When Caroline Wozniacki was world No 1, her critics always pointed to the fact that she had never won a Grand Slam title. Now that the 23-year-old Dane is heading out of the world’s top 10 it seems she does not even have it in her to make the quarter-finals any more.
Rory McIlroy’s fiancée lost 4-6 7-5 6-3 yesterday to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the third round of the Australian Open. She has not reached the last eight of a Grand Slam event since she lost her world No 1 position two years ago and, already down to No 10 in the list, she is likely to fall further when it is updated a week tomorrow.
Wozniacki had never gone beyond the Australian Open semi-finals but had enjoyed a consistently good record at Melbourne Park, reaching the fourth round in six of her previous seven appearances.
Muguruza, in contrast, had never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam event anywhere, but the Venezuela-born 20-year-old is one of the game’s emerging talents. Tall, strong, athletic and quick, the world No 38 hits the ball with great power and moves across the court with elegant ease. She now meets Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska,
Rafael Nadal is currently into his 115th week at the top of the world rankings and showing no sign whatsoever of relinquishing his position. Gaël Monfils, the hard-hitting Frenchman, was regarded by some as a major threat to the Spaniard’s passage into the last 16, but Nadal crushed him 6-1 6-2 6-3. He later described the performance as his best so far at a tournament where he has not dropped a set or his serve. Nadal, who will meet Japan’s Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarter-finals, was pushed hard by Monfils in the Doha final a fortnight ago but this time the world No 32 never got close. “Definitely today he was in great shape,” Monfils said. “Much better than Doha, for sure. I would say today was the best I have seen him play for a while.”
If he finds a way past Nishikori, Nadal will face either Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov or Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. Andy Murray or Roger Federer are potential semi-final opponents.
Federer is another making impressive progress. The Swiss set up an attractive fourth-round meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with his third successive straight-sets win, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2 6-2 6-3.
Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, the top seeds in the bottom half of the women’s draw, also moved into the second week with straight-set victories. Azarenka, chasing a third successive title here, crushed Yvonne Meusburger 6-1 6-0 to set up a rematch with Sloane Stephens following her controversial meeting with the American last year.
Stephens, who was playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final 12 months ago, had just saved five match points to get the second set back on serve when Azarenka took a long medical time-out before breaking Stephens to secure victory.
Sharapova again looked in erratic form as she beat France’s Alize Cornet 6-1 7-6. The Russian, who now plays Dominika Cibulkova, was so unhappy with her performance that she headed straight to the practice courts after the match.
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