Serena marches on as Zverev bows out in frustration
In the men’s field, fourth seeded Alexander Zverev was a shadow of his usually powerful gladiatorial self as he fell 6/1; 6/1; 7/6 to 14th seed, Milos Raonic of Canada.
The Zverev match was first on the Rod Laver Arena, and the tone of the battle was determined in the first two games. Serving first, Zverev faced a break point at 30-40 and dropped the game. He dropped the first three points before battling to deuce after a long rally.
Zverev staved off two further break points but lost his first game opportunity. On the fourth time, Raonic broke back to level one game apiece and raced through the next seven games to win 6/1 and to lead 1-0 in the second.
Raonic served first in the third set and prevailed after three consecutive long rallies to hold. Zverev held the second game at love for the first time in the match.
From then on, games proceeded quickly with serve but Zverev was taken to deuce before holding the 10th game.
In the tie-break, Raonic lost the first point on serve and dropped two more service points to give Zverev a 4-2 lead at change of ends.
Serving to extend the lead, Zverev dropped a service point and lost three points in a row to face match point at 4-6. He saved one but Raonic cracked a winning serve to clinch the second match point for the victory.
All through the match, the Canadian used a slice backhand that kept the ball low and elicited errors from his higher ranked player. The frustrated German smashed his racket in an uncontrolled rage during one of the intervals between odd games.
There was much at stake in the Serena match. Serena is on a historic quest for a 24th Grand Slam, while Simona was attempting to reverse her loss in the 2018 finals and retain her top ranking.
The 16th seeded Serena had not been tested in the preceding three rounds, while Simona survived a scare in the first round.
The first set was all a Serena affair although she accumulated more unforced errors than her opponent. 11 points separated them at the end with the set ending 6-1.
In the second set, Halep got the only service break to win the 10th game and the set at 6-4.
The match was considered to be the encounter for the title. In the same way, the third set was the battle of the war.
Although Halep reached 40-15 in the opening game, she was taken to deuce, and saved on break danger before holding on the second advantage point.
The successive four games ended quickly. However, the sixth game was fought for eight minutes during which Serena saved three break points before winning on a second opportunity to level three games apiece.
Halep had a game point at 30-40-30, but it was cancelled by a forehand winner from Serena, who took the crucial game on her first advantage, The American consolidated to lead 5-3 and served out the set 6-4 to win the match.