But for today, that’s all folks I’m afraid – poor Mario Berrettini is injured, so Stefanos Tsitsipas was handed a walkover. Check back shortly for a report on Barty-Rogers, and otherwise ta-ra until tomorrow.
Hsieh-Osaka is our first match tomorrow, after which we’ve got Dimitrov-Karatsev. Then, in the evening session, we’ve got, in the best possible way, a punch in the the face with Serena-Simona, then a heel to the solar plexus with Djokovic-Zverev. I cannot wait.
We see some tape of Osaka talking about Hsieh, who says she can’t fathom the choices her next opponent makes on the court, which makes her fun to watch and hard to play. Hsieh is 35 now, and this is the best she’s ever done in a slam.
Boris and Mats think Zverev has a chance against Djokovic – that’s tomorrow about this time – because he “serves huge”. Mats goes on to say that he will eventually beat Djokovic at a slam, which will probably be his last one. Ouch. Henman adds that Zverev’s second serve is “a liability”, after which we go to Mischa. Mats recalls the ATP final in which his brother beat ole Nole, taking lots of chances, and Mischa says you still need to be smart. He says that Sascha plays like a junior “in the nicest possible way,” meaning that he has a lot of room for improvement, whereas Djokovic is what he is. He goes on to say that if those changes are made, we’ll be looking at a “great champion” and recalls the time a competition was won on clay in which only one break point was faced; not possible with a dodgy serve.
Back to Barty, she’s not dropped a set in this competition, but I wonder if not being extended might become a problem when she is. She’s a big favourite to come through her half of the draw, and if you’re forcing me to, I guess I’m backing Osaka to meet her in the final, partly because she’s likely to beat Hsieh, while who knows who’ll win the Serena-Simona match. Serena had to go to the well to beat Sabalenka, which I think will stand her in good stead – she knows she can do it now – so I guess I’m taking her because Halep didn’t play that well against Swiatek, great win though that was.
Elsewhere, India have torn up England’s homework and are about to steal their dinner money.
Tsitsipas has had a day off, which Tim Henman says isn’t an advantage before explaining why it’s an advantage. He’s also wearing slacks, and I don’t really know what to say about that beyond reporting the basic fact, so here’s some tennis fashion to get behind.
Let’s quickly return to the Mertens-Muchova match, and enjoy the latter’s winning interview. She says she started slowly but was trying to go for it and is happy to have won a tough battle. In her last match she was 0-5 down in the first set, so 0-4 down in this one didn’t seem so bad. Mertens didn’t make many mistakes, so she had to go for winners, coming to the net when she could; having just finished this match she’s not thought about the next, but reckons Barty is a great player and she’s looking forward to meeting her.
Mischa Zverev agrees, saying her tennis IQ is so high, and she always knows what she’s going to do next. I wonder if she’s got the hands to beat the best players on the biggest stages – her run to the French title was not among the more taxing we’ve ever seen. But we’re not going to find out quite yet, because after Muchova and if she wins, she meets Brady or Pegula, while in the other half of the draw we’ve got Osaka, Hsieh, Serena and Halep ruckusing for one final spot. Barty absolutely has the chops to beat one of them in a one-off, though she’d be my second-favourite against all bar Hsieh.
Mats is praising Barty’s tactical intelligence, and her first shot after the serve.
That’s Barty’s third consecutive quarter here, and she’s grown up playing on these courts, but also loves being at home, sharing her success with friends and family. She knew her serve would be massive, not giving Rogers many second looks, and that she’d also need her “running shoes on”. Her team are her family, and they go through the highs, the lows, and all the hard work in between together. They’re chasing their dream and having fun doing it, and references her new English coach, Mark Taylor, aptly nicknamed “Tubbs”, she tells us. Poor Taylor turns as red as his hair.
Ash Barty beats Shelby Rogers 6-3 6-4!
Barty quickly makes 30-0, then a monstrous serve down the middle raises three match points. A forehand cross-court then alters momentum in the rally, and Rogers can only waft a backhand long! Barty meets Muchova next, which will be a much sterner test.
