Wednesday started with Madison Keys putting brakes on Venus Williams’ progress at the Australian Open. In a battle of two Americans, the 19-year old Keys got the better of her senior compatriot, 15 years older than her. Later, Serena Williams ended the fantastic run of the diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the other quarterfinal. With two Americans in the semifinals on this side of the women’s draw and two Russians on the other side, women’s singles final of 2015 Australian Open will feature one American and one Russian. In the first men’s singles quarterfinal, Stanislas Wawrinka produced a clean game to disappoint Japanese fans, who have been gathering in large numbers with their national flags at Melbourne Park to support their young hero Kei Nishikori. Wawrinka began well and while the Japanese didn’t play so bad, the Swiss kept the pressure during the three-set encounter. In the last quarterfinal on Wednesday, Novak Djokovic showed why he is the world’s no.1 men’s player as he effectively brushed aside the challenge of the talented Canadian Milos Raonic.
USA’s Madison Keys fought from a break down in the final set against compatriot Venus Williams and reached her first Grand Slam semifinal with a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory. As the match began, Keys suffered from early nerves but soon adapted to playing the multiple Grand Slam champion. After taking the first set in 29 minutes, Keys lost her way midway through the second. The 19-year-old Keys was plagued with the left thigh injury and it slowed her down. She had similar problems during Wimbledon 2014 but on Wednesday, she went on regardless. As long as possible, Venus took advantage of Keys’ condition but the teenager found her bearings from 1-3 down in the final set and reeled off point after point. Her 1 hour 54 minutes victory came on Venus’ serve on the seventh break of the match. In the semifinal, Keys will face a more formidable Williams; Serena and she had better be completely fit.
Top seed Serena played like a true champion in facing the highly energetic Slovak, Dominika Cibulkova, who reached 2014 Australian Open final. The world’s no.1 player kept the Slovak at bay with her power game and though Cibulkova had played wonderfully all through the tournament, she stuttered against the mighty Serena. The world no.1 packed too many punches in the one-sided game that ended 6-2, 6-2 before one could blink. Cibulkova came up with 13 winners as against 31 by Serena and that included 15 aces. It was literally a walk-through for Serena and a huge disappointment for Cibulkova.
In the first men’s quarterfinal of the day, Stan Wawrinka played outstandingly to suppress the challenge from Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori. In straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6, victory, Wawrinka showed that his 2014 championship win was not a mere fluke. However, after taking the first two sets with ease, the defending champion became a bundle of nerves in the third set tie-break, when he led 6-1. He then allowed the Japanese to fight back before his composure returned. But it required six match points before Wawrinka could go through. In the semifinal, Wawrinka has to counter the no.1 seed Novak Djokovic, who defeated Canadian Milos Raonic in the next quarterfinal.
Djokovic and Raonic met in the last quarterfinal of the day and everyone expected a cracker of a match. It was, except that it didn’t go to five sets. Raonic had pounded 99 aces against his opponents before facing Djokovic on Wednesday. But Djokovic’s return was different. Raonic found that whatever he did in the match, Djokovic always came out with something better. Though the Serb lacked the Canadian’s service speed, his court movements made up for the difference, when Raonic was serving. There were times, when Raonic was able to build pressure that frustrated Djokovic but in the end, the Serb nullified any pressure. The world no.1 had four break point chances but Raonic saved them all. Finally, when the Canadian hit a wild forehand at 3-2 down in the tie-break, Djokovic made full use of the lapse. Afterwards, Djokovic adopted a professional approach and waited for Raonic to commit errors. Throughout the match, Raonic could not force a single break point and saw the match going out of his grasp. On his part, Djokovic broke twice as he cruised through to the third set and finished the match in 1 hour and 55 minutes with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory. For the third time in three years at Melbourne, Djokovic will face defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
For Indian tennis fans, day 10 brought cheers as two of their star players; Sania Mirza and Leander Paes entered the mixed doubles semifinals with their overseas partners. While top-seeded Sania and Bruno Soares of Brazil scored an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Australians Casey Dellacqua/John Peers in 53 minutes, 7th-seeded Leander Paes and Martina Hingis of Switzerland beat fourth-seeded Czech Andrea Hlavackova and Austria’s Alexander Peya 6-3, 6-1.
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