By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Quarter-finals are set at the Australian Open
- Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic are the shock seeded exits
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic became the latest casualties of the Happy Slam, as the quarter-final berths were set at the Australian Open.
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The Shocks Exits
No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem‘s run came to an end at the hands of the ‘Last American Male Player’ standing, Tennys Sandgren. The unseeded Sandgren, who usually plies his trade on the Challenger tier of the tour had the Austrian on the back foot for a start.
Thiem, who struggled at the start of the season with a viral illness left him a little undercooked as he got dragged to five sets in the second round. He showed some brilliance in the fourth set tie-break to peg Sandgren back, but the LAMP is still standing.
While some have chosen to laud his achievements (and when you consider his American luminaries who fell quite meekly) it is understandable, but Sandgren also has a reputation amongst the Twitter-sphere for having some rather more conservative views – an area he was quizzed on after his match.
He defended his choices of who to follow (but according to his bio, apparently not to endorse):
“I’m not concerned about it. And I don’t think any kind of engagement in that way dictates that you then are right in there with that particular person. I don’t think it works that way. I don’t see it as working that way.
“I mean, you can ask me about my beliefs on things, that’s cool. But I think to lump in and say, You follow this person, so then wow, who are you? Ask me who I am. I’m perfectly fine answering those kinds of questions.”
In terms of some of the more alt-right advocates he follows, he was asked specifically whether he felt he supported that movement.
Sandgren said: “I find some of the content interesting. But no, I don’t, not at all. As a firm Christian, I don’t support things like that, no.’
Following hot on the heels of that stunning exit, Next Gen Finals champion Hyeon Chung dished out the Novak Djokovic treatment to the man himself. His defensive play, his attacking style – it must have been like playing a mirror for the six-time Australian Open champion.
Chung even went as far as mimicking Djokovic’s earlier move after a winning rally to whip up the crowd support in one of the matches of the tournament on the men’s side. To reach the fourth round was a pretty big achievement, but the young ones are coming.
Djokovic said: “Amazing performance. He was a better player on the court tonight. He deserved to win, no question about it. Whenever he was in trouble, he came up with some unbelievable shots, passing shots. Just from the back of the court, you know, he was like a wall. It’s impressive. I wish him all the best.”
Was it really a shock for the No. 14 seed to exit? It was his first competitive foray in six months, and during the match he could be seen shaking his elbow, encased in a tight compression sleeve.
Djokovic continued: “Unfortunately, it’s not great. Kind of end of the first set it started hurting more.
“I have to say I’m very grateful I had the chance to play. I didn’t know if I’m going to play or not. So I played four matches here. It was a good tournament, of course.
“It’s disappointing to go out in the fourth round. The circumstances are such. I have to accept it. That’s the reality. It’s frustrating, of course, when you have that much time and you don’t heal properly. But it is what it is.
“There is some kind of a reason behind all of this. I’m just trying my best obviously because I love this sport. I enjoy training. I enjoy getting myself better, hoping that I can get better, perform and compete. Today was one of those days where, unfortunately, it was too much to deal with.”
2016 champion and rejuvanted Angelique Kerber almost exited stage right also. She was up against he tricky Hsieh Su-Wei who’s slow-mo winners exasperated the German no end.
A couple of tricky shots of her own including a nifty dig around the netpost and a knee-drop copunter-strike winner brought the fighting spirit off Kerber to the fore as she clawed her way back into the match. A couple of days ago she said she could run forever – good job too.
Yet to drop a set or ruffle his mane is of course Roger Federer. He may have been tested a little more by Marton Fucsovics and taken to a tie-break but the title defence is still intact.
Rafael Nadal dropped his first set of the tournament but came through a spirited display by Diego Schwartzman and will face Marin Cilic, who as always has crept through the draw without really attracting anyone’s attention.
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On the women’s side Madison Keys has had much the same journey, while players like Simona Halep and her ankle or 15-13 decider have grabbed the headlines in previous rounds. Keys completely decimated Caroline Garcia – who was not playing badly, but she could not get any kind of rhythm on her own game.
While we mention Halep – there were none of the dramatics we had seen in that epic match against Lauren Davis as she breezed past Naomi Osaka with ease. Tomas Berdych despatched Fabio Fognini, and earned himself a match up with Federer for his efforts. Rounding out the action… [Pliskova]
The quarter-finals will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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