How both Australian Open No. 1 seeds lost on same day, what it means going forward
- A look at how the world's No. 1 players Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber lost on the same day and how their exits affect the remaining field of players in the tournament.
The No. 1 seeds on the men’s and women’s side of the 2017 Australian Open draw both crashed out of the tournament on Sunday, as Andy Murray and defending champion Angelique Kerber lost in the fourth round. This marks the first time that the men’s and women’s No. 1 players lost on the same day at a major since the 2003 U.S. Open, when Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Andre Agassi in the semifinals and Justine Henin defeated Kim Clijsters in the women’s final, according to ESPN.
Below, we break down both matches, hear from the players and evaluate how Murray and Kerber’s exits from the tournament shake up the draw and provide opportunity for the remaining players.
Mischa Zverev d. Andy Murray
How did it happen?
If you bet on a Zverev to make a deep run in Melbourne, it was most likely 19-year-old Sasha, not 29-year-old big brother Mischa. The German took the opening set off the World No. 1 on Sunday, but Murray was able to steady and win the second set. But Zverev remained true to his serve-and-volley strategy and ultimately outlasted Murray in three hours and 33 minutes to reach his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“I believed in myself. I believed in my game. I believed that playing serve and volley against him and slicing a lot, trying to destroy his rhythm was going to work, which it did in the end,” Zverev said after the match. “I knew there was no Plan B really. Like, I can't stay on the baseline, a couple feet behind the baseline, try to out-rally him. He's very strong physically. He has a good baseline game.
“I knew I had to come in. That was my only chance to win.”
After the match, Zverev recalled playing Murray when both were just teenagers, including at 17-years-old in the semifinals of the 2004 U.S. Open boys' tournament. Murray won and went on to win the title, but on Sunday, Zverev was able to take the lessons he learned as a young tennis player and apply them to the match in Melbourne.
In the fourth round against Murray, Zverev came to the net 118 times, winning 59% of those points. Murray only won 42% of points from the baseline.
“Growing up with him, I know his game,” Zverev said. “He was always a counter-puncher. He moved well. He knew how to maneuver the opponent around the court. But I knew I could get to him with my game. I knew I could slice a lot, come in, try to annoy him, which worked.”
For Murray, the loss will sting for quite some time. After No. 1 and six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic exited in Round Two, a big opportunity was created for Murray to claim his first title in Melbourne, after a record five final defeats. Now, he'll have to wait another year to try and end the drought.
“Just wasn't meant to be. He served very well when he needed to, especially when he was behind in games,” Murray said after the match. “He deserved to win because he played great when he was down, and also in the important moments. I was kind of behind in the last couple of sets the whole way. But the first two sets, I had chances. I was up a break I think in both of them pretty early. Couldn't convert my opportunities.”
Zverev moves into the quarterfinals to face No. 17 Roger Federer, who outlasted No. 5-seed Kei Nishikori in five sets on Sunday, winning 6-7, 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
The pair has only met twice in their careers, at the Rome Masters in 2009 and in Halle in 2013, with Federer winning both match-ups.
“It’s going to be completely different to the last couple,” Federer said of his quarterfinal against Zverev. “It's probably going to be more similar to Melzer in the first round, which is good that I played him. I have a lefty in me this tournament already. Tomorrow I'm going to practice with a lefty as well again, just to get ready for that.”
“I've played him a couple times before, once on grass, once on clay, never on hard courts,” Federer said. “Obviously he's on a high right now. He's feeling great. Probably feels the best he's ever felt on a tennis court. That's how I would feel after the win today against Murray. It's going to be tough and different and tricky. That's my mindset.”
How does this affect the rest of the draw?
With both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds out of the tournament, there are opportunities for several players to make a deep run in Melbourne.
No. 4-seed Stan Wawrinka beat Andreas Seppi in three tight sets on Sunday, while Jo–Wilfried Tsonga also advanced, beating Britain’s Dan Evans in four sets. Wawrinka and Tsonga will meet in the quarterfinals, while the bottom half of the draw will close out fourth-round play on Monday. No. 3-seed Milos Raonic, No. 6-seed Gael Monfils, No. 8-seed Dominic Thiem and No. 9-seed Rafael Nadal all remain in the tournament. No. 15-seed Grigor Dimitrov also has a solid opportunity to build on his strong 2017 season thus far.
CoCo Vandeweghe d. Angelique Kerber
How did it happen?
CoCo Vandeweghe came out firing against defending champ Angelique Kerber, imposing her powerful game and hitting 30 winners to the German’s seven. On her third break point opportunity Vandeweghe was able to convert and jumped ahead in the opening set. Kerber was unable to find a way to counter against the American’s big-hitting style.
“I just felt like I was really executing my game well, keeping her on the back foot, and just kind of playing within myself,” Vandeweghe said after the match. “We're two totally opposite players. I would expect myself to have more winners as well as more unforced errors than she would have.”
After the match, Kerber said she is not worried about the remainder of the season and simply said that she made too many mistakes on Sunday.
“It was a tough match, and of course I'm disappointed,” Kerber said after the match. “But I was not feeling the ball at all tonight. I was not playing good from the first point. It was not my day and not my match, for sure.”
Vandeweghe advances to the second Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career (Wimbledon 2015) where she will face reigning French Open champion and No. 7-seed Garbine Muguruza.
“It's an interesting matchup because she holds a different aspect to a playing style of she's an aggressor, as well. She is going to play that way, and no other way,” Vandeweghe said of Muguruza. “For me it depends on if I can match it, as well as if I can beat her to that punch of getting first strike, first play.”
For Kerber, her loss puts the No. 1 ranking up for grabs. Should Serena Williams win a record 23rd Grand Slam title in the Australian Open final on Saturday, she will reclaim the WTA’s top spot.
“I think I have to a little bit think about everything what's happened like the last few weeks, what I can take to the next tournaments with all the experience from the tournaments I played here in Australia,” Kerber said after the match. “I learned a lot, and I have new experience now. I'm looking forward to all the next tournaments that are coming.”
How does this affect the rest of the draw?
The bottom half of the draw will play their quarterfinal matches on Monday, but Kerber’s loss surely works in favor of No. 2 Serena Williams, who faces No. 16-seed Barbord Strycova in the fourth round.
No. 5-seed and U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova—a favorite coming into the tournament—will face Australia’s Daria Gavrilova in the fourth round but Kerber’s loss certainly opens up an opportunity for her to advance should she win on Monday.
No. 9-seed Johanna Konta and No. 13-seed Venus Williams also remain in the tournament, as well as American Jennifer Brady and veterans Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Ekaterina Makarova.