Saturday, January 19, 2019

Australian Open round of 16 looks tasty indeed




A quick demographic breakdown of the 2019 Australian Open round of 16:

  • The final 16 hold a total of 38 major singles titles (and yes, Serena holds 23 of those).
  • Five players--almost a third of the field--represent the USA.
  • Two other countries, the Czech Republic and Russia, have two players in the draw.
  • The age gap between the youngest player (Amanda Anisimova) and the oldest (Serena Williams) is 20 years.
  • Anisimova is the first player born in the 2000s to reach the fourth round of a major.

There are a couple of interesting phenomena in the round of 16 draw that are worth mentioning:

One, of course, is the appearance of Amanda Anisimova. In addition to being the youngest player in the top 100, and being the first player of her birth generation to go this far in a major, The very poised Anisimova has reached the round of 16 in a way that could hardly be called "easy."

In the first round, she defeated trickster Monica Niculescu (who has done some giant-killing in her day). In the second round, she upset 24th seed Lesia Tsurenko, who recently reached the Brisbane final. And for her next trick, Anisimova knocked off 11th seed Arnya Sabalenka with such ease and finesse that she made the highly-touted Belarusian look like a confused journeywoman.

Anisimova's next opponent is Petra Kvitova. If the Barking Czech continues to play the way she's been playing, the 17-year-old's Australian Open experience will be over, though Anisimova could certainly drag Kvitova into three sets. However, Kvitova--who always looks so good in Melbourne, and always gets our  hopes up--has made it past the third round for the first time in four years (she was absent in 2017), and it's been seven years since she's reached the semifinals. If "Bad Petra" shows up on court, Anisimova would certainly have the nerve to send her home.

Another phenomenon of the draw is the appearance of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a gifted player who occasionally pops up to remind us that--well, that she's a gifted player. Even more noteworthy is that the Russian had to win two rather difficult matches--against 9th seed Kiki Bertens and the dangerous Aliaksandra Sasnovich--in order to reach the round of 16. We're accustomed to seeing Pavlyuchenkova pull off a big win, but not two in a row. The Russian's next opponent will be 5th seed Sloane Stephens; can she do it again?

For those who like more poetic pairings--world number 1 Simona Halep will face seven-time champion Serena Williams in the round of 16. 

Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza will face Karolina Pliskova in an "anything can happen" match. Pliskova has been looking pretty solid, while Muguruza tends to be about as predictable as Kviotva--just when you think she's on a roll, she crashes. But--sometimes, when you think she's about to crash--she crushes.

I'm looking forward to watching the clever, adaptable Ash Barty compete against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova found her mojo at this tournament, which is a joy to see, but she'll have her hands full with Barty. Naomi Osaka will take on Anastasija Sevastova, who is pretty clever in her own right. Danielle Collins faces off against 2016 champion Angie Kerber (who is operating so oddly under the radar), and Madison Keys will play Elina Svitolina.

Svitolina, despite suffering with a neck problem throughout her difficult three-hour third round match, gutted her way to the round of 16. It was an impressive win against a very good opponent, but the 6th seed's fortunes hang on whether she can get sufficident treatment for her neck injury.

Here is the round of 16 draw:

Simona Helep (1) vs. Serena Williams (16)
Garbine Muguruza (18) vs. Karolina Pliskova (7)
Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (13)
Madison Keys (17) vs. Elina Svitolina (6)
Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Amanda Anisimova
Ashleigh Barty (15) vs. Maria Sharapova (30)
Sloane Stephens (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Danielle Collins vs. Angelique Kerber (2)

15 comments:

colt13 said...

Most of these are pretty good on paper. But the fact that there is at least one seed in all 8 matches means we are due for an upset.

Diane said...

I'd say, without a doubt. Petra is vulnerable simply because--sigh--she's Petra. And if Pavs can keep it up, then Sloane is vulnerable. And sadly, Svitolina's neck may be vulnerable.

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