Barty in a hurry

Ashleigh Barty’s 6-2 6-0 quarter-final victory over American Jessica Pegula on Tuesday went by so fast, the entire match felt like it lasted just as long as Rafael Nadal’s press conference (yes, he was in a chatty mood today).
The world No.1’s 63-minute win saw her reach the Australian Open semi-finals for the second time in three years, and further cement her status as the favourite for the title.
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Pegula, who was contesting her second consecutive quarter-final at Melbourne Park, perfectly summarised why Barty has been so consistent and dominant since her ascent to the top of the rankings.
“Honestly, she just does everything I think a little bit better than everybody,” said Pegula with a smile. “Just for like women's tennis as well, she kind of plays more like a guy, maybe a different kind of style that we're not used to playing day in and day out. So it's really hard to come from someone that hits the ball really hard to someone that's giving you all these different shots that you don't normally see.”

Kind words for Keys

She has no problem devastating her opponents on court, but the second a match is over, Barty is quickly able to show why she is one of the most loved and respected world No.1s the sporting universe has ever seen.
The Queenslander had this to say about her upcoming semi-final opponent Madison Keys: “It's so nice to have Madi back playing her best tennis, she is a top player, she deserves to be at the top of her game.
“She had a really rough trot last year with some injuries and some illness and different things, but it's just so nice to see her back out here doing what she does best, smiling. She's one of the most incredible girls in the locker room and has set up so many good things off the court with some charities that she's worked with.
“It's just amazing to see her back here doing what she does best and loving it.”

Kokkinakis, Kyrgios turn up the heat

As Nick Kyrgios put it, there were “unreal scenes” in Kia Arena on Tuesday as he and Thanasi Kokkinakis upset a third seeded team in a row to reach the doubles semi-finals.
The ‘Special K’s’ downed Tim Puetz and Michael Venus 7-5 3-6 6-3 in front of one of the wildest crowds ever witnessed in tennis.
Motivated and buoyed by the incredible atmosphere, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios have now defeated the top seeds, the No.15 seeds, and now the No.6 seeds en route to the final four, where they take on third-seeded duo Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers.
“I'm not finished, I want to win this f****** thing to be honest,” declared Kyrgios in the on-court interview.
There were moments where their opponents understandably got irked by the rowdy fans and asked the umpire to intervene.
“It wouldn't be a doubles match with us if there wasn't any controversy, everyone seems to have a problem... keep rustling some feathers, guys, I don't mind it if I'm honest,” Kokkinakis told the crowd after the win.
In the press conference, Kyrgios explained why he and Kokkinakis are so determined to go all the way this tournament. They’ve connected with a young Australian crowd like never before and believe being relatable is why they’ve become such fan favourites.
“This Aus Open, honestly, I think for us it's more about the people, playing for them is more important than our doubles success,” said Kyrgios. “We haven't drawn up any goals of what we want to achieve this year in doubles. I just want to play and give the people of Australia and the Australian Open a show and genuinely try and grow the sport of tennis. That's why I'm playing. I know Thanasi is just enjoying it. This is the most fun we've ever had on the court.”

Highlights: Kyrgios and Kokkinakis power into semi-finals with latest doubles win

‘Special K’s’ shed spotlight on doubles game

From their opponents’ perspective, the attention Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have brought to the doubles game has outweighed any controversy that may have occurred on court.
Australian TV channel Nine switched from the Nadal-Shapovalov quarter-final to show the Kokkinakis-Kyrgios doubles match, moving the singles to their online streaming platform.
“Pretty special, we don’t usually have that kind of atmosphere,” Puetz told Eurosport after the match.
“We try to enjoy it as much as we can, just kind of take the positives out of it – that we don’t have that – usually for the most part we play in front of nearly no people with no atmosphere.
“We’re not used to it, it’s a bit unusual for us, it’s been very draining just because of that. It’s somewhere between pretty entertaining and then also once you’re there with emotions and everything, it gets on your nose pretty quickly when they’re so rowdy.
“But that’s the way it is, that’s the way the fans are here; I kind of appreciate that. I don’t know, if I was a 23-year-old who had two beers, I probably would have been one of them screaming there, so that’s just the way it is.”