Yeah, Barty isn’t happy, clattering a forehand for 0-15 and accepting a backhand error for 0-30. But Rogers strong-stands, a succession of colossal forehands, the last of them inside-out and onto the the line, making 30-all. A big serve then incites a forehand into the net, and a service winner forces Barty to serve for the match a second time. Well done Shelby Rogers! She’s not played well enough today – she’s been far too tentative, though Barty hasn’t offered her much – but she’s asking questions now. Barty 6-3 5-4 Rogers
A poor forehand from Barty invites Rogers into the game but a forehand winner gives her 15-all and then two weak backhands from her opponent raise two match points. So to give us a bit more tennis, she sends down a double, then Rodgers plays a fine point, a terrific backhand return down the line setting up the cross-court winner; deuce. And have a look! Barty hits two uncharacteristically tight forehands, giving Rogers her first break of the match! She’s alive! (take a deep breath) Barty 6-3 5-3 Rogers
Back on Laver, Barty consolidates to 30. Ultimately, Rogers just can’t find the consistency to trouble the world number one on a reg, and must now hold to force her to serve for the match. At 40-15 that looks likely, but a double fault puts her under pressure and, with Barty varying angle and pace, she drives a forehand into the net and must now survive a deuce. She starts well, with an ace, but a weak second serve is pounded back, facilitating the clean-up forehand which brings us back to deuce. Rogers, though, is a competitor, and two big serves force Barty to serve for it. Barty 6-3 5-2 Rogers
Karolina Muchova beats Elise Mertens 7-6(5) 7-5!
It’s all going for Muchova, 30-0 up and she too gets the benefit of a net cord, the ball dying on Mertens who flicks up to facilitate the backhand smash. That raises three match points ... and she only needs one! Mertens nets a forehand, and the number 25 seed eliminates the number 18 seed in two sets, having been a double-break down in the first! She meets Barty or Rogers – well, Barty - next. That should be a good match, because Muchova is buzzing.
Barty is purring, and raises a further break point. The last thing she needs is stroke of fortune, but when Rogers hits the net cord, the ball sits up, pleads to be annihilated, and who is Barty to refuse? She clatters a topspin forehand cross-court, table tennis-style, and that’s her insurance! Rogers is not long for this match! Barty 6-3 4-1 Rogers
Hello! Mertens goes wide on the forehand, her second such error of the game, and suddenly faces 0-30. But a solid backhand down the line cramps Muchova, whose forehand riposte is wide, only for a weak second serve to get the treatment, Muchova running around her forehand to punish a forehand winner. Two break points, and she only needs one! A backhand from Mertens crashes into the top of the net, and Muchova will shortly serve for the match! Mertens (5)6-7 5-6 Muchova
It’s brewing on Court, Muchova holding for 5-5 in set two. Meantime, Barty consolidates to 15, the exclamation mark of an ace added to the final point. Rogers has nothing for her.
Barty forces two break points, but can only block back Rogers’ first serve and big forehand has her hopping fruitlessly. Her next go is at at a second effort, but Rogers backs it up with another bog forehand, and there’s nothing Barty can do ... until the next point. Rogers plays a wild forehand which hands another opportunity then, when she looks to have saved herself with another big one onto the baseline, she goes for the wrongfooter but with too much power, and the ball drops long! Barty is just that bit too good and too consistent for her, basically a much better version of the same, and this is nearly over! Barty 6-3 2-1 Rogers
Back on Laver, Rogers edges ahead in Barty’s first service game of set two – thanks to a double fault – but a big forehand puts paid to that and a belting disguised backhand, looping down the line, shoves Barty ahead. Seconds later, she’s squared it up. Barty 6-3 1-1 Rogers
Mertens is hanging in there on Court, 4-3 ahead in set two and flinging a terrific backhand return cross-court to give her 0-15 on the Muchova serve. But another backhand, inside-out, then drops outside the line and it doesn’t take long for Muchova to draw level. Mertens (5)6-7 4-4 Muchova
Rogers is a good player, but Barty jumped on her before she was ready and is looking extremely serious out there. Rogers is still good enough to trouble her and is serving well, but the talent imbalance means one of them expects to win and the other hoipes to win.
Ash Barty wins the first set against Shelby Rogers 6-3! That was expertly done, a succession of first serves allowing Barty to dictate points, a big forehand that was too good for Rogers’ backhand securing the decisive point.
“Any chance of an explanation for the photo posted in the blog at 08:26?” asks Steph Cooper.
I was seeking people having a sit-down, and that was the best I could do.
Rogers serves her fourth ace of the match in the process of holding to love. Barty did well to break early, because yergirl is looking solid now. Barty, though, will now serve for the set.
Similar tackle on Court, Mertens needing eight deuces to secure a big hold. She leads 3-2 in set two, having lost set one in a breaker.
In the meantime, Rogers has forced herself a break-back point and gets a second serve to attack too, but when Barty goes out wide she can only drag a backhand cross-court into the net. But Rogers earns another go, a looping forehand opening the court for her to panel a back hand down the line. Again, though, Barty saves herself before sending down an ace for advantage ... except Rogers is into this now and dominates the next rally before closing it down with a booming forehand that breaks the sideline. Barty, though, holds it down, a big serve facilitating a forehand winner then excellent defence persuading a forehand error. That’a big hold. Barty 5-2 Rogers
Goodness me, tomorrow evening’s activity is something. First, we’ve got Serena v Halep, then we’ve got Djokovic v Zverev. Don’t mind if we do!
