Ladies who Lob: Upsets galore at the Australian Open

This article was written by Nicole Hunt.

The first grand slam of 2018 has reached the quarter finals after week one featured some cracking matches. Boy did it deliver! There have been so many highlights in an amazing week of upsets and epics it was impossible to pick a favourite.

The women’s singles draw suffered a number of defeats and near misses for the top seeded players.  Venus Williams made an early unexpected exit, as did Garbine Murguruza and Jelena Ostpenko – all former Grand Slam winners.  Johanna Konta the ninth seed and Britain’s highest ranked female player (and – trivia alert – sister-in-law of former Sydney Swans and GWS Giants ruckman, Shane Mumford) also made an early exit.  Just four of the top ten seeded women’s singles players remain for the quarterfinals.

The number one seed, Simona Halep, survived two very close calls this week.  On Saturday, Halep faced American Lauren Davis in a match that looked like it would never end.  Like Wimbledon, the Australian Open plays the final set in singles matches to advantage, meaning that there’s no tiebreaker.  A match can go on indefinitely until someone eventually climbs ahead by two games.  Just ask John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, who in 2010 lasted through a men’s singles match at Wimbledon that went to a final set score of 70-68 over three incredible days.  A big shout out to anyone in the crowd that lasted through that match.  I hope there was plenty of strawberries and cream.

What’s more, it was still incredibly hot and humid when Halep and Davis fought it out for their spot in the next round in Melbourne, making it seem even longer on court than it really was.  Halep had already played a very tough match against young Australian Destanee Aiava in the days before, narrowly clawing back a 5-2 deficit in the first set to make it through.

Both Halep and Davis put their bodies on the line in what turned out to be a 3 hour and 47 minute epic.  Davis called for medical attention after losing a toenail when the third set reached 11 games all.  Handling a tennis player’s feet after three and a half hours on court in hot conditions doesn’t strike me as the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but the medical staff are certainly dedicated.  Davis winced and grimaced through on-court medical treatment but was prodded and bandaged and returned to the court to play out the match.  The two battled on, with Halep eventually winning the exhausting match with a final set of 15-13.

A hero also emerged in the fourth round match on Monday evening in the men’s singles draw.  Hyeon Chung, just 21 years old, became the first South Korean to make it through to the fourth round of any Grand Slam, taking out six times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in three thrilling straight sets.  If you haven’t heard of Chung, you’re not alone.  Tennis isn’t especially popular in South Korea but Chung’s success over Djokovic will no doubt swing some attention his way.  He’d already battled past the fourth seed Sacha Zverev two days before and had the crowd whipped into a frenzy.  His impressive performance, and just as impressive post-match interview, will win him many new fans and encourage a generation of kids to pick up a racquet.

Chung will now play an unseeded American on Wednesday in his quarterfinal match, an American whose name rather unbelievably, is Tennys.  Yes, Tennys Sandgren of Tennessee (I’m not making this up) defeated the fifth seed Dominic Thiem in five gruelling sets.  Before this week, Tennys had never won a Grand Slam tennis match and now he finds himself an Australian Open quarterfinalist.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.