Second set: Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 4-4 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) At the changeover, Karatsev looks hot under the collar. With the temperature having risen to the early 30s, the Russian uses what looks like an air conditioning pipe to blow air onto his face as he takes a load off. It seems to have the desired effect and he serves out to hold with a minimum of fuss for the first time for what seems like ages. “New balls please!”
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov* 6-2, 4-3 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) A polite smattering of applause arrives midway through the second point of this game, which is just weird. Dimitrov, meanwhile, gets back into the swing of things with the ball in his hand and holds with ease to nudge ahead once more.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-3 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) With a golden opportunity to open up a two-game lead in this second set, Karatsev blows it. Errors continue to plague the Russian’s game; he brings up the unwanted milestone of 30 for the match so far – and adds another two for good measure – before double faulting on a second break point. That’s the second time he has failed to consolidate a break today. Dimitrov breathes a sigh of relief.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov* 6-2, 2-3 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) Wow, I was not expecting this. Dimitrov shows a glimmer of hesitancy and Karatsev pounces to break. Where did that come from? Dimitrov was breezing through his service games but the wheels fall off this one. This could well prove to be a turning point.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 2-2 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) What a shot! The shot of the day so far comes off Dimitrov’s racket, a perfectly executed sliced backhand that Karatsev simply has no answer to. The Bulgarian goes on to bring up two break point chances, but again, Karatsev saves both. That’s seven in the last two games he has saved. Karatsev manages to hold, thanks to an ace on game point, but he’s really being made to work hard for each hold. That could well take its toll before too long.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov* 6-2, 2-1 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) In stark contrast to that last game, this one’s over in a flash. Still, the ledger reads that each player held their service game, and that’s all that counts for now.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 1-1 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) Karatsev finds himself in trouble on numerous occasions this game and cannot to extricate himself from the holes he digs for over 10 minutes in the longest game by far of the day so far. He does, eventually, but it takes him six deuces and five saved break points to do so. That’s a huge hold in the end.
Second set: Grigor Dimitrov* 6-2, 1-0 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) Dimitrov makes the opening game of the second set look easy, forcing Karatsev into a couple of errors and throwing down an ace on his way to an early lead.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) The errors continue to flow for Karatsev, which makes life pretty easy for Dimitrov to be honest. Perhaps the Russian has already checked out of this set. Well, he is out of it now, as Dimitrov breaks to claim the opener in just 33 minutes.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov* 5-2 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) The momentum is well and truly with Dimitrov as Karatsev’s error count increases (17 unforced errors so far). A couple of aces help Dimitrov to a comfortable hold and the Bulgarian’s one game away from taking the opening set.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov 4-2 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) Karatsev aces at 15-30 down and follows with a well-executed point as he dictates play and has Dimitrov running all over the court. He soon faces break points though. Both are saved, the first quite simply – serve, forehand, backhand winner – the second when a Dimitrov ball lands out at the baseline. A third double fault of the day lands him in trouble once again though and this time, Karatsev is long and Dimitrov has his second break of the day. Stat: Karatsev’s average forehand speed is a whopping 137kph so far today – higher than his tournament average.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov* 3-2 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) Dimitrov holds to love to steady the Bulgarian’s ship on serve. Stat (the last one for now): if Karatsev wins today, he’ll become the first man to reach a grand slam semi-final on debut.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov 2-2 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) Ah, but Karatsev cannot hold that lead for long as some loose play allows Dimitrov to take advantage and break back straight away. Nerves? Maybe. Another Karatstat: the Russian also possesses the fastest backhand in the tournament so far – his average is 122.3km/h, again faster even than Rafa Nadal, who is third again, behind Alex Zverev in second.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov* 1-2 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) How about this then? Karatsev makes an early breakthrough as Dimitrov falters on his serve. A double fault doesn’t help him; neither does a couple of unforced errors by the Bulgarian; nor some powerful Karatsev forehands. Stat attack: Karatsev is ranked No 1 in terms of forehand speed so far this tournament. He’s clocking an average speed of 132.8km/h – faster than even Rafael Nadal, who is third on the list behind Andrey Rublev in second.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov 1-1 Aslan Karatsev* (denotes server) Karatsev brushes off a double fault midway through his opening service game to hold. Next stat up: he’s the first man to reach this stage of the Australian Open on debut.
