MELBOURNE, Australia – Alexander Zverev self-destructed Monday, January 21, to slump out of the Australian Open while Japanese US Open champion Naomi Osaka grounded her way into a quarterfinal with Elina Svitolina.
As the second week of the opening Grand Slam of the year got underway, the highly-rated German 4th seed lost the plot against the former world No. 3 Milos Raonic of Canada, crashing 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5).
Zverev has routinely been anointed as the flag-bearer for the next generation, but again failed to live up to his reputation and has now missed out on making the last 8 of a major for the 14th time in 15 attempts.
So furious was he with his form, the 21-year-old had a major temper tantrum in the second set, whacking his racket into the ground 8 times to leave it a crumpled mess.
“I just tried to stay composed and it worked out well for me today,” said cool 16th seed Raonic, who made the semifinals in Melbourne in 2016.
He will face Croat Borna Coric or Frenchman Lucas Pouille next.
‘I was, like whoa’
Fourth seed Osaka emerged from an error-strewn 1st set against crafty Latvian Anastasija Sevastova to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The victory left the bubbly 21-year-old with a last 8 clash against ambitious Ukrainian Svitolina, who battled past American Madison Keys, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
It will be a new experience for whoever wins that showdown, with neither of them going beyond the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park before.
This contrasts with the massively experienced Serena Williams who has made the last 8 or better 11 times on her way to 7 Australian Open crowns.
The 37-year-old 23-time Grand Slam winner has a blockbuster last 16 evening clash against world No. 1 Simona Halep on Rod Laver Arena, while Novak Djokovic meets fast-rising Daniil Medvedev.
Osaka beat Williams to clinch the title at Flushing Meadows last year. It propelled her to stardom, but she has been far from convincing at her first major since.
“I was watching all these kids winning. Last night (Stefanos) Tsitsipas beat (Roger) Federer and I was like whoa, and I decided I wanted to do well too,” she said of rallying back.
Svitolina needed to dig deep to overcome 17th seeded Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017.
The turning point was a marathon 16-minute game early in the deciding set that went to deuce 11 times as Keys chased a decisive break.
But the American’s resolve crumbled when Svitolina held off 5 break points then gained an advantage in the next game.
“I had to put my level up, I’m glad I handled the pressure,” said Svitolina, who scored her biggest career win at the WTA Finals in Singapore last October.
“It was very hard because the sun was burning my eyes when I was tossing the ball, so I was very happy to win.”
Svitolina was a quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park last year and has set her sights high after her breakthrough in Singapore, targeting a Grand Slam win and world No. 1.
Williams has looked in ominous form so far at Melbourne Park, dropping just nine games, as she seeks one more Grand Slam title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24.
But top seed Halep is a much tougher assignment at a tournament blown wide open with the ousting of defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber.
French Open champion Halep struggled in her opening two matches, where she was extended to 3 sets in both, before finally hitting form to beat Serena’s sister Venus in round 3.
The winner will play 7th seed Karolina Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International warm-up, or two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza.
Six-time champion Djokovic was taken to 4 sets by teenage Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the third round and meets another young gun in Russia’s Medvedev, seeded 15.
Whoever goes through will have a quarterfinal against Japan’s 8th seed Kei Nishikori or Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. – Rappler.com