Wednesday January 27th, 2016

MELBOURNE – Five thoughts from the day session on Day 10 as the Australian Open quarterfinals wrap up and we head into the final days of the tournament.

• In a brutal, physical match, Andy Murray wore down David Ferrer in four sets. It’s been an exhausting tournament—on and off the court—for Murray. But here he is, in his 18th Grand Slam semi.

Tennis
Kerber shocks Azarenka, Konta beats Zhang to reach AusOpen semifinals

• There’s no one in Melbourne today who was more disappointed than Victoria Azarenka. Though seeded No. 14, she was the odds-on favorite to reach the final. In today’s first quarterfinal against Angelique Kerber—a player she’d never lost to—Azarenka struggled to find the court, let a 5-2 lead slip in the second set and was ushered out.

• That said, credit Kerber, a feisty lefty, with scoring the biggest win of her career. Coaches should show this match to undersized underdogs as evidence of what can happen when you simply hang around.

• Johanna Konta ended the fairytale run of qualifier Zhang Shuai. But her story is no slouch either. Konta failed to qualify in 2015. In 2016, the Brit is in the Final Four. Good day for Great Britain. (And Jamie Murray reached the semis in men’s doubles.)

• Bring on Gael Monfils. He’s unlikely to win tonight over Milos Raonic, but, damn, he is fun to watch.

A little Q/A

In your five thoughts, you mentioned Raonic never previously beating a Top-10 player at a major. What about Youzhny in '11?
‪—@AMarshallSport

Never before had Raonic beaten a player inside the top 10 at a major. Larger point: after a disappointing 2015, nice bounce-back by the Canadian. His first real quality win at a major comes against a first ballot Hall of Famer who won this event two years ago? Coming back to win in the fifth set, after the opponent won sets three and four? You’ll take that if you’re Milos.

Tennis
Djokovic and Federer to meet for 45th time for spot in Australian Open final

Could you speak about the impact of Justine Henin now that Serena has had no real competition in 6 years?
—@harlowdallas163

• I think “no competition” shortchanges Serena as well as the current field. But, yes, we are worse for Henin’s absence, who compiled a more-than-respectable head-to-head record of 8-6 against Williams the Younger. Henin offered a nice stylistic contrast to Williams and was a comparable gifted athlete and mover. She also was thoroughly unafraid of Serena. Without discounting Serena’s tennis, her battles with purported rivals—Sharapova in particular—are much about mental superiority as they are favorable stylistic matchups.

Dear Jon, I know that the vagaries of match scheduling at the Slams are just that, vagaries, but can you tell me why the tournament management in Melbourne has, every day, scheduled two women’s matches to open the day session on Rod Laver, and usually with women beginning on Margaret Court Arena as well? To the North American viewer this means that the marquee men’s matches scheduled for later in the Melbourne afternoon and for the night session air in the middle of the night for us. Has the tournament not considered the impact of their decision on North American viewers? Clearly, we are not the only market, and our middle of the night is prime time for Europe. But would it kill them to mix things up just a bit to give us all a chance to see the men? Every night I try, every night I give up and go to bed, and every morning I'm reading the results of matches I really wanted to see.
Sleepy and tennis-starved in Toronto, Michele Mulchahey

Tennis
Serena continues to dominate, looks primed for seventh Aussie Open title

• Vagaries. Actually, I find the Aussie Open to be pretty good in terms of gender treatment. (Heck, last night women’s doubles followed Djokovic-Nishikori on Laver. And, we should add, a nice subset of fans remained to watch.) A lot of times, this is about the players’ nationalities and TV partners. Sharapova often played first last week, a bone, perhaps thrown to Tennis Channel and American audiences. Also, it makes more sense to start to the day with a best-of-three match. If the men start and have a best-of-five, four-hour special, the schedule gets backed up like a banana-eating octogenarian.

Hi Jon, I came across this statistic on the ESPN website today: Serena Williams has a winning percentage of .884 in match-ups with top 5 seeds at the majors. It is the highest of any female tennis player in the Open Era. So who comes in at second and third? Which all-time great is not in the top ten. Where does ESPN get this info from? Where do I go to look at the full list? 
Charith Ng

• If anyone else can find this, you're better than I am. Great stat but I admit: I am uncertain as to how to find the comparable record for other players.

Tennis
Serena Williams powers past Maria Sharapova into Australian Open semis

Very much enjoy reading the tennis Mailbag and feel like a part of the tennis fan tribe. I thought of this question during last year's Australian Open semifinals. If you could give a piece of coaching advice to a player who is lower ranked than their opponent, what would it be (of the non-strategic variety)? Mine:mremember that the game is supposed to be hard. Only a few points decide who wins and loses. You are not going to win every point. Do not get down if you lose a break point. Relax and trust in your abilities—you and your good play got you’re here. It is not luck. The match is supposed to be a challenge and that is what makes the game (and you) great. Easier said than done I know. 
Leah

• Hey thanks. Coaching is so personal that messages need to be tailored. I was (name drop! Humblebrag!) talking to Patrick Mouratoglou the other day and he was saying how coaching Serena is nothing like coaching others payers (Dimitrov, Chardy etc.) and perfect advice for Player A might be disastrous advice for Player B. But I like where you’re going. “You put in the work. You have the game. Play the ball and not the opponent. Now believe in yourself and execute!”

• Nice to see Roberta Vinci and Sabine Lisicki among those entering the Louisville Open.

• @TEddySWright: Terrific look at Federer's tournament wins—it goes crazy 2003-'07:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaW96rJY2mU]

• Jasper has a Long Lost Siblings: David Ferrer and Keith Moon, drummer of The Who. Check it out:

Snapshots from the Australian Open quarterfinals on Day 10

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