched up her 200th career win – a hard-fought one – against Petra Martic.
The Big News
Cilic’s come-from-behind win
Cilic survived a huge scare in the Australian Open third round, surviving two match points before beating Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.
The big-serving Croatian sixth seed was in danger of departing when he lost the first two sets against the 35-year-old Spaniard.
He ripped back 6-1 in the third and saved a first match point on his own serve during an edge-of-the-seat fourth set tiebreaker as the clock struck midnight.
Verdasco earned a second match point on his own delivery and then double-faulted to leave him tearing his hair out.
Cilic took it to a fifth and the still shellshocked 26th seed Verdasco dropped his serve straight away.
Cilic dug deep one last time at 4-2, 0-40, saving three break points and eventually secured the marathon come-from-behind victory in 4hr 18min just before 1:00 am.
Sharapova knocks Wozniacki out
Maria Sharapova, the Russian five-time Grand Slam winner, who has struggled since returning from a drugs ban in 2017, was at full throttle in ending the Dane’s dream of a second major title.
Sharapova won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 with the roof closed on Rod Laver Arena and will next play in-form local hope Ashleigh Barty, who bounced Greece’s Maria Sakkari, for a berth in the quarter-finals.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew it would be a tough match,” said the 2008 champion, who has been in sizzling form at the tournament as she chases her first Slam title since Roland Garros in 2014.
Another milestone for Federer
Swiss great Federer was also on fire in taming big-serving American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to stay on track for a third successive title at Melbourne Park and a 21st Grand Slam crown.
On a rain-affected day that delayed play on outside courts, the 37-year-old showed no mercy to the 21-year-old in his 100th match on the centre court in Melbourne.
“I had a really good feeling out here today against someone who can be dangerous,” said Federer after reaching the Melbourne fourth round for the 17th time – more than anyone else ever.
“Taylor played really well. He is going to have many more years on tour playing at this level.”
Shot of the day
From the sidelines
Little Lenny steals the show
Roger Federer had a special guest in his courtside box watching him beat Taylor Fritz – his son Lenny, and he stole the show. As the Swiss master was doing a courtside interview Lenny was more interested in poking his coach Ivan Ljubicic in the face. “There he goes. The coach is being very serious, I love that,” Federer said. “I didn’t even know he (Lenny) was going to come to the stadium. For me it was a very special match and I’m happy Lenny was there.” Federer has two sets of twins, two boys and two girls, with wife Mirka.
Young American Taylor Fritz lost to Roger Federer is round three at Melbourne Park and Nick Kyrgios jokingly took some of the blame. The controversial Australian was on commentary duties for television and said Fritz was one of his best mates on tour, but they spend more time playing video games than on the practice court. “He is a bit of a gamer himself. For him to improve, I have to let him off the video games and do more training and see how it goes,” he said, adding: “He is a good guy.”
Where’s the poop-scoop?
Konta revealed the bizarre reason her late-night epic against Muguruza could not be moved to an outside court so it could start earlier. “We were actually going to go out to court three to start,” she said. “There was basically seagull poo everywhere. They had to clean the court. By the time they would have cleaned the court, we would have been in the same boat anyway.”
“It’s pretty cool. But nothing compared to Roger [Federer]. He has like 12,000 wins.”
- Sloane Stephens on told that she got her 200th career win after beating Petra Matric.
“I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
- Angelique Kerber celebrated her 31st birthday with a straight-sets victory in third round.
“I would want to be the (next) person to win a Slam as a teenager.”
- Amanda Anisimova, 17, lays bare her ambition of wanting to emulate her idol, Maria Sharapova.
“I don’t think it is healthy – in fact it is quite dangerous.”
- Briton Johanna Konta after losing to Garbine Muguruza in a match that ended at 3:12 am.