Posted in: Tattle, Tennis

Australian Open 2021: Barty v Rogers, Nadal through, Berrettini withdraws – live!

  • Updates from day eight at Melbourne Park
  • Any thoughts? Email Daniel or tweet @unitedrewind

Muchova has broken Mertens first up in set two and consolidated too while, back on Laver, superb scurrying from Barty, retrieving various big forehands from Rogers, allows her to conjure a winner just as her opponent thinks she can sneak into the net. Barty leads 3-1.

Barty is serving first and looking very comfy with her action, but Rogers is extremely solid in her first go too. then Barty holds again, to 15, and they have their first sit-down. Barty 2-1 Rogers

Barty and Rogers are underway on Laver. She’s a funny one, Barty, one of those you half-think are number one without having won a major – see Jankovic, Pliskova, Safina and Wozniacki and Halep for a bit – better then the first three, not as good as the last two. But, though it feels instructive that her best in Melbourne is the semis while at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow it’s round four, she’s got a French Open. You’d take it.

Muchova wins the first set 7-6(5)! She serves big down the T, and eventually – I say eventually but it doesn’t take long – Mertens goes down the line on the forehand, but the ball drops a foot wide.

Muchova nudges ahead 4-3 and consolidates when Mertens nets a forehand, a rally soundtracked by my seven-year-old playing Patrick’s Reel on her cello. Meanwhile, I’m composing a tune I’m going to call First Day of Half-Term Blues. Back on court, another Mertens error, a forehand wiped wide, gives Muchova two set points; she wastes two, but here comes the one that’s on her serve….

Back on Court, Mertens and Muchova are 3-3 in their breaker.

What a shame. That means we’re a match down on our night session – as well as Mertens v Muchova, which completes the afternoon behaviour, we’ve got Barty v Rogers, which will be starting soon. Tsitsipas moves on to face Rafael Nadal in the last eight. That’ll be an absolute jazzer.

Berrettini has a problem with his arm, and doctor’s advice is that it’ll only get worse.

Over on Court 3 there are a couple of Aussies in action, and wildcards Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick “JP” Smith have just won the first set of their third-round doubles outing against the much higher-ranked Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot. The Dutchman and Pole respectively are seeded fourth and ousted the Kokkinakis and Kyrgios last out. Proceedings were tense until 6-6, when the locals stormed to emphatic 7-2 tie-breaker.

Meanwhile, Mertens and Muchova are embarking on their own tie-break after two rare holds of serve.

It’s break after break between these two. Muchova has somehow broken back twice. Five breaks so far in this opening set. Mertens now leads 5-4 and can wrap up this topsy-turvy set but the Czech world No 27 is pushing her all the way. It’s 30-40. Dear oh dear. And Muchova, in the SIXTH break, has levelled at 5-5.

Let’s take a quick look around the grounds, and Elise Mertens is leading Karolina Muchova 4-2 in the first set on Margaret Court Arena. The Belgian 18th seed had raced to a 4-0 lead but has since won only two points.

What a start for Elise Mertens!

She’s broken Karolina Muchova’s serve twice already – but we know after her last match that NO lead is safe!

WATCH: @9Gem
STREAM: #AusOpen #AO2021

Ash Barty is warming up for her meeting with Shelby Rogers, which is due to start on Rod Laver Arena at 7pm. The Australian is the favourite here. Rogers, 28, is ranked 57th and has never made it past the fourth round of the Australian Open, but has made the quarter-finals of the French Open and US Open.

Should Barty beat the American, the road to the final looks open, with the top seeds on her side of the draw already out.

Nadal is doing his post-match interview.

“Every match, when you go on court, in a the round of 16 against a great player like Fabio, you’ve got to worry every moment. But at the same time you can’t expect to go on court and not have problems during the match, facing these kinds of players.

And there it is. With three match points under his belt, Nadal serves out the contest with an ace to secure his place in the final eight. He will play the winner of tonight’s match between Tsitsipas and Berrettini.

Third set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-6 2-5 Rafael Nadal It is surely less unenviable to serve to stay in a match than receive. But however you spin it, Fognini is not in a good place. By the end of this lightning-quick game win to love he is now receiving to stay in the match. It’ll get ya.

Third set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-6 1-5 Rafael Nadal* Nadal is on the back foot straight up but returns to even ground via a serve-volley session. That serve is so fantastic it’s almost fantasy. It makes contact with the outside corner of the service box and bends away for Fognini in such a manner that his return is merely an opportunity for his opponent.

Third set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-6 1-4 Rafael Nadal He is turning the screws now, is Nadal. Commentators describe it as “sliding down the mountain”. That’s assuming he was perched on top of a mountain in the first place. He trails 15-40, snatches a point back but is let down by his 35th unforced error. This contest is almost at its conclusion.

