‘Despair’ as Nadal breaks down
THE BIG seeds just kept on falling at the Australian Open on day nine with Grigor Dimitrov and Rafael Nadal joining the exit queue on a dramatic day of tennis at Melbourne Park.
World No. 3 Dimitrov missed another chance to push for grand slam success when he was stunned by unseeded English star Kyle Edmund.
It means two of the four semi-finalists in the men's singles draw will be unseeded by the time American Tennys Sandgren and Korean Hyeon Chung play out their quarter-final on Wednesday.
It was up to Nadal to reverse the trend, but after a marathon three hours, 48 minute marathon against Marin Cilic, the No. 1 seed was also packing his bags.
On the women's side unseeded Belgian Elise Mertens continued her dream run at Melbourne Park with a straight sets victory over World No. 4 Elina Svitolina.
Caroline Wozniacki - fresh from hitting her first ever successful tweener in a match - may need to pull out some more tricks to overcome veteran Carla Suarez Navarro in the other quarter-final of the day.
ROD LAVER ARENA
(6) Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan defeated (15) Marcin Matkowski-Aisam-Ul-Haq-Qureshi 6-1 6-4
Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated (4) Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-4 6-0
Kyle Edmund (GB) defeated (3) Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4
(1) Rafael Nadal (SPA) retired vs (6) Marin Cilic (CRO) 3-6 6-3 6-7 6-2 2-0
(2) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs Carla Suarez Navarro (SPA) 6-0 6-7 6-2
MARGARET COURT ARENA
Ben McLachlan-Jan-Lennard Struff defeated (1) Lukasz Kubot-Marcelo Melo 6-4 6-7 7-6
(2) Elena Vesnina-Ekaterina Makarova defeated Gabriela Dabrowski-Yifan Xu 0-6 6-1 7-6
(6) Edouard Roger-Vasselin-Andrea Sestini Hlavackova vs Nadiia Kichenok-Marcel Granollers
(8) Gabriela Dabrowski-Mate Pavic vs Demi Schuurs-Jean-Julien Rojer
Wozniacki stutters into Open semi-finals
Second-seed Caroline Wozniacki withstood a fightback from Spain's unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro to stutter into the semi-finals of the Australian Open 6-0, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2 early Wednesday morning.
The Dane, who has never won a Grand Slam title, will face another unseeded player, Elise Mertens of Belgium, on Thursday for a place in the final.
Nadal hits out at tour over injury trend
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal lashed out at tennis officials over the disturbing trend of tennis stars carrying injuries on a full-time basis.
Nadal said after retiring hurt to Marin Cilic it is still unclear exactly what his injury is.
He is concerned far too many players are risking long-term damage to their quality of life by playing with injuries.
"Somebody who is running the tour should think a little bit about what's going on," Nadal said.
"Too many people are getting injured.
"I don't know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis. "I don't know if we keep playing on these very, very hard surfaces what's going to happen in the future with our lives." Nadal has retired once before at the Australian Open, in 2010, when he was trailing Andy Murray in a quarter-final.
'Despair' as Nadal's body breaks down
Rafael Nadal limped through the first two games of the fifth set before being forced to retire in agony.
The World No. 1 lost nine points in a row from the end of the fourth set and into the fifth set as a painful hip injury crippled his movement on Rod Laver Arena. After trying to fight on, defending five break points in his first service game of the fifth set, Nadal's serve was broken. So was his body. So was his spirit.
He limped to the umpire's chair after going down 2-0 and retired hurt.
Nadal's retirement at 3-6 6-3 6-7 6-2 2-0 sees No. 6 seed Marin Cilic through to a semi-final against England's Kyle Edmund.
"Such a look of despair on his face," Jim Courier told Channel 7 early in the fifth set.
"He wants to break his racquet he is so frustrated right now, Nadal. He had the knee issue at the end of last season, he couldn't finish the Tour finals in London, had to retire mid-tournament. A couple of years ago at Roland Garros he couldn't post up to his next round because of the knee injury. It's all built up."
Cilic was gracious in victory.
"Unbelievable performance form both of us," Cilic told Channel 7 after the match.
"It was really unfortunate for Rafa. He's an unbelievable competitor and always gives his best, so it's very unfortunate for him to finish this way.
"When you are wounded, sometimes the balls are going in, you are a little bit looser, so I was really paying attention to these first couple of games, just try to keep my intensity up.
"It was very weird. I made few errors in that third set tie-break, especially in the third set. Overall I think I had a lot of chances there to break and somehow just Rafa was coming with some good serves, good shots in critical moments and that's the way he has always been, always finding the way, even if he is not playing at his best level."
