Can Nole get ready? Thiem wins prime time match and Rena and Osaka through – Day 5 Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic was in a lot of trouble today after suffering from a muscle tear against Taylor Harry-Fritz. This happened when Nole was two sets up, he managed to pick his level up in the fifth to rescue victory. It depends which camp you are in as to how much you read into a Nole injury, but this sounds pretty serious and he doesn’t seem to be overly confident that he will take to the court against Milos Raonic in the fourth round. There is no way he is doing it for effect! Let’s see how this plays out, it would be a cruel way to bow out were he not able to play. Fritz was quoted as saying “Obviously he wasn’t looking too good in the third & fourth. He was moving well and playing well in the fifth. I don’t know what to say, we’ll see if he plays. If he plays how he did in the fifth he’ll beat pretty much anyone.” That isn’t overly conclusive either!

Dominic Thiem will be counting himself pretty lucky after surviving an onslaught from an inspired Nick Kyrgios. Turning this match around from two sets down by nicking the third was understandably massive. The longer this went on it was clearly only going to favour one player. Great fight from Thiem but a good effort from Nick who does love a big match in front of the home crowd. Thiem never seems to panic these days and its further proof of how he has taken his game to the next level. Next will be Grigor Dimitrov after one of my tips Pablo Carreno Busta retired with an abdominal injury. Other winners in the men’s were Felix Auger Aliassime who beat one of his best mates, Denis Shapovalov. FAA recovered from a break down in both of the first two sets to beat a nervous-looking opponent. Aslan Karatsev will be his next matchup. Having got through qualifying he took advantage of Diego Schwartzman’s weaknesses on the fast court to hit his way past the Argentinian. Sascha Zverev won in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino, that is quite impressive, the Frenchman had been showing good form this week. The German’s next opponent will be Dusan Lajovic who won in four sets against an increasingly injured Pedro Martinez Portero.

I didn’t watch Serena last night but judging by both the reports and her comments she will need to play better in the last 16 against Aryna Sabalenka. Anastasia Potapova has a big future ahead of her but judging on today’s performance she wasn’t quite there. When the chance arose in the opener she couldn’t close it out. I would hope that an improvement would be a given considering the level of threat from her opponent in the next round. It should be a simple case of who executes better will get the win and I would expect a performance befitting of Serena in the second week of a slam. If that isn’t enough then so be it. The early betting actually has Sabalenka as a slight favourite, by the skin of her teeth at 4/5. This is where the tournament really starts heating up and there will be no easy matches when you look from here on in. Sabalenka, Halep/Swiatek, Osaka/Muguruza would be Rena’s route to the final from here, where an Ash Barty may be waiting in the final.

Simona Halep had a much easier time of it against Veronika Kudermetova than she did against Alja Tomljanovic in the previous round. It has certainly been an up and down few days for the Romanian, this being much more controlled and on her terms today. With Swiatek next, she will be looking to avenge her heavy loss at the French last year. The courts should suit the RG champion, can she deliver again though? Naomi Osaka didn’t serve particularly well against Ons Jabeur and you would think that could be crucial but Jabeur wasn’t any better. Osaka still managed to save 6 of 7 breakpoints, this is another example of where she is at. Not at her best, serve not firing and still beating a player of the Tunisians quality 6/3 6/2. It should be a great spectacle against Garbine Muguruza on Sunday. The Spaniard hit Zarina Diyas off the court for the loss of two games. If she displays the form of the last couple of weeks, Osaka will need to be at her best to see the challenge off. Or will the Spaniard show the strain of playing the tournament favourite? It is difficult to know which Garbine will turn up. Elsewhere, Su-Wei Hsieh edged out a battling Sara Errani in two hours and forty-five minutes and Marketa Vondrousova saw off a misfiring Sorana Cirstea in two.

Andy Del Potro

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