Second seed Petra Kvitova and fourth seed Maria Sharapova have reached their appointed positions in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, but where did the unseeded interlopers who face them today come from?
Sharapova plays Ekaterina Makarova, a 23-year-old Russian ranked No.56, who was good enough to bundle out an erratic Serena Williams in straight sets on Monday.
A left-hander, Makarova lost six first rounds in a row at the end of 2011 but has found form at the start of this year. “I took a holiday, didn’t think about tennis,” she said, explaining how she was able to re-charge for 2012.
She is 0-2 against Sharapova, with both matches played on clay before the French Open last year. But she should feel confident riding the wave of her best Grand Slam event in 18 tries.
Following her upset of Williams, a reporter suggested she looked like Gwyneth Paltrow, something that she herself did not see at all. If it’s any consolation to her, there’s much more chance she will beat Sharapova than she looks like the famous American actress.
As for Kvitova’s 24-year-old opponent Sara Errani, ranked No.48, her previous best was four third rounds in 17 Grand Slam events.
Her appearance in the quarterfinals is the biggest surprise of the women’s last eight. “I like to play up ball, very high,” Errani said explaining her 6-2, 6-1 dismantling of diminutive Jie Zheng on Monday. “She’s in big trouble.”
Errani, only 164cm herself, is in big trouble on Tuesday against a 182cm opponent in Kvitova. The Italian is an indefatigable retriever but her main hope for success is that the Wimbledon champion’s asthma becomes a problem on a hot, sunny afternoon.
Heat will not be an issue with men’s top seed Novak Djokovic playing a night quarterfinal against dogged David Ferrer, a Spaniard who would prefer the more withering conditions during the day. Djokovic leads Ferrer 6-5 in their head-to-head. A 6-3, 6-1 win for the Spaniard at the year-end Tour Finals in London last November should be discarded because Djokovic was burnt out by the ravages of his exceptional 2011 campaign.
The defending champion looked a little shaky after totally dominating Lleyton Hewitt for two and a half sets on Monday night. That could be a concern, but probably is a good thing after he breezed through three rounds with negligible opposition.
Djokovic should prevail using his methodical and wondrous ball-striking as body blows to wear down the valiant battler from Valencia.
Andy Murray, a well-known aficionado of the sweet science, landed more than his share of telling punches in a 6-3 6-0 win over Kei Nishikori in the Shanghai semifinals in their only previous meeting last October.
Coming off consecutive five-set victories over Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the nifty Nishikori, 21, and ranked No.26, will be hard-pressed to stay with Murray who has only played five sets total in his past two rounds.
The new Murray-Ivan Lendl player-coach partnership seems to be working in a great-minds-think-alike kind of way. Said Lendl, in jest about what he would do if Murray yelled at him in the courtside seats as he sometimes does to his camp, “I can yell back”.