First set: Grigor Dimitrov* 1-0 Aslan Karatsev (denotes server) Dimitrov gets us under way this afternoon and he begins with a comfortable love service game against Karatsev, who is the lowest-ranked men’s quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park in 30 years. That is the first of many stats about the Russian coming your way today.
The clock has ticked past 3pm and the players, masked up as is the new norm, are making their way out onto Rod Laver Arena. Down the tunnel they head, before Karatsev is introduced to…. no one really, given the empty stands, as he walks out into the bright sunshine. Dimitrov follows and we’ll be under way shortly.
Qualifier Aslan Karatsev’s journey to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open – in his first grand slam outing, no less – is the stuff small tennis boys surely dream of. The 27-year-old world No 114 has already seen off eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to this afternoon’s clash with Grigor Dimitrov.
But the Bulgarian, seeded 18 this year, has sought to play down any suggestion that the Russian’s back story will have an impact on today’s match.
“Like all sort of the top players if you think about it, it takes time for everyone to get to somewhere, but the best part is that you treat every player the same way, and I will treat this match with no difference,” Dimitrov said. “I will still go through my routines. I’m still going to do my work. It’s just honestly another match. I’m not going to think of what the guy has done, what he has accomplished or what is going on.”
And here he is, not thinking about much at all in the build-up to the match.
Champions! Australian duo Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson have won the quad wheelchair doubles for a fourth year in a row with a 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 victory over Britain’s Andy Lapthorne and David Wagner of the US in the final.
“It is our 20-year anniversary, since I was 10 years old, which is incredible,” Alcott told Channel 9. “I’m really proud of him. He had eight years off the sport, had some things in his life going on. Now we’ve won four Australian Opens on the trot. I am super proud of you.”
The great fake crowd noise debate: Canned crowds or no? In the absence of real fans, sounds of applause, oohing and aahing, and cheering is being piped through to viewers. It’s certainly… different.
“Please get rid of this,” Adrian Sokolowski emails. “It is obnoxious and very annoying. Thank goodness the players aren’t subject to this ridiculous sound track.”
The problem with the concept is that it’s prone to error. I can’t remember exactly which match it was yesterday, but there was a point where the crowd erupted at completely the wrong moment. Fault!
Asked what makes Hsieh so difficult to play against, she says: “I guess her shot making. She is able to hit winners from both sides. You never know when she is about to go for it. I guess her shot making.
“I know my next opponent is Serena or Halep. I always watch Serena’s matches anyways. Normally I never look at my draw but everyone’s told me about my draw here so I’ve kind of had no choice but to know who my next opponent is. But definitely going to be really fun.”
Here’s Osaka, at the court microphone. Asked about her second appearance in the semis in three year, she says: “Yeah, definitely really happy. I’m really happy with how I played today too. Every time I play her, it is always such a battle. Even though the score was like this, it was really another battle for me.”
Naomi Osaka beats Hsieh Su-wei 6-2, 6-2
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-6, 2-6 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Osaka bristles and bustles once more – she seems to be in a hurry to close this one out and get back into the sheds. But Hsieh delivers two moments of magic, saving two match points with a couple of well-executed winners – one off her backhand, and one off her forehand – to stave off defeat. It’s a momentary reprieve though, and Osaka goes on to wrap up the match at the third time of asking, when Hsieh hits one long. All over! And Osaka breezes into the semi-final, against either Serena Williams or Simona Halep. What a match that’s going to be.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei 2-6, 2-5 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) A lot is the brief answer, and I’ll have to be brief as Osaka absolutely stormed through that game and there’s barely any time to say anything else. Two quickfire, booming aces help her on her way, and Hsieh will now have to serve to stay in this match.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-6, 2-4 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Hsieh is refusing to lie roll over just yet. Osaka watches a forehand land just the wrong side of the line on game point and we’re back on Osaka’s serve. What damage can that weapon do now?
