Makarova Clubs Serena Williams, Tsonga Ousted

Australian Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, January 23rd, 2012

Ekaterina Makarova took charge of her match with the heavily favored Serena Williams and cruised to the biggest victory (6-2, 6-3) of her career.

Ekaterina Makarova ousted Serena Williams

Entering the match, the 56th ranked Makarova was on a roll. She knocked out favored Kaia Kanepi and then sent Vera Zvonareva packing. Serena Williams may have thought she was in the right place at the right time, but Ekaterina announced her presence from the start and methodically went about dismantling Serena’s game.

Serena Williams looked to be off the blocks early as she gained a break game point in Makarova’s first service game. Who would have guessed that the USA’s last hope would only see one other break opportunity. A packed Rod Laver Arena crowd rallied behind the young Russian, who resembles a left-handed version of retired Elena Dementieva.

The first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist eliminated the game’s best-ever female player with a serve that was effective and groundstrokes that were like lightning bolts. Williams was off her game but Makarova never gave her time to breathe.

In the fifth game of the first set, Makarova grabbed her first break in the fifth game and then another break in the seventh game. As expected, Williams refused to go away quietly. She fought off five set points before Ekaterina sealed the set.

What was apparent was Makarova’s refusal to succumb to Serena’s power. The Russian maintained her form and her focus throughout. She was broken just once in the second set but managed to break right back. Her grace on the court was Dementieva-like. Every stroke had purpose and she moved easily. Williams spent most of the afternoon scrambling laterally. Usually, it is Williams who dictates the pace and the power.

Serena had 7 double faults, committed 37 unforced errors and only landed 52 percent of her first serves. Serena converted one of her two break chances. The telling tale of this match was Makarova’s ability to win 70 percent of her second serves.

With her 72-minute win, Makarova will try to upset her fourth opponent, the tenacious Maria Sharapova. German Sabine Lisiscki, the 14th seed, started fast against Maria and snared the first set. Lisicki has established herself as one of the game’s best servers.

Sharapova brought her power strokes into play and Lisicki withered under the barrage of big forehand after forehand. The fourth seed bounced back to register a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win. Sharapova is moving better than she has in several years.

Emerging power, Jie Zheng of China, could not hold up under the pressure of Italy’s surging Sara Errani. The Italian needed just 60 minutes to claim the 6-2, 6-1 victory. Ms. Errani has quietly moved through the draw. The 5’5” turned professional in 2002 and has never been ranked higher than 31. Her easy dismissal of Zheng was impressive but she will not have much time to cherish the victory because second seed Petra Kvitova is Errani’s quarterfinal opponent.

Kvitova downed 21st seed Ana Ivanovic despite a late charge by the former number one. The husky Czech seems to have found her form after an erratic start in the tournament.

Tsonga Falls to Nishikori

24th seed Kei Nishikori toppled one of the tournament’s most formidable opponents Jo Willy Tsonga, the 6th seed.

Unknown Kei Nishikori downs Tsonga in an epic battle

Under the brilliant sun and Australian summer conditions, both players were deliberate. The match featured few rallies as the two went after each other.

Tsonga’s normally potent arsenal was countered by Nishikori’s crisp groundstrokes in the 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 match. Tsonga’s second serve was especially vulnerable as he won just 42 percent of second serve points. Only 59 percent of his first serves were in play. This is not the formula that raised Tsonga to the 6th seed. Nishikori will next face 4th seed Andy Murray.

In the featured men’s match of the day, top seed Novak Djokovic withstood a challenge by homeboy Lleyton Hewitt. The top seed cruised through the first two sets in the 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 match before Hewitt found his legs.

Backed by a proud audience, Hewitt showed Djokovic the stuff that makes champions what they are. Djokovic needed everything he had to subdue the tenacious Hewitt, who had a very successful tournament.

In two great matches today, number 7 Tomaz Berdych will face Rafa Nadal and 11th seed Juan Martin del Potro will battle the three seed, Roger Federer, the fan favorite to win the