Back on Court, a succession of unforced errors from Muchova hands Mertens her break back. The number 18 seed is not going away. Mertens (5)6-7 2-2 Muchova
Yeah, time’s up. Rogers was allowed one game to feel like she was in the match but Barty’s absolutely taken over now, rushing through a consolidation that makes it three in a row for her. Barty 4-1 Rogers
Muchova has broken Mertens first up in set two and consolidated too while, back on Laver, superb scurrying from Barty, retrieving various big forehands from Rogers, allows her to conjure a winner just as her opponent thinks she can sneak into the net. Barty leads 3-1.
Barty is serving first and looking very comfy with her action, but Rogers is extremely solid in her first go too. then Barty holds again, to 15, and they have their first sit-down. Barty 2-1 Rogers
Barty and Rogers are underway on Laver. She’s a funny one, Barty, one of those you half-think are number one without having won a major – see Jankovic, Pliskova, Safina and Wozniacki and Halep for a bit – better then the first three, not as good as the last two. But, though it feels instructive that her best in Melbourne is the semis while at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow it’s round four, she’s got a French Open. You’d take it.
Muchova wins the first set 7-6(5)! She serves big down the T, and eventually – I say eventually but it doesn’t take long – Mertens goes down the line on the forehand, but the ball drops a foot wide.
Muchova nudges ahead 4-3 and consolidates when Mertens nets a forehand, a rally soundtracked by my seven-year-old playing Patrick’s Reel on her cello. Meanwhile, I’m composing a tune I’m going to call First Day of Half-Term Blues. Back on court, another Mertens error, a forehand wiped wide, gives Muchova two set points; she wastes two, but here comes the one that’s on her serve....
BREAKING NEWS: MARIO BERRETTINI HAS WITHDRAWN FROM HIS MATCH AGAINST STEFANOS TSITSIPAS
What a shame. That means we’re a match down on our night session – as well as Mertens v Muchova, which completes the afternoon behaviour, we’ve got Barty v Rogers, which will be starting soon. Tsitsipas moves on to face Rafael Nadal in the last eight. That’ll be an absolute jazzer.
Berrettini has a problem with his arm, and doctor’s advice is that it’ll only get worse.
Over on Court 3 there are a couple of Aussies in action, and wildcards Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick “JP” Smith have just won the first set of their third-round doubles outing against the much higher-ranked Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot. The Dutchman and Pole respectively are seeded fourth and ousted the Kokkinakis and Kyrgios last out. Proceedings were tense until 6-6, when the locals stormed to emphatic 7-2 tie-breaker.
Meanwhile, Mertens and Muchova are embarking on their own tie-break after two rare holds of serve.
And with that, I’ll say farewell and hand you over to Daniel Harris for the evening session. Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.
It’s break after break between these two. Muchova has somehow broken back twice. Five breaks so far in this opening set. Mertens now leads 5-4 and can wrap up this topsy-turvy set but the Czech world No 27 is pushing her all the way. It’s 30-40. Dear oh dear. And Muchova, in the SIXTH break, has levelled at 5-5.
Let’s take a quick look around the grounds, and Elise Mertens is leading Karolina Muchova 4-2 in the first set on Margaret Court Arena. The Belgian 18th seed had raced to a 4-0 lead but has since won only two points.
Ash Barty is warming up for her meeting with Shelby Rogers, which is due to start on Rod Laver Arena at 7pm. The Australian is the favourite here. Rogers, 28, is ranked 57th and has never made it past the fourth round of the Australian Open, but has made the quarter-finals of the French Open and US Open.
Should Barty beat the American, the road to the final looks open, with the top seeds on her side of the draw already out.
Nadal is doing his post-match interview.
“Every match, when you go on court, in a the round of 16 against a great player like Fabio, you’ve got to worry every moment. But at the same time you can’t expect to go on court and not have problems during the match, facing these kinds of players.
“In the second set I don’t think I played a good game when he break me. I was lucky to have the break back immediately and then I saved 0-40 – that was the key. So building this couple of games, I was a little bit lucky to be able to have a score 5-4 for me on serving.
“I think in the beginning of second set from the beginning, I think I was better than him, then from 3-2 to 5, especially to 4-4, he was much better than me. I was able to hold the score and that was probably one of the biggest parts.”
And with that, Nadal dons a hot pink mask to match his shirt and is off down the tunnel with a quarter-final in the pipeline. He will watch closely tonight’s showdown between Tsitsipas and Berrettini