The Elite Eights are set at the Australian Open, and while neither draw saw landscape-changing upsets in the first week, there are a few unexpected names next to the favorites. You expect the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova to get deep into the second week.
Here are four names you might not have expected.
• Sloane Stephens [USA]: Rank No. 25; Seed No. 29.
Stephens made the best of a weak draw that opened wide with Laura Robson, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Bojana Jovanovski knocking out the other three seeds in her quarter. With that, Stephens, who secured her seed at the last minute with a quarterfinal run in Brisbane, became the favorite to make it through to the quarters. That’s a new position for a 19-year-old used to playing spoiler at Slams, but she dealt with the expectations well, overcoming Jovanovski in a nervy fourth-round match Monday. She didn’t have to face a seed on her way to her first Slam quarterfinal where she’ll face friend and mentor No. 3 Serena Williams.
Path to the quarterfinals: Round 1: d. Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-1; Round 2: d. Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-3; Round 3: d. Laura Robson, 7-5, 6-3; Round 4: d. Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5.
• Jeremy Chardy [FRA]: Rank No. 36; unseeded.
What are they putting in the water at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy? Serena’s European training base is having a fantastic tournament with two teenage prodigies getting their first Slam wins, Serena dominating as she does and their No. 1 male, Chardy, on a dream run. If Stephens had a bit of a puffball path, Chardy earned his first Slam quarterfinal the hard way. After opening against a qualifier, Chardy knocked out three straight seeds, including a shocking upset of No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.
The Frenchman, who plays in the shadow of countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, will take on No. 3 Andy Murray in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Before writing Murray into the semis, remember that Chardy beat Murray last year on the hardcourts of Cincinnati. When Chardy gets hot, as he’s been in Melbourne, he can step in a blast his forehand past the best of them.
Path to the quarterfinals: Round 1: d. Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Q), 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1; Round 2: d. No. 30 Marcel Granollers, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Round 3: d. No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-3; Round 4: d. No. 21 Andreas Seppi, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
• Svetlana Kuznetsova [RUS]: Rank No. 75; unseeded.
Kuznetsova needed this. The two-time Slam winner and former world No. 2 is staging a was on crutches for two months after a knee injury ended her 2012 season following Wimbledon. So far, Kuznetsova said, she’s had more early success than she anticipated. After a fairly routine first three rounds, the Russian veteran notched her second win over Caroline Wozniacki in two weeks, having beaten her two weeks ago in Sydney. It feels like Kuznetsova, 27, has been around forever, but her success rate deep at the Slams has been dismal over the last few years. Her next match against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka will be just her second quarterfinal appearance in her last 14 Slams.
Path to the quarterfinals: Round 1: d. Lourdes Dominguez Lino, 6-2, 6-1; Round 2: d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-2, 6-1; Round 3: d. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3; Round 4: d. No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
• Ekatarina Makarova [RUS]: Rank No. 19; Seed No. 19.
How in the world is Makarova a top-20 seed, and how did she find herself in to the quarterfinals? One word for you: Melbourne. The Russian lefty is the anti-Sam Stosur. Average on any other continent — she came into this tournament without posting back-to-back wins since the U.S. Open — Makarova finds a way at the Australian Open. She’s made the fourth round or better here three straight years, making the quarterfinals last year by knocking out Serena. This year her victims were No. 11 Marion Bartoli and No. 5 Angelique Kerber, earning an opportunity to avenge her straight-set defeat to Maria Sharapova last year in the quarterfinals.
Path to the quarterfinals: Round 1: d. Michelle Larcher de Brito, 6-2, 7-5; Round 2: d. Stephanie Foretz Gacon, 6-3, 6-3; Round 3: d. No. 11 Marion Bartoli , 6-7, 6-3, 6-4; Round 4: d. No. 5 Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-4.