© Ella Ling

Novak Djokovic

Notes from Melbourne - day eight


Our highlights reel of all the action from the eighth day of the 2012 Australian Open

Match of the day
For a minute, it looked like the impossible might be possible. Lleyton Hewitt, against the run of play, against the most confident man in tennis, shook Novak Djokovic’s resolve. Despite trailing by two sets to the bad, 1-6, 3-6 after another beyond clinical start from the defending champion, and 0-3 in the third, Hewitt never gave up.

It worked. He got in under the Serb’s skin, hitting the ball as cleanly as he did when he, not Djokovic, was the world number one. Taking the third set 6-4 on his fourth set point, he kept his fairytale run running. With Australian journalists cursing their deadlines as the possibility of Hewitt victory suddenly seemed not unthinkable, Lley Lley looked like producing another late show.

In the end, it didn’t happen, Djokovic’s confidence returning, the Fearhand doing the damage he needed it to. But still, Hewitt did not stop. Facing three match points, he fired a Fearhand of his own, an off-forehand return that bulleted well beyond Djokovic’s reach. The Serb took the win with the next point, but still, this match will be remembered for Hewitt, and his absolute inability to stop scrapping. It has been an extraordinary seven days for him.

The upsets
Ekaterina Makarova d. Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3
Yes you read that correctly. Just when it was looking like a quarter-final line-up for the big guns, along came the Makarova. The Russian, whose biggest achievement to date was winning the Eastbourne title two years ago, had a Sam Stosur moment, cleaning the lines with her serve and groundstrokes to reach her first grand slam quarter-final. With Serena struggling in the midday heat, even wearing a purple cap, Makarova didn’t blink.

Oracene Price’s facial expressions added an air of comedy to the loss, but there’s no doubt it will be a very unhappy camp Williams that absorbs this loss, Serena’s first in Melbourne since the 2008 quarter-finals.

So the big question is, will we ever see another Slam for Serena?

Kei Nishikori d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Japan, prepare yourself to go bonkers. Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals, and only the second to reach any slam quarter-final, with a rip-roaring five-set win over Jo-W T, the 2008 finalist. Going two sets to one up, Nishikori withstood a comeback from the burly Frenchman, and a dead spot on Hisense Arena, but accelerated through in the fifth to win the three-and-a-half-hour epic. He plays Andy Murray next. Tantalising.

Sara Errani d. Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-1
Based on her form, it was looking like Zheng Jie would be brushing dirt off her shoulder in her presser again. But the little-known pocket rocket Italian put paid to that, handling the heat better to win 6-2, 6-1. Her first grand slam quarter-final is her reward, against Petra Kvitova.

The non-upsets
David Ferrer doing what David Ferrer does best, and coming through 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 v Richard Gasquet to reach the quarter-finals. Last year, he faced Rafa at this stage, and was an unlikely winner. Will the same happen this year?

Maria Sharapova survived losing six straight games against Sabine Lisicki to deal the German a three-set defeat and make her way into the quarter-finals. She faces Ekaterina Makarova next.

Stopwatch on
Andy Murray v Mikhail Kukushkin
The world number four took just 48 minutes to reach the last eight, his third Australian Open quarter-final in a row, leading Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 0-1 before the Kazkah retired with a left hip flexor injury. In this heat, the less time on court, the better. Murray revealed he would be heading out for some more practice later on.

Poj’d v Ajde
Petra Kvitova won the battle of the fist pumps against Ana Ivanovic, scorching through the first set 6-2 before losing her way, as is usual, in the second to send it to a tie-break, and then destroying her way through the breaker. Good tournament for Ivanovic, but Petra still has her sights on world number one.

Talking about…the temperature
Towels were the accessory of the day as people put them on their heads, shoulders, knees and toes to stave off the 35 degree temperatures. Some joker (named Ivan Lendl) even put one on a camera and added a cap to it just for good measure. The invisible man.

Sign of the day
‘G’day UK’ proclaimed a big banner on Rod Laver Arena during Andy Murray’s match. So, to all those people who roused themselves at 2 in the morning to watch, we were thinking of you.

Interview of the day
‘Andy Murray, this is your life,’ presented by Jim Courier (as coined by Stu Fraser). Among other things, Murray revealed none of Lendl’s jokes are clean enough for TV, and even joked about 1936 and all that. YouTube it.

Stat of the day
The last time the top four women’s seeds all made the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.

Quote of the day
“It wasn’t hot enough for them to close the roof. I’m like, Bloody hell. Glad I’m not playing anymore. I don’t know how they do it.”
Martina Navratilova finds the going a little tough. And yes, she really did say ‘bloody hell.’

Maria Sharapova also came out with another sterling contribution…
“You always ask silly questions. You’re Italian.”

A for effort
Maria Kirilenko, who had retired from her singles and withdrawn from the mixed doubles, made a valiant attempt to play her doubles with Nadia Petrova. But it was too much for the player they call mini Sharapova, forced to retire trailing 0-3.

Villain of the day
The journalist who put not two or three but EIGHT (I counted) pieces of satay chicken on his plate during the daily media drinks and snacks. It almost started a riot.

Special mention to
Colin Fleming. The Scot is through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals with Liezel Huber. Gunning for the title?

Coming up tomorrow
The first four quarter-finals…
Victoria Azarenka v Agnieszka Radwanska, 12pm on Rod Laver Arena

Caroline Wozniacki v Kim Clijsters, second on Rod Laver Arena

Juan Martin Del Potro v Roger Federer, third on Rod Laver Arena

Tomas Berydch v Rafael Nadal, first night match on Rod Laver Arena

And Britain’s band of four junior boys, who play their second-round matches