Nadal called for the trainer for the first time down 1-4 in the fourth set and received treatment by the side of the court during a medical timeout. He received further treatment after he lost the fourth set and shook Cilic's hand after he lost his first service game of the final set.
It was the second time Nadal has retired at the Australian Open after pulling out of his quarter-final with Andy Murray in 2010 with a knee injury.
The Croat played in his first Australian semi-final eight years ago when he lost to Murray and it will also be his fifth Grand Slam semi-final.
Before Nadal's setback it had been a match of high quality, with Nadal edging ahead after a fluctuating third set tiebreaker.
Cilic, last year's Wimbledon finalist, was taken to seven deuces before he held to 3-3 in the opening set, but was broken in his next service game as Nadal claimed the opening set in 52 minutes with a forehand winner.
Cilic was incensed to receive a time violation warning while serving down two break points and came up with a double-fault for a break at 2-3 in the second set.
But the Croat reeled off two service breaks and levelled the match 6-3 with an ace.
Nadal won a mighty tussle for the third set lasting 72 minutes which went to a tiebreaker.
The world No. 1 held set point at 5-4 before Cilic held and in the tiebreaker a couple of Cilic misses gave Nadal his second set point which he took with an ace.
But Cilic would not be denied and he broke Nadal's serve in the fourth game of the fourth set, racing to a 4-1 lead.
Nadal took a rare medical timeout to seek treatment for his injury before resuming, but with difficulty.
Cilic broke him a second time to take the match into a fifth set but with Nadal noticeably limping between points, the Spaniard eventually walked to the umpire and conceded.
Cilic is coming off an outstanding 2017 where he lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final and made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros along with climbing to a career-high ranking of four.
- with AFP
Cilic takes it to a fifth set, Nadal in agony
Marin Cilic broke Rafael Nadal's serve twice in the fourth set to send their quarter-final epic into a deciding fifth set.
Minutes after Nadal needed a medical time-out to receive a massage on a hip injury, Cilic broke for a second time to take the fourth set 6-3, tying the match at 3-6 6-3 6-7 6-3.
"Not good signs for Rafael Nadal up the other end," Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge told Channel 7.
"At the end of that first point a real look towards his players' box. He is really hurting.'
Nadal takes medical time-out after serve broken
Rafael Nadal needed treatment on his right hip after his serve was broken at 4-1 in the fourth set.
Nadal has been spotted struggling to move around the court because of a hip flexor complaint, according to reports.
Nadal returned after the medical time-out struggling to move, grimacing on several occasions in his next service game.
Nadal survives screaming baby to take third set
Rafael Nadal let out a pumped-up roar after taking the third set tie-break 7-5 to take a two-sets-to-one lead over Marin Cilic in their quarter-final.
The marathon third set took the match close to the three-hour mark with Nadal eventually coming up big when it mattered in the tie-break to take a 6-3 3-6 7-6 lead into the fourth set.
Leading 4-3 in the breaker, Nadal had to pause before serving when a baby's cry echoed around Rod Laver Arena at the critical moment of the set.
Channel 7 commentator Jim Courier said both Nadal and Cilic would have wanted the chair umpire to issue a call for the baby to me quietened or asked to leave the stadium.
"This is where the player wants a chair umpire to ask for the baby to be removed," Courier said.
"Neither of these guys want to play with that. What's a baby doing awake at 10pm at night, anyway?"
Courier questions umpire's "furious" Cilic warning
No. 6 seed Marin Cilic had a heated discussion with the chair umpire during a change of ends after being hit with a warning for wasting time as he was on the verge of serving when down a break point.
Cilic then went on to serve a double fault and hand Nadal a 3-2 lead early in the second set.
He let the chair umpire know during the change of ends that there was a better moment for her to pick when he should have been given the warning for taking longer than 25 seconds in between points.
Channel 7 commentator Jim Courier said the chair umpire has a device to measure how long each player takes in between serves.
He said the umpire's decision to warn Cilic on break-point down was difficult to understand when Seven statisticians recorded that Cilic went over the 25 second mark 40 per cent of the time, while Nadal was responsible for going over his allotted time 45 per cent of the time - and escaped any warning.
He said Nadal has a reputation for being a habitual line-stepper of the time allowed in between serves, but is not punished because of his stature as the No. 1 ranked player.
"She will know that these guys are going over the line," Courier said.
"The thing for Cilic is to get one when you are down break point if you have done it so many times. That unfortunately is a pattern we see time and time again with certain umpires. They wait until the absolute worst time. Do it after the first point of a service game.