Third set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-6 1-3 Rafael Nadal* That is some rally. Rafa is up 30-0 and Fognini is coming up at him but Nadal is during the Italian wider and wider until his shot barely makes the edge of the net. Nadal is athletic in a way one should not be athletic at 34, two hours into a match. At 33, Fignini is no slouch himself, it’s just tough to overcome a second seed so adept at his craft.

Third set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-6 1-2 Rafael Nadal Fognini is now facing two break points. He’s in dangerous territory. The pair are trading crosscourt forehands until Fognini opts for a ball down the line and his winner is a wonderful drop shot. He takes the sting right out of Nadal’s forehand and places it gently just over the net. Risky play when required. One forehand winner later and he has levelled. Nadal has a golden chance to claim the advantage but incomprehensibly skews it out. The problem for Fognini is that for every one of those hiccups there are plenty more moments of class, including one lovely dipping shot that gives him a third break point after deuce No 3. A few seconds later he has a break that could yet be the match.

Third set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-6 1-1 Rafael Nadal* Another straightforward service game. Nadal is maintaining composure; the pressure is all on the Italian.

Third set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-6 1-0 Rafael Nadal

Reader Hamayoun Khan is admiring Nadal. “Couple of amazing lobs from Rafa in that set. Both placed to perfection,” he writes. “Is there any shot not in his armoury?”

Second set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-6 Rafael Nadal* Wow, what tennis. These are the points we all come to see. Both players are in their element. Fognini seemingly has Nadal with a drop shot but the Spaniard has lobbed it back over his counterpart’s head just inside the baseline. He gets it back. Nadal smashes the return. He gets it back. My my. Finally, Fognini hits the ball into the net. That was a joy to watch. More of it please. We’ll have to wait until the next set, though, for Nadal has swept to a triplet of set points and converts at the first time of asking.

Second set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-5 Rafael Nadal The Italian has struck a tremendously clean shot – into the stands. Frustration is evident as he gifts Nadal a break point and only escalates further when he makes his fourth unforced error of the game to lose four consecutive points after leading 30-0.

Second set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-4 Rafael Nadal* As certain as death and taxes is a Nadal comeback. He digs in to come back from 0-40 in his service game. Fognini must be kicking himself, having gone up a break, then dropped serve only to find himself behind. He needs to hold serve here.

Second set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 4-3 Rafael Nadal That break has acted as a galvanising force for Nadal, who is now sitting pretty with three break points – or so we thought. Fognini gets one back. And another via a superb ace. And there’s another ace. All square again with very little effort. Conversely, Nadal is swishing his racket, then genuinely punching it with those taped-up fingers after losing another break-point opportunity with the advantage. Can he make good on the fifth? Can he fix this? Yes he can.

Second set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 4-2 Rafael Nadal* Good afternoon, and good morning to you early birds in various parts of the world. Well Rafa may be leading but he hasn’t exactly taken off at full speed in this service game. He chases the entire way and saves one break point from 30-40 but cedes the second via an unforced error – his second of the game – and Fognini has a break.

Second set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 3-2 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Fognini gets a slice of luck with a heavy net cord on his way to another hold.

Over on Margaret Court Arena, Casper Ruud, the 24th seeded Norwegian, has been forced to retire from his fourth-round match with Andrey Rublev, having just dropped the second set to trail 2-0. Not entirely sure what the problem was, but we’ll find out and let you know. It sets up a tasty quarter-final between the top two Russian players on tour – Rublev and Daniil Medvedev.

Second set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 2-2 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Imperious is the best way to describe Nadal’s performance this game. He manoeuvres his opponent around the court with apparent ease, throws down an ace for good measure, and wraps the game up with little to no fuss.

Second set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 2-1 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Nice stuff at times from Fognini this game and a far more comfortable service game for him. We’re still on serve this second set. Four winners for the Italian this set, 18 in total.

Second set: Fabio Fognini 3-6, 1-1* Rafael Nadal (denotes server) In stark contrast to that opening game of the second set, Nadal breezes through his service game, to love.

Second set: Fabio Fognini* 3-6, 1-0 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Nadal’s sweating so much he’s had to duck off for a wardrobe change at the end of that set. Fognini, seemingly cool as a cucumber, changes the sweat bands on his wrists while he waits for Nadal to return. When play resumes, Nadal benefits from a fortunate net cord at 30-30 before he pulls a forehand winner down the line straight out of the top drawer to bring up another break point. Fognini manages to save it and then recreates that Nadal forehand with one of his own! Almost a carbon copy! And he holds when Nadal finds the net. He was made to work for that one though.

First set: Fabio Fognini 3-6 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Nadal brings up three more set points but with this time they’re on his serve and he makes no mistake as Fognini is given little chance of returning a booming serve. Nadal takes the opener and looks in command out there.

