Whenever I think of Karolina Muchova and Karolina Pliskova I tend to think back to their match at Wimbledon in 2019, which Muchova won 13-11 in the decider. There are times when I think Pliskova seems to struggle when playing her mates/sister at times and I think this was another example. The match was edgy but Muchova just had that little bit more variation to her game and that shines through in matches like this. The first set could have gone either way but from 5-0 in the second Pliskova will be ruing the 7/5 7/5 loss. Her career is certainly at a crossroads now, as for me there doesn’t seem to be much improvement of late. I think she has been found out a number of times now and I think her confidence has taken a hit. Since her semi-final showing here in 2019, she hasn’t been past the fourth round at any slam. I always quite like the look of Muchova, this wasn’t great from her at times either though. She will play the ever-steady Elise Mertens for a place in the last eight. The Belgian calved her way through a swaying Belinda Bencic for the loss of just three games. The ‘Swiss Miss’ did look on borrowed time here after the Kuznetsova win.
Ash Barty did enough against Ekaterina Alexandrova. Again it wasn’t vintage, the same as against Gavrilova. I just wonder if the rust is starting to show? It will more than likely still take a fair performance to beat her, having said that. A little bit of a concern for her in my opinion. Elsewhere, the three American’s in this half all look in great nick right now. Jennifer Brady hasn’t dropped more than four games in any of her matches in Melbourne, this continued today against Kaja Juvan 6/1 6/3. Jessica Pegula is yet to drop a set either and has wins over Vika Azarenka, Sam Stosur and Kristina Mladenovic. Likewise, Shelby Rogers has coasted through without a blemish after her win over Anett Kontaveit and will play Barty. Donna Vekic came from a set and break down against Kaia Kanepi, Jen Brady next for the Croat. Elina Svitolina posted her best display in Melbourne this year with a comfortable win over Yulia Putintseva. It wasn’t easy early doors but she ran away with the second, serving up a bagel. She will play Pegula for the second time this year, having beat her in Abu Dhabi.
I wouldn’t say Rafa was at his best today but Cam Norrie can walk away with his head held high. It has been a good week for the Brit and he was far from disgracing himself here. Nadal, as usual, played the big points really well, or this would have got a little trickier for him. He plays his old foe Fabio Fognini next. There is a bit of history between these two and Rafa refused to get involved with that in the on-court interview. Could be a cracker or it could be a drab affair. The one thing we know is that when Fabio is in the mood he causes Nadal the world of problems. Matteo Berrettini won three tiebreak sets against Karen Khachanov but seems to have pulled an abdominal muscle. It seems unclear as to what extent this is at the moment. It has been put in the same bracket as Djokovic but we will have to wait and see. The Italian will play Stefanos Tsitsipas next, Stefanos will be very pleased with his quick and easy win over Mikael Ymer. He can recharge the batteries now after the five sets in the previous round against Kokkinakis.
Daniil Medvedev had a mid-match scare against Filip Krajinovic but pulled it together in the fifth. Not quite sure what happened here but Medvedev didn’t seem to respond to Krajinovic upping his level in sets three and four. When he did he breezed through the fifth, serving up a bagel and some hammering returns with it. Medvedev will play Mackenzie McDonald after the American beat, Lloyd Harris. His fellow pal, Andrey Rublev is still to drop a set after beating Feli Lopez. Rublev does seem to just come out and get it done in these stages. Next will be Casper Ruud, who will make his first fourth-round appearance at a Slam after beating Radu Albot. If Medvedev and Rublev win, we will have the last-eight showdown.
Andy Del Potro