"Rafa is notorious for stretching the limits and matches take so long. That's part of the reason."
Cilic had an emphatic response to the drama by peeling off the next four games.
After failing to break Nadal's serve in the entire match, he broke the Spaniard's serve back-to-back to take the second set 6-3 and tie the match up.
'Nathan threw me under a bus'
Lleyton Hewitt was unimpressed with Channel 7 colleague Nathan Templeton after getting "thrown under the bus" during Seven's live coverage of Rafael Nadal's quarter-final against Marin Cilic.
Templeton was interviewing Geelong AFL superstar Patrick Dangerfield in the stands inside Rod Laver Arena during a change of ends and his line of questioning didn't impress Hewitt, who was sitting in the Channel 7 bunker at the back of the Australian Open centre court.
Templeton's cheeky questions to Dangerfield were all in good fun, except the moment he tried to drive a wedge between Hewitt, a prominent Adelaide Crows supporter, and Dangerfield, who famously left Adelaide for Geelong.
Here's how it went:
Nathan Templeton: Among the crowd here, Geelong super star Paddy Dangerfield. We are just marvelling at Rafa's legs. How would you go tackling him?
Patrick Dangerfield: I don't think I would be any good. He's in such good shape.
NT: Lleyton is in commentary. He reckons you didn't tackle when you played for The Crows.
PD: It would be hard to tackle Lleyton because he's short.
NT: Gary Ablett returning, how exciting. Have you explained while he was away there's a new Sheriff in town or is he still the man?
PD: He's still the man. We might be trying to pinch a few of Lleyton's boys, (Adelaide captain) Rory (Sloane).
NT: Rory Sloane?
PD: He's alright.
NT: Lleyton will be having a heart attack in the box. Good luck when the season starts.
Hewitt clearly had no idea, his light-hearted gibe at Dangerfield was going to be brought up in the interview.
"I think I was thrown under a bus," he said.
"Paddy was fantastic. The Crows did nock out Geelong in the preliminary final. We just weren't able to get it done on Grand Final day. Geelong is going to be a tough force next year or this year, obviously with the inclusion of Gary Ablett, the superstar. Just stay away from the Rory's, mate, they're staying in South Australia."
Frustrated Nadal takes first set
Rafael Nadal has taken the first set against No. 6 seed Marin Cilic.
Nadal was visibly frustrated earlier in the set after giving up fibe break points chances before he finally skipped out to a 5-3 lead.
He also needed a third set point opportunities before eventually taking the first set 6-3 in more than 52 minutes.
Edmund becomes Brit No. 1 (just briefly)
There is arguably no greater pressure in sport than carrying the expectations of British sporting fans and media commentators.
Welcome to that world, Kyle Edmund.
The 23-year-old appears to be taking it all in his stride, however, after causing yet another major upset at this year's Australian Open with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Edmund has become the first British man not named Andy Murray to reach the Australian Open semi-finals in 41 years.
The crucial break came in the penultimate game of the fourth set when Edmund successfully challenged a backhand by Dimitrov that was initially called in, only for Hawk-Eye to show it had landed fractionally outside the side-line.
The Brit served out the contest in the following game but he was made to wait an agonising extra few seconds before being declared the victor after the Bulgarian made an unsuccessful challenge on match point.
With three-time major champion Murray absent this year due to a hip injury and women's No. 9 seed Johanna Konta departing in the second round, the unseeded Edmund has found himself in the unfamiliar situation of being the focus of British tennis interest at a major.
It's a position he has handled with aplomb.
Not since John Lloyd in 1977 has a British man other than Murray played in the semis of an Australian Open.
"It's an amazing feeling - I'm very happy," Edmund said.
"With these things you're so emotionally engaged that you don't really take it in, you don't really enjoy yourself, so just at the end ... I just really tried to enjoy the moment."
Incredible drama in Edmund-Dimitrov
Kyle Edmund has won through to his first grand slam semi-final in an incredible quarter-final against No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
In the biggest result in Edmund's career, the world No. 49 finished off an incredible performance 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4.
In a rollercoaster of a match, the most outrageous drama was saved for the end.
With Dimitrov serving at 4-4 in the fourth set, the incredible match hit fever-pitch when Edmund called for a review on a ball that was called good by the linesman.
With scores at 30-15, Dimitrov's backhand appeared to catch the line on the umpire's side of Rod Laver Arena in what appeared to be a clean winner.
However, Edmund challenged the call - and insanity ensued.
The Hawk-Eye technology display on the big screen inside Rod Laver Arena showed Dimitrov's shot landed right next to the line - and on first glimpse appeared impossible to discern if the line had been caught or not.
