The two top seeds are out of the Australian Open. Men’s No. 1 Rafael Nadal bowed out of the tournament to Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, young American Sofia Kenin has reached her first career Grand Slam final by knocking out women’s No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semis.
There she will meet Garbine Muguruza, who continued her amazing comeback with a convincing semi-final win over Simona Halep.
As the first Grand Slam tournament of the season comes to an end, SBOTOP is here to break down the top news stories heading into the final matches.
Sofia Kenin ends Ashleigh Barty’s Australian Open bid
Sofia Kenin is just one win away from the first Grand Slam title in her young career. The 21-year-old defied the Australian Open 2020 by beating world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in straight sets, 7-6(8), 7-5, to make it to the final.
Barty was looking to become the first Aussie since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 — and the first Aussie woman in 40 years — to reach the final in Melbourne.
She started strong, firing six aces and six winners within her first three service games. But she struggled with unforced errors throughout the match and committed 37 in total.
Those miscues eventually cost her the first set as she failed to take advantage of a 6-4 lead in the tiebreak. With the help of two Barty errors, Kenin was able to get draw level and eventually come out on top.
Barty also couldn’t capitalise on two set points after going up 5-4 in the second set. Kenin was able to claim the crucial break and went on to bring down the top seed.
After losing her first four meetings to Barty, Kenin has now won her last two matches against the Aussie.
The American has made several Australian Open 2020 highlights while just one set in her six matches to date. That came in her comeback win against fellow American Coco Gauff.
Rafael Nadal goes down to Dominic Thiem
Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open drought continues. The World No. 1 crashed out in the quarter-finals to Dominic Thiem, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6).
Nadal, who hasn’t won in Melbourne since 2009, has lost five times in the quarters and four times in the final over the last 11 years.
The Spaniard squandered several chances in the first two sets. He was up 5-3 in the first and was also a break up in the second. But he couldn’t close it out on either occasion as Thiem came back to win two tiebreakers.
Thiem was understandably thrilled by that fact that he took down the top seed for the first time in six Grand Slam matches.
“It’s amazing to beat the current World No. 1, Rafa, such a legend… It’s a very special victory for me,” said Thiem.
“It was just an unbelievable match, like an epic one, four hours and 10 minutes. I think on a very high level from both of us. That’s what I’m most happy about. Also, of course, that I’m for the first time in the semis of Australian Open.”
Thiem will face No. 7-seed Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. The Austrian holds a 6-2 edge over Zverev in their career head-to-head. That includes his win in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals last December. Thiem went on to lose to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Garbine Muguruza makes it to first Aussie Open final
Unseeded Garbine Muguruza is off to her first Australian Open final after beating No. 4 seed Simona Halep in straight sets, 7-6(8), 7-5.
Muguruza drew first blood by getting a break in serve to go up 5-3. However, Halep broke back to draw level at 5-5 and set up a tiebreak. But despite committing a number of unforced errors, Muguruza came out on top to take the first set.
Halep started the second set strong as she broke Muguruza in the third game. Muguruza broke back on the very next game, but Halep once again countered with a break of her own to lead 4-2.
But Muguruza got a crucial break to tie it all up at 5-5, then broke Halep again to claim the match in straight sets.
Muguruza, a former French Open and Wimbledon champion, has had a trying last couple of years. After becoming world No. 1 in 2017, she has seen her form take a precipitous drop.
However, she is showing signs that she might be returning to her best. After three-set matches in the first two rounds, she swept aside two top-10 seeds in Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens in just two sets before beating both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Halep in straight sets as well.
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