MELBOURNE, Australia – While you were sleeping, here’s what you missed on Day 8 of the Australian Open.
Dominika Cibulkova knocks out Maria Sharapova: We had hardly recovered from Serena Williams’ farewell on Sunday when, before we knew it, Sharapova was gone as well, losing to Cibulkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. After the match, Sharapova remained coy about a hip injury she sustained that required medical treatment, but wouldn’t let that take away from Cibulkova’s performance. The Slovakian wobbled a bit in the second set after building a 5-0 lead, but otherwise played strong.
Sharapova struggled with her service toss and movement so much that Cibulkova actually thought it was in order to throw off her rhythm.
“When the match was coming to the end, I was getting like a little bit angry about that,” Cibulkova said. “I kept talking to myself, like, Why is she doing that? I thought it was on the purpose.”
Watch highlights and get reaction from the upset here.
Sloane Stephens is no match for Victoria Azarenka: New year, same match — except this time Azarenka didn’t embark on the “choke of the century.” The two-time defending champion completely outclassed Stephens 6-3, 6-2 in her best performance of the tournament. This was yet another match that showed how much Stephens has to learn. Despite her general Grand Slam success, she is 1-11 against top-20 opponents since beating Williams here last year, and that win came against an injured Sharapova at the Western & Southern Open in August. That’s an important stat to keep in mind when gauging the state of her game.
Roger Federer impresses in win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: A vintage Federer rolled 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 during the night session, a far easier ride than his five-set victory over Tsonga in last year’s quarterfinals. A look at the stat sheet tells the tale. He hit 43 winners to just 21 unforced errors, and was 34-for-41 at the net. His serving was efficient, and Tsonga missed a second-serve return on his only break point, late in the third set. This is the type of performance that Federer needed going into his quarterfinal against Andy Murray, who defeated the 17-time Grand Slam champion in five sets in the semifinals last year. Whether it’s the new racket, the new coach or something else, it’s working for Federer.
The Bryans fail to make the quarterfinals for first time in 11 years: The day opened with a big upset, as the No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan fell to Eric Butorac and the awesomely named Raven Klaasen 7-6 (9), 6-4. That scoreline is just another reminder that the margins in doubles are so thin, which just underscores how incredible the Bryans were over the last year and a half, when they won four Grand Slams in a row.
Welcome to the big leagues, Simona Halep: The 11th seed made good on her promise of playing better at the majors, defeating No. 8 Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-0. It was a terrible match from the Serbian veteran, who wasted all her challenges in the first game, but the win puts Romania’s Halep into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, where she’ll play Cibulkova.
Kei Nishikori plays his best tennis and loses in straight sets to Rafael Nadal: Poor Nishikori. He played so well, but it was nothing the unbreakable Nadal couldn’t handle, as the 13-time major champion prevailed 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3). At least Nishikori caused Nadal to break his shoelace. Small victories.
Video of the day
Stephens and Azarenka traded body shots in the midst of their match.
Photo of the day
When asked about his girlfriend, Sharapova, in an on-set interview with ESPN, Grigor Dimitrov shut down that line of questioning quickly. Good for him. He needs to stake his own claim and be known for his on-court accomplishments, like Monday’s achievement of making the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Things got a little awkward in the interview room when Sharapova shared a moment with a local reporter.
Best ball kid catch
Nice behind-the-back set-up from Federer here:
Quote of the day
“I don’t have doubts anymore. I know I’m going definitely in the right direction. I’ve had a great offseason. I had a strong end to the year. I couldn’t have worked harder in the offseason. Then Brisbane was good. I played singles and doubles. Here, this is the type of win I needed. Clearly if I lose 0‑0 in the next round I’ll have doubts again, but I’m going to try to not make that happen.”
– Roger Federer on whether his performance through the first few rounds has addressed his doubts about his form this year.
Tweets of the day
@SI_BTBaseline “I’m gonna hit you in the ovary, that’s what I’m gonna do. A straight shot. Right to the babymaker.” – Sloane Burgundy
— Chris Frey (@thefrey) January 20, 2014
(Ouch. That’s Jimmy Connors’ son, and yes, Jimmy retweeted it.)
How do guys who play and practice as much as Nadal get hand blisters? His palm should be a callus by now. #ausopen
— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) January 20, 2014
— Alison Riske (@Riske4rewards) January 20, 2014
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) January 20, 2014
That really is just an average day in Fed’s life, isn’t it? Hit with Edberg, win Grand Slam match, hold giant eagle in underground car park.
— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) January 20, 2014