Aussie Open quarterfinals preview: Raonic takes on Monfils at night
Here are the storylines to watch on Wednesday on Day 10 of the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne, as the final four spots in the semifinals are decided. Play begins on all courts at 7 p.m. ET. Click here for the full order of play, and see the full TV schedule here.
Angelique Kerber vs. Victoria Azarenka
(first match at 7 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
Angelique Kerber advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time in her career on Monday, beating fellow countrywoman Annika Beck in straight sets. The 28-year-old German will face a familiar foe in Wednesday’s quarterfinals matchup: No. 14-seed Victoria Azarenka, who has a perfect 6–0 record against her, including a win in the Brisbane final just a few weeks ago.
“It's a new one, it starts from zero, and I know what's coming from her. I will try to be aggressive and try to go and win the match,” Kerber said after her fourth round win. “I think I must serve for sure better, because she's returning very well. Be more aggressive. Playing aggressive. Moving good and actually playing my game like I'm playing on practice and just focusing more on me and not on her game.”
Azarenka is still undefeated on the season and has dropped 11 games through four matches, winning each one in straight sets. In the Brisbane final, both Azarenka and Kerber came out firing early on in the match, playing with power and staying strong on their serves. But the Belarusian turned the match around from 3-all in the first set to win 6–3, 6–1 in just over an hour, losing just 17 games en route to her title.
“I always look forward to play against her. She gives me always tough matches,” Azarenka said of Kerber in Melbourne on Monday. “I prepare myself for a very tough match because she's very solid, very consistent, and an amazing fighter. She's just consistent, you know. You have to really go out there and take it from her, because she's not going to give you anything, mistakes. You have to really focus and take control.”
Johanna Konta vs. Shuai Zhang
(not before 8:30 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
The two Cinderella stories of the women’s tournament will face off for a spot in the quarterfinals on Wednesday after Britain’s Johanna Konta battled to beat No. 21-seed Ekaterina Makarova and Shuai Zhang upset an injured Madison Keys in the fourth round.
“I think I don't have time to thinking about the next day match because I'm so tired right now,” Zhang said after her three-set win over Keys, who said she may have injured her left adductor muscle in the match. “Right now, after this tournament, I need a long break, because I already play seven match. Before today I'm thinking, ‘Okay, today is the final.’ When somebody already win six match on Grand Slam, already final, right? So try to like feeling like a final, night match. Feeling like the last match, yeah.”
Ranked No. 133, Zhang was 0–14 in Grand Slams before this run at the Australian Open and she was even considering retirement before the tournament. Now she’ll have a chance to make her first major semifinal against Konta, who has enjoyed an incredible run of her own in Melbourne. With her win over Makarova, Konta became the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1983 to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
“I think Shuai Zhang is actually on a bit more of an incredible journey than myself,” Konta said after her win. “She won her first main draw match at a Slam. I think that's an incredibly special moment. Like you said, she's still in the event here. She's come from qualifying. I think she's doing unbelievably well. So all credit to her for that.”
Konta and Zhang have split their two career meetings—a win in the third round of U.S. Open qualifying in 2012 for Konta and for Zhang, a quarterfinal win in Guangzhou in 2013.
David Ferrer vs. Andy Murray
(not before 10:30 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
No. 2-seed Andy Murray admits that the week’s events—four matches, the upcoming birth of his first child and most recently, the health issues concerning his father-in-law Nigel Sears, who collapsed during Ana Ivanovic’s match against Madison Keys on Saturday night—have exhausted him both mentally and physically.
“To be honest, like today, when I woke up, I felt quite drained, quite tired,” Murray said after his win over Bernard Tomic. “It was a tough few days.”
Now Murray will face a tireless, relentless opponent in Spaniard David Ferrer, who has not dropped a set through four matches in Melbourne. Murray has a 12-6 advantage in their head-to-head matchup—Ferrer’s last victory came at the Shanghai Masters in 2014—and he most recently defeated Ferrer at the ATP Finals in November.
“With Andy, it's going to be tough. He's playing really good,” Ferrer said of his quarterfinal opponent. “The last year he finish No. 2 of the world. He improve his game I think so. He's playing more aggressive. He improve his forehand. So I need have a good day, play aggressive.”
Ahead of their match, Murray commented on the 33-year-old Spaniard’s ability to stay at the top of his game for such an extended period of time, like Roger Federer.
“Both of them have been around the game for a long, long time and been up at the top,” Murray said. “The more players that do that, I think the more other players look at it and go, ‘Actually, you know, I can do that as well.’ You don't have to retire when you're 31 now or when you're 32. As long as you still have the passion and dedication to work hard, and obviously if you can stay injury-free, it's possible.”
Gael Monfils vs. Milos Raonic
(not before 3:30 a.m. ET, Rod Laver)
No. 13-seed Milos Raonic is into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second year in a row after fending off a comeback from No. 4-seed Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round. The Canadian will play for a spot in the semifinals against Frenchman Gael Monfils, an intriguing matchup of contrasting styles and new strategies.
“Milos is in good form,” Monfils said of his next opponent. “Coming in with a win in Brisbane. As we know, a big serve. Actually I think also a little bit he improve a lot his movement, hitting big from the baseline, a good return. It's going to be interesting to see with what I going to come up with.”
Monfils has shown signs of the flashy tennis he’s known for through his first four matches in Melbourne—check out this Superman dive against Andrey Kuznetsov—but we’ve also seen a more reserved side of him as well. Similarly, Raonic has shown a new side of his game with more attacking and net approaches in his last matches, serving and volleying and winning key points at the net.
“He's very entertaining and he's very difficult to play. He can give you complete ends of the spectrum within one game,” Raonic said on No. 23-seed Monfils. “So it's very much of an internal match for me. I just have to take the game to him. I have to make him feel uncomfortable. Not let him get into his sort of playing comfort. If I can sort of keep up with the efficiency moving forward, I'll have definitely some opportunities.”