Kyrgios whacks his head with his racquet in frustration after point

Mirza bids farewell to Melbourne Park

Sania Mirza played her very last match at the Australian Open on Tuesday after she and Rajeev Ram lost in the mixed doubles quarter-finals to Aussie wildcards Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler.
The Indian trailblazer announced earlier this month that this will be her final season as a professional but she is far from interested in having a farewell party at every tournament she hits.
“I think I’m regretting making this announcement so soon because this is all I’m getting asked about,” Mirza said when asked if she felt emotional walking away from Melbourne Park for the last time.
“Every time I play, this is not what I’m thinking, that I’m going to stop. I’m playing this year like any other year, I’m playing to win every match that I play and that’s the reason I’m still playing. I’m not going to go on the court and just be like, well I’m going to have a good time. No, because I still think I’m a contender to win at these events. So no, I’m not really thinking about coming here for the last time. The amount of times I’ve been asked, I’m thinking of changing my mind to come back here again next year and try,” she added with a laugh.
A former doubles world No.1, and ex-No.27 in singles, Mirza enjoyed great success in Melbourne in the past, lifting the women’s doubles trophy in 2016 alongside Martina Hingis, and the mixed doubles crown in 2009 partnering Mahesh Bhupathi.
“I like to be in the moment in everything that I do and I like to give my best and sometimes the best is good enough and sometimes the best is not good enough and that’s okay, as an athlete I have to accept that,” said Mirza.
“I’m not content by losing in a quarter-final match, and I’m not content by being here for the last, how many years, I don’t know, since I think 2003 I’ve been coming.
“If I was content, this would be my last match, but I am here to try and win. So for me it isn’t acceptable to go out there and just play, because it’s my last year, it’s because I feel I have the chance to win.”

Alcott ‘impacted the whole nation’

Wheelchair tennis legend Dylan Alcott has a busy 48 hours ahead of him as he heads to Canberra to receive the award for being named Australian of the Year before flying back to Melbourne to contest the quad singles final against Sam Schroder on Thursday.
It will be Alcott’s last match of his professional career as he plans to retire at the conclusion of this Australian Open. Barty was one of the first to congratulate Alcott on his award.
“Literally, we just FaceTimed Dylan, and what an incredible human being, genuinely. He's an incredible athlete second, but an absolutely incredible man first,” said Barty.
“The way he's impacted the whole nation has been absolutely remarkable and I couldn't be more rapt for him to be Australian of the Year, absolutely unreal.”
Before knowing he had won the award, Alcott explained why he was planning on going to the ceremony in Canberra anyway, despite it falling on the day of his Australian Open semi-final.
“I talked to my team. I was like, ‘Look, if by the very odd chance you have a win, you cannot do that on Zoom’. So many people with disability should have won that award over the years but haven't. I would never forgive myself if I don't go,” he said.

Good omen for Sinner?

The last time a butterfly stole the show on court at Melbourne Park was when it paid Naomi Osaka a visit during her third round last season. The Japanese star went on to win the Australian Open title for a second time and this year, commemorated that butterfly viral moment by wearing a signature Nike shoe with a butterfly print on it.

'Butterfly on the back of your hat' - Sinner unfazed by intruder during interview

On Monday, Jannik Sinner was interrupted during his post-victory on-court interview with Jim Courier by a butterfly that landed – and stayed – on his cap.
Tweets and memes quickly turned up on the internet drawing comparison between both butterfly encounters and suggesting this might be a good omen for Sinner’s chances Down Under.
His tweet from Tuesday implies he feels the same way!

Quote of the day

“All the time in my career, I never made the good decision, you know. I'm fine with that. I must say I'm very fine with that, but I believe I can click once, you know. Before I finish, I believe that once I will do it. So that's my faith.”
-- A gutted Gael Monfils says his poor decision-making in the important moments in big matches has cost him several chances to win a major. He hopes the stars will align for him at least once before he retires.

Stats of the day

  • With both Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova out of the tournament, and Barty advancing to the semi-finals, the Australian is guaranteed to keep her No.1 ranking at the conclusion of this Grand Slam.
  • Nadal’s 11 double faults in his five-set win over Shapovalov is the most he’s every hit in a match. His previous career-high tally was eight.
  • 2009 champion Nadal is through to his seventh Australian Open semi-final. He has won his last five.
  • Nadal’s victory on Tuesday means that at least one of the ‘Big Three’ has made the semi-finals for a 70th time in the last 71 Grand Slams. The only time this hasn’t happened since 2004 was when Nadal and Roger Federer both skipped the 2020 US Open and Novak Djokovic got defaulted in the fourth round.
  • Barty will now be looking to become the first Australian woman to reach the Australian Open final since 1980.
  • Keys leads the women’s field with 35 aces struck through five matches this fortnight. The American big-hitter has struck 157 winners en route to the semis, 72 of which have come off her deadly forehand wing.
  • With her win over world No.4 Krejcikova on Tuesday, Keys is now 3-6 against top-five opponents at the Slams. She is through to her fifth Grand Slam semi-final.
  • Keys is currently on a career-best 10-match winning streak. Her 11 victories amassed this month equals her entire match-wins tally from last season.
  • Matteo Berrettini is the first Italian man in history to reach the Australian Open singles semi-finals.
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