While steady rain at Melbourne Park delayed the start of most matches scheduled for Day-5 on Friday, Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt’s emotional farewell from tennis after his loss to David Ferrer in the second round on fourth day was the major talking point. Besides, the first round exits of men’s no.5 seed and women’s no.2 seed Simona Halep also grabbed media attention. Until the fourth day, 18 seeded women in singles have already gone out of the tournament while in men’s singles, 7 players have exited. Among other players, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka have looked good in their matches so far. In women’s doubles, top-seeds India’s Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis have progressed to the second round just as Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea have done. Sania is no.1 in mixed doubles as well with Croatia’s Ivan Dodig but the pair has yet to play their first match. Defending mixed doubles champions Leander Paes and Martina Hingis haven’t played their first match either.
For 80 weeks, Lleyton Hewitt was the world’s no.1 men’s singles tennis player. During this period, he won the US Open as a 20-year old. Hewitt also won the coveted Wimbledon crown but Hewitt’s reign ended, when Roger Federer arrived on the world tennis scene. However, the celebrated Australian kept making waves and his defiant stance on courts became legendary. On January 21, 2016, Lleyton Hewitt played the last match of his illustrious career against Spain’s David Ferrer. He lost in straight sets but elicited touching comments from the winner. Ferrer paid rich tribute to the famed Australian and revealed that the only signed T-shirt in his house had been gifted to him by Hewitt. The once fiery Australian has been tamed by time and family burden but when he spoke after his match yesterday, his famous cap was still tilted backwards. There were emotional scenes at Rod Laver Arena and when Hewitt walked away from a tennis court for the last time as an active player. He had all his three children in tow and as he waved to the crowd, the Rod Laver Arena was submerged in a deafening applause. In recognition to his tennis great skills, Hewitt has already been appointed as captain of Australia’s Davis Cup team from this year. Hewitt and his fans, however, will regret that the Aussie hero could never win the Australian Open.
Another first week story doing the round at Melbourne concerned Rafael Nadal’s 5-set first-round loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday. Nadal’s comedown over the last two years is constantly raising questions about his future in tennis now. In 44 matches at the majors in his career, it was only the second time that the Spaniard had lost in the first round. The 2009 champion at Melbourne has had a scratchy performance in his last three majors. He lost to a qualifier Dustin Brown in second round at Wimbledon; suffered a third-round defeat against Fabio Fognini at US Open and now Verdasco has beaten him 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2. Nadal himself looked shocked because he began 2016 with an improved world ranking. Two weeks back, Nadal had reached the Qatar Open final, where he lost Novak Djokovic at the last hurdle. Despite the former world no.1 vowing to continue his hard work, Nadal cannot stop media speculation on his tennis career from now onwards.
In one of the women’s singles matches that could be played on Friday morning, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic emerged as the first woman to reach the fourth round. Bencic lost the first set but recovered to beat Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Among men, who reached the fourth round on Friday were; Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Belgium’s David Goffin. Seventh seeded Nishikori outlasted Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 while 15th seeded Goffin came through by beating Austria’s Dominic Thiem 6–1, 3–6, 7–6, 7–5.
In some notable men’s singles second-round matches on fourth day, no.2 seed Andy Murray of GBR outplayed Australia’s Sam Groth 6-0, 6-4, 6-1; fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka defeated Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-3, 6-4; no.23 seed Gael Monfils of France defeated compatriot Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 and Australian hope Bernard Tomic defeated Italy’s Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5. Among women, those who entered the third round were; no.3 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain; no.7 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany; no.9 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and no.14 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Australia took heart from the second-round performances of their Hopman Cup winners Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova. While Kyrgios defeated Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 7-5, 7-6, Gavrilova shocked Czech sixth seed Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-4.
World’s best women’s doubles team of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis recorded their 31st consecutive match-win by beating Colombian Mariana Duque-Marino and Brazil’s Teliana Pereira 6-2, 6-3 in their first round match. In the second round, the Indo-Swiss pair will take on Ukrainian twins; Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok. In a men’s doubles first round match India’s Rohan Bopanna and his Romanian partner Florin Mergea scored a 7-5, 6-3 win over Australian wild-cards Omar Jasika/Nick Kyrgios.