It’s the first slam of the year and we get to see what the players have been working on during their winter break. New coaching setups, new techniques, old injuries. The medical casualties of 2017 were all down to make the Australian Open their come back, but in the final weeks before the tournament was due to start, Serena Williams (USA) announced she wouldn’t be defending her title due to a difficult recovery from birth complications. Andy Murray (GBR) went to Australia to put his recovery to the test but ended up having surgery on his hip instead.
The women’s singles first round was a culling of the seeds. 5th seed Venus Williams (USA), 10th seed Coco vandeweghe (USA), 11th seed Kristina Mladenovic (FRA), 13th seed Sloane Stephens (USA), 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova (SLO), 27th seed Petra Kvitova (CZE) and 31st seed Ekaterina Makarova (RUS), all fell at the first, highlighting the unpredictability of the women’s game at the moment.
The men’s first round wasn’t much better with 8th seed Jack Sock (USA), 11th seed Kevin Anderson (RSA), 16th seed John Isner (USA), 18th seed Lucas Pouille (FRA), 20th seed Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP), 22nd seed Milos Raonic (CAN), 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER), 32nd seed Mischa Zverev (GER), all not making it to the second round.
The last 8 of the Australian Open has now been decided and there are familiar faces and not so familiar faces in both draws. In the women’s quarter finals, number 1 seed Simona Halep (ROU) faces the big hitting 6th seed Karolina Pliskova (CZE). Halep has the dubious honour of being the victor of the longest match of the tournament this year against Lauren Davis (USA), in a 48 game thriller, equaling the most number of games in Australian Open history. Pliskova will want to capitalise on Halep’s 3 hr 44 min match that left her feeling “almost dead“.
2016 Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber (GER) hit a slump in form after her historic win, something that is becoming a common theme amongst first time grand slam winners. Stan Wawrinka (SUI), Garbine Muguruza (ESP), Sloane Stephens (USA), all following wins with terrible runs of form. The former champion was only seeded at 21 for the tournament but has shown she’s playing far above her 2017 level. Her opponent in the quarter final is a newly resurgent 17th seed Madison Keys (USA). With Lindsay Davenport on her team, the American has brushed off her US Open final defeat and is looking strong.
4th seed Elina Svitolina (UKR) is in great form coming into the quarter finals having dropped only one set. She faces the unseeded Elise Mertens (BEL) in her debut at the Australian Open, who hasn’t dropped a single set, stunning home favourite 23rd seed Daria Gavrilova (AUS) in the 2nd round, Gavrilova having raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, only to lose 7-5 6-3.
2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) will be looking to get into her 2nd Australian Open semi-final when she plays the talented Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP). Wozniacki faced match points at 1-5 in her second round match against Jana Fett (CRO), but staged a miraculous escape to win 3-6 6-2 7-5. The pressure lies predominantly on Wozniacki as the former world number 1 has never won a grand slam.
In the men’s draw number 1 seed Rafael Nadal (ESP) has been in somewhat terrifying form through the tournament and will be looking to inflict yet another punishing defeat on 6th seed Marin Cilic (CRO). Nadal looks the favourite here.
In home interest, local player Kyle Edmund (GBR) is into his first grand slam quarter final. As the only GBR representative left (Konta bowing out in the 2nd round and Andy Murray out with injury), there are a lot of hopes for Edmund who has played outstanding tennis throughout the tournament, knocking out the 11th seed Kevin Anderson (RSA) and surviving a 5 set match in scorching conditions against Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO). He faces 3rd seed Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) who is playing some outstanding tennis himself. In one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament, Dimitrov came past big Aussie talent 17th seed Nick Kyrgios (AUS).
Defending champion 2nd seed Roger Federer (SUI) will be facing 19th seed Tomas Berdych (CZE) in a head to head that doesn’t look good for Berdych. Federer has looked a class above in the tournament, untroubled by his opponents so far.
In the battle of the giant killers, Tennys Sandgren (USA), who put out 9th seed Stan Wawrinka (SUI) and 5th seed Dominic Thiem (AUT), will face the charismatic Hyeon Chung (KOR), who ended the run of both Zverev brothers and the impressive come back of 6 time Australian Open Champion, 14th seed Novak Djokovic (SRB).