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Men's and women's semi-finals set at Australian Open as Nadal falls

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Roar Guru
29th January, 2020
2

We are down to just four men and four women at the 2020 Australian Open and while Novak Djokovic will start as the favourite to retain his title, in the women’s we will have a brand new champion.

For the first time, we will have a male Australian Open finalist born in the 1990s, with Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev to face off in the second semi-final on Friday evening.

Zverev advanced to his first major semi-final after coming from a set down to oust 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in four sets, while Thiem played the match of his life to upset world number one Rafael Nadal and progress to his first semi-final at Melbourne Park.

Thiem went into his match against Nadal looking to reverse five losses to the Spaniard at Grand Slam level, including the past two French Open finals, a gut-wrenching five-set loss at the US Open in 2018, and on his Grand Slam debut at the 2014 French Open.

Undeterred by his poor record against the top seed, Thiem took the first two sets in tiebreaks, both of which took over an hour, before the Spaniard broke at the death of the third set to take it 6-4 and keep the contest alive.

The Austrian then broke early in the fourth set, and had the chance to serve for the match in the tenth game, before Nadal broke to make it 5-all. Both players held their service games thereafter, sending the fourth set to a tiebreak.

Thiem then held his nerve in the tiebreak to secure his first win over the Spaniard at a major, advancing to his fifth Grand Slam semi-final, but first outside Roland Garros, in the process.

Nadal’s defeat means he will have to wait another twelve months to win a second Australian Open title, leaving the 2009 trophy, which he won at the expense of Roger Federer, as the only time he has saluted at Melbourne Park.

It also means Federer’s record of 20 major men’s singles titles remains safe for at least another four-and-a-half months, but Nadal will surely start favourite to land the milestone title at Roland Garros, where he would also be going for a jaw-dropping 13th title.

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The Spaniard will also lose the world number one ranking should Novak Djokovic go on to win the title.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Earlier in the day, Zverev dropped the first set (and his first in the tournament) in his quarter-final stoush against Stan Wawrinka 6-1 in just under half an hour, but hit back to secure a four-set victory and end the Lausanne native’s chances of adding to his 2014 success.

Whichever of Thiem and Zverev wins will become the first Australian Open finalist born in the 1990s; if the latter wins, he will be just the second man born in that decade to reach a major final.

The other semi-final, which will be played this evening, will see Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer square off for the 50th time, and fifth at the Australian Open.

For the second time in three matches, Federer successfully navigated his way through a five-set rollercoaster, saving seven match points to defeat American journeyman (and the appropriately named) Tennys Sandgren and advance to his 15th semi-final at Melbourne Park.

That followed on from coming back from the brink to edge out Australian battler John Millman in the third round, in which he trailed 8-4 in the final set super tiebreak, and coming from a set down to defeat Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in four sets.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer plays a forehand. (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

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Djokovic, on the other hand, had it much easier, quelling the threat of 32nd seed Milos Raonic to reach his eighth Australian Open semi-final, and if past history is anything to go by, then he could soon be lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a record eighth time.

That’s because, on the seven previous occasions Djokovic has reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, each time he has gone on to win the title.

Ominously, each time he has beaten Federer Down Under, each time he has also gone on to win (in 2008, 2011 and 2016). Moreover, when Federer defeated Djokovic in the fourth round here in 2007, he also went on to win the title.

Before the men take centre stage, the two women’s semi-finals will be contested this afternoon, with Ashleigh Barty to carry the hopes of a nation when she comes up against Sofia Kenin in the first, and two dual major champions to square off in the other.

Twelve months after being badly beaten by Petra Kvitova in her first major quarter-final, 23-year-old Barty turned the tables on the Czech left-hander, saving a set point to take the first set in a tiebreaker before running away with it in the second set.

Kenin, meanwhile, continued her breakthrough run by defeating Ons Jabeur in straight sets, advancing to her first Grand Slam semi-final in the process.

This will be the second time the pair meet in a Grand Slam match, after the Australian won a three-set match in the fourth round of the French Open last year, en route to winning her first major title.

The other semi-final will see reigning Wimbledon title-holder, and fourth seed Simona Halep, face Garbine Muguruza, herself a former French Open and Wimbledon champion, in a match that promises interest and intrigue.

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While Ashleigh Barty is hoping to end a 42-year drought of local champions at the Australian Open, Halep is, to many, the hot favourite to land her third major title Down Under.

The 28-year-old Romanian required just 53 minutes to dispatch first-time quarter-finalist Anett Kontaveit, dropping only two games (one in each set) to reach just her second semi-final at Melbourne Park.

Muguruza, on the other hand, had it much tougher against Russian giant killer Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but still prevailed in straight sets to reach her first Australian Open semi-final, and first anywhere since the 2018 French Open.

Garbine Muguruza French Open Roland Garros Tennis 2016

Garbine Muguruza. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

Having arrived in Melbourne unseeded, the Spaniard is guaranteed to return to the worlds top 20 when the rankings are updated next week, and could climb to as high as 12th should she go all the way.

Out of five matches the pair have contested, 26-year-old Muguruza has prevailed on three occasions, but it was Halep that won in straight sets in the semi-final of the 2018 French Open, on her way to winning that title.

Again it is the Romanian who will be favoured to reach her second Australian Open final, where she would be hoping that it is second time lucky after she fell to Caroline Wozniacki in a thrilling three-set championship match in 2018.

Matches to watch on Day 11
Rod Laver Arena
Not before 2:00pm
[1] Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs [14] Sofia Kenin (USA)
Not before 3:30pm
[4] Simona Halep (ROU) vs Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Not before 7:30pm
[3] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [2] Novak Djokovic (ESP)

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