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei 2-6, 1-4 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) Osaka’s serve could yet be the defining factor not just in this match, but in the tournament in general. Her stats when she lands her first serve are incredible: just one lost point today – 19 from 21 at 90%. She’s thrown down five aces for good measure too. Simona Halep and Serena Williams will be taking note.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-6, 1-3 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) And just like that, Hsieh storms through a service game, to love. Osaka might be forced into wrapping up victory on her own racket after all.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei 2-6, 0-3 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) As thought, Osaka has absolutely no issues with the ball in hand once more, and the Japanese player could well run away with this from here on in. A place in the semis beckons.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-6, 0-2 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Uh-oh. Doesn’t look promising for Hsieh here. She’s broken again as Osaka ramps up her level. The difference in class between the two is gradually becoming apparent. And Hsieh now has to face another service game which, the way Osaka is serving at the moment, is a daunting prospect.
Second set: Hsieh Su-wei 2-6, 0-1* Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Osaka’s service is a force to be reckoned with. That first set, she won 100% of her first service points – 12 from 12. By way of comparison, Hsieh was at 58%. And Osaka carries that kind of form into the second, yet more aggressive serving helped her to the opening game.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-6 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Osaka doesn’t fancy prolonging this set any more than absolutely necessary; she races to a 40-0 lead and wraps up the opener soon after. The 2019 Australian Open champion is in control here and looking well set to reach the final four. It’s taken just under 40 minutes so far.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei 2-5 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) Osaka wastes little time in securing her next service game. Blink and you’ll miss it stuff; the Japanese clinches it to love.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei* 2-4 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Osaka Hsieh holds, but she has to save another break point before she adds a second game to her tally.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei 1-4 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) Osaka consolidates that break, but it’s not an easy for the third seed. It takes four deuces and two saved break points before she opens up a three-game lead. Initially, Hsieh’s backhand causes problems, with two terrific winners sailing back past Osaka. It’s not enough this game though.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei* 1-3 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Trouble for Hsieh on her next service game as she falls to 0-40. But the unseeded player digs deep, and wins the next four points. Osaka then opens up her forehand to devastating effect, and again a few points later to bring up another break opportunity. And at the fourth time of asking, Osaka unleashes a backhand winner to finally make the breakthrough, and open up a two-game lead.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei 1-2 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) Osaka holds again without too much ado, to love, and we’re still on serve early on this opening set. Remember, Osaka has the edge on head-to-heads: the Japanese leads 4-1 in the pair’s previous five meetings. But, the results mask how close those matches were.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei* 1-1 Naomi Osaka (denotes server) Hsieh, who has never before been this deep at a grand slam, is known for her unpredictability and she throws up a bit of funky stuff on her first service game today. All good for the Tawainese so far.
First set: Hsieh Su-wei 0-1 Naomi Osaka* (denotes server) Okey dokey, here we go then. And it’s not an ideal start for No 3 seed Osaka, who is forced to save an early break point (with a well-timed ace), but she gets there in the end thanks to a couple of wayward baseline shots from Hsieh. Hsieh, at 35, is not the oldest player left in the draw (Serena Williams is 39) but she is an experienced campaigner who should give Osaka plenty to think about today.
Of course, there are still no fans in the stands today – and at least until Thursday – as we await clearance from the Victorian government to lift the snap lockdown imposed from Friday last week. And with two new locally acquired cases reported today, things it would seem are still very much in the balance. We shall see.
To the action! Osaka will serve first. Ready? Play.
Here come the players onto Rod Laver Arena, both sporting hats and face masks. Osaka supplements her headgear with a pair of headphones. There’s a high of 27C in Melbourne today and it’s partially cloudy over Melbourne Park. In short, more perfect playing conditions.
Day nine at Melbourne Park and that can only mean one thing: quarter-finals! Four of them to be exact, two in the women’s singles and two on the men’s side.
First up, Naomi Osaka, the third seed, gets another chance to display her title credentials. But it won’t be plain sailing into the last four – evergreen dangerwoman Hsieh Su-wei lies in wait first up on Rod Laver.
To follow, it’s men’s 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov against Aslan Karatsev, before arguably the biggest matchup of this Open so far featuring Serena Williams and Simona Halep. And if that isn’t enough, men’s No 1 Novak Djokovic stares down sixth seed Alex Zverev in the final match of the day on centre.