The call was so close the Hawk-Eye display failed and did not show any indication on the big screen if the shot has wide or not.
It eventually took the graphic zooming in on the line to see that the ball sailed wide by just 1mm.
"Oh, my. They haven't put the words on the (screen), but it is out by 1mm we're being told," Jim Courier told Channel 7.
"There it is. He is having to take a step back after that drama. My goodness, as if it needed any more.
"At 15-30. Now it is 15-40. Two break point chances for Edmund."
From there, at 15-40, Edmund broke serve and went on to win.
Edmund starts strong
Kyle Edmund looks in red hot form as he won the first set 6-4 over World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov.
The Brit landed 68 per cent of his first serves in during an impressive display which also saw him bomb plenty of forehand winners.
Edmund broke Dimitrov's first service game and maintained his dominance for the rest of the set.
Mertens shocks in Svitolina's horror show
Elise Mertens' golden run at Melbourne Park continues as she annihilated a shocked Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-0 in a huge upset.
The unseeded Belgian was brilliant while the World No. 4 was terrible, making 19 unforced errors in the pair's quarter-final clash to bomb out of yet another major. A player of Svitolina's quality and ranking has every right to be pushing for silverware but once again she failed to deliver on her potential.
One of the tournament favourites, the Ukrainian still boasts the unwanted record of never having made the final four of a grand slam.
Rubbing salt into the wound is the fact her Australian Open was cut short by Mertens, who before today had never played in a grand-slam quarter-final. Mertens' win was her first over a top-five ranked player.
"Svitolina has to walk away from this match ... and start asking herself the questions of why does this keep happening at grand slam level?" Channel Seven commentator Rennae Stubbs said.
"This is a number of times we have seen her come into a grand slam where she is playing really well, a bit of expectation on her shoulders and she just cannot get over this hump."
Svitolina said a hip injury she first felt at the Brisbane International prevented her from playing at full capacity, but still paid credit to her opponent.
"I've had pain all the time," she said in her post-match press conference. "But with painkillers, it was fine. But now, just …
"Long rallies. I couldn't push on the serve. Today the serve was very bad. I gave her this chance to play well, and she did it.
"I was not ready to produce a good level of tennis.
"You know, she's a great player ... she has a good level. I couldn't match it. Physically it was very tough for me."
Mertens will face the winner of tonight's Caroline Wozniacki vs Carla Suarez Navarro match in her semi-final.
Per ESPN's Chris McKendry, Mertens' win means this is the 10th straight grand slam with an unseeded women's semi-finalist.
Zverev's huge Open punishment
Mischa Zverev has been fined $US45,000 for retiring in the second set of his opening round match against Hyeon Chung, per the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg.
He had to give up nearly all of his $US47,000 prizemoney for making the first round because of a "poor first round performance".
The punishment comes after the tournament introduced a new rule designed to prevent injured players taking the court in round one, retiring and still leaving with their entire pay cheque.
To discourage unfit stars taking the court at the start of the tournament when they know there's a strong chance they won't be able to see out the match, the Australian Open guaranteed players half of their prizemoney if they pulled out before the first round.
This was floated as a reason for Zverev being the only player to retire in round one - the lowest retirements ever seen at a grand slam in 10 years.
Sandgren's Twitter activity causes a stir
Tweets from Tennys Sandgren's account appear to have been deleted dating back to mid-2016 after the American star's politics - and its role in his social media activity - came into focus following his 6-2 4-6 7-6 6-7 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem on Monday night.
A Donald Trump supporter, Sandgren has been known for his political hot takes on Twitter. He's tweeted some questionable opinions, including a lengthy thread in which he beefed with Ryan Harrison and former US star James Blake about NFL national anthem protests and police brutality.
He's retweeted members of the alt-right but on Monday night said he wasn't concerned with his Twitter habits.
"I've been in obscurity and I get to do my own thing, which is cool, without really any kind of microscope, and it's something I think about as far as how would I be viewed," Sandgren told the New York Times. "But I don't think that should censor me to the point where I would censor myself from all things just to be a white rice of a personality so that everybody thinks I'm amazing. If everybody thinks you're amazing, you probably are doing something wrong."
Sandgren fired back at a journalist who asked about his work on Twitter during his post-match press conference.
"Look, who you follow on Twitter I feel like doesn't matter even a little bit. What information you see doesn't dictate what you think or believe. I think it's crazy to think that. I think it's crazy to assume that, to say, 'Oh well he's following X person so he believes all the things that this person believes.' I think that's ridiculous."