First set: Fabio Fognini* 3-5 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) What has Fognini got in response with ball in hand this time? It’s a mixed bag to be honest, and this 11-minute game has had a bit of everything from the Italian: a sensational backhand return when forced wide by Nadal; a well-executed drop shot; two aces; plenty of unforced errors; three saved set points; and, eventually, after seven deuces, a hold.

First set: Fabio Fognini 2-5 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Nadal inches towards claiming the first set as he grinds down Fognini this game. Nadal’s winning 63% of his first service points so far – to Fognini’s 60 – while his second serve percentage is at 67 to Fognini’s 38%. Half an hour exactly on the clock and Fognini will have to hold serve to stay in the opener.

First set: Fabio Fognini* 2-4 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Serve and volley from Fognini now and what a volley it is, angled back across the net after a graceful lunge to meet the ball on the full. But Nadal responds, winning the next three points before securing another break. The door was slightly ajar for Fognini, but Nadal slammed it shut immediately. It goes to show that if the Italian is to challenge today, he’ll have to be at the very top of the game, consistently so, throughout the match.

First set: Fabio Fognini 2-3 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Here’s another one of those Fognini shots, a booming forehand winner to put him in a good position this game. He then lobs Nadal (cue some oohs and aahs from the non-existent crowd, which is weird) before finishing off at the net and the Italian has two break points. A wonderful backhand winner this time brings him the game, and that powerful arsenal is there for all to see.

First set: Fabio Fognini* 1-3 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Fognini ups his level here and belatedly gets on the scoreboard. He’s got some terrific shots in his arsenal, several of which are on display this game.

First set: Fabio Fognini 0-3 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Fognini’s best grand slam run saw him reach the quarter-final of the French Open in 2011. He’s reached this stage – the fourth round – in each of the other slams (this is his fourth last-16 appearance in Melbourne), but never any further. He has, however, tasted success in the doubles here, winning the title with Simone Bolleli in 2015. Anyway, Nadal consolidates that break, thanks to a ripping forehand winner down the line at game point.

First set: Fabio Fognini* 0-2 Rafael Nadal (denotes server) Fognini sends down the first ace of the day, to rapturous applause from…. the crowd noise machine, but a double fault puts him in a bit of trouble and he’s soon facing a break point. The Italian plays it beautifully, caressing a deft volley to win the point at the net. The fake crowd again loves what it’s not seeing. But he can’t maintain that level and when facing a second break point, he hits the net and Nadal has the first break of the day.

First set: Fabio Fognini 0-1 Rafael Nadal* (denotes server) Nadal with ball in hand to kick things off on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena. It’s 25C in Melbourne today and from the look of things, a perfect day to be playing tennis. Nadal’s up and running, despite a glorious backhand winner down the line from Fognini, who also forces the Spaniard to play some tenacious defence at 30-15.

Not sure if there’s enough space here, but here’s a lit of Nadal’s 20 grand slam titles: Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; Wimbledon 2008, 2010; US Open 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019).

He’s also accumulated 86 career ATP titles, but notable from the above is the Australian Open entry – it’s by far his least successful slam.

Nadal Fognini H2H:

12-4 overall
1-1 in Grand Slams

Buckle up!@RafaelNadal | @fabiofogna | #AusOpen | #AO2021

Dylan Alcott is through to yet another Australian Open final! The six-time defending champion downed 18-year-old Dutchman Niels Vink 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quad wheelchair singles decider, where he’ll face old foe Sam Schroder, also of the Netherlands. Schroder saw off Brit and second seed Andy Lapthorne 6-2, 6-3.

A sigh of relief.

Aussie top seed @DylanAlcott is through to the Quad Wheelchair Singles final with a 6-4 6-3 win over Vink.#AusOpen | #AO2021

The latest big name in the women’s draw to fall was Elina Svitolina, earlier today, when the No 5 seed fell to a shock defeat to American surprise package Jessica Pegula, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Pegula adds the Ukrainian to an impressive list of higher-profile victims in Melbourne: Vika Azarenka, Sam Stosur and Kristina Mladenovic.

“I’m hitting the ball really well, I’m seeing it well – I thought I served well, which is really important against the best players,” Pegula said.

And so to the pointy end of the year’s first grand slam, with the second week of the Australian Open under way on another sunny day at Melbourne Park. It’s been quite the unique tournament so far – from the build-up which featured hotel quarantine, in-room training programs and whingeing players, to the unusual sights and sounds of robot line judges, a here-one-day, gone-the-next crowd, and now piped-in crowd noise.

Yet still – if you can ignore the absence of some big names, including the biggest of them all Roger Federer – at this stage of the men’s draw, at least, there’s something of a predictable feel. Seven of the top 10 seeds remain at the time of writing, with just Dominic Thiem (3), Diego Schwartzman (8) and Gael Monfils (10) to have fallen getting to this point.

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