After saying he wouldn't "censor" himself, Monday's press conference may have convinced Sandgren - who is in uncharted territory after making the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time - to rethink his strategy, at least according to those on social media.
However, Sandgren is yet to confirm he is the one who has appeared to have deleted the tweets from his account. Many high profile figures have claimed to be the victims of computer hacking, so approach with caution.
Kyrgios fined again
Nick Kyrgios has been fined nearly $2500 for not being ready to start his third round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on time.
The umpire slapped Kyrgios with a code violation because he wasn't prepared to start the first point within one minute of the five minute warm-up period ending.
It's the second time the Aussie has been hit in the hip pocket this tournament. He had to fork out more than $3700 for telling hecklers in the stands to "shut the f*** up" during his opening round win over Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Bryan brothers march on
Bob and Mike Bryan have kept their hopes of a 17th grand slam title alive after demolishing Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq-Qureshi in straight sets.
The American duo took one hour and six minutes to wrap up the 6-1 6-4 victory on Rod Laver Arena. Matkowski and Qureshi did well to keep the No. 6 seeds on court for as long as they did after an opening set bloodbath that suggested things were going to get ugly.
The Bryan brothers led 5-0 after only 16 minutes before their opponents finally got on the board, and the No. 15 seeds provided a much tougher test in the second set, although their resilience had no impact on the result.
Channel Seven star's cheeky Will Smith sledge
Will Smith made waves in Melbourne when he watched on courtside as Nick Kyrgios defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round, but he hasn't won over everyone.
Channel Seven presenter Melanie McLaughlin took a cheeky jab at the Hollywood icon for his role in a video alongside Aussie wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott.
The broadcaster played a video of Alcott and Smith together boasting how they would be the most formidable doubles pairing in the world right before McLaughlin interviewed Alcott's Australian Open doubles partner Heath Davidson.
Davidson teams up with Alcott again at the year's first major, the pair having won a gold medal in the men's quad doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but you'd think it was out of sight out of mind for the 30-year-old in Alcott's funny clip.
"I apologise to our next guest for what we just saw with two, well I guess he's going to say nobodies, I don't know who they were," McLaughlin joked.
"Heath Davidson - the man who's proudly responsible for one of the gold medals Dylan Alcott won - I'm sorry you had to listen to that."
Davidson then took a sly pot shot at Alcott himself.
"Dylan just completely threw me under the bus there, giving me no credit and ditching me for Will Smith," Davidson said. "He's all about stardom which is alright but I'm all about winning tournaments."
Obviously, the exchange was all in good fun and McLaughlin and Davidson were only kidding.
'Kim Jong-un beat him 6-0 6-0'
Channel Seven has copped heat for the amount of cross promotion and advertising during its coverage but Nathan Templeton did his best to restore people's faith in the network with a funny one-liner to cap off his take on Hyeon Chung on radio on Tuesday morning.
Templeton is at Melbourne Park for the broadcaster and couldn't help himself when speaking to SEN Breakfast about Chung's incredible upset over Novak Djokovic on Monday night. He saw an opening and he went for it right at the end of his chat.
"Just quickly on Chung, while he has become a bit of a star he's not the best player on the Korean peninsula," Templeton said. "Apparently Kim Jong-un beat him 6-0 6-0."
Chung is South Korean and Kim Jong-un is the dictator of North Korea, but the joke still stands. Advantage, Mr Templeton.
Earlier in the same segment the topic of Rafael Nadal's grunting was raised. Grunting came into the spotlight when Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka played Aussie Ash Barty, attracting criticism for the volume and timing of her grunts, which some said was a tactic to put the Queenslander off her game.
Nadal has always been a grunter, but
"The grunting metre will be up," SEN's Garry Lyon said. "We're staggered that Sabalenka got hung, drawn and quartered and then Rafa comes out and grunts like a hairy grunter."
"Yeah it's like it's one rule for one and another rule for others, isn't it?" Templeton responded.
"He's such a likeable bloke in every other way Rafa he gets away with it but you're right. I think the thing that annoys people about Rafa is that he hits the ball and then the grunt comes a second or two later which can be a little bit distracting for the opponent because they're just about to hit the ball."
Federer goes to 'outer space'
Roger Federer played an afternoon match on Monday for the first time this tournament and had no trouble going from artificial to natural lighting.
Asked what the difference between the timeslots was, Federer's first line in response was: "That there is a difference. That's basically it."
A photo of Federer's majestic one-handed backhand from an earlier match has already spread like wildfire on social media and a couple of new snaps from his win over Martin Fucsovics caught the Swiss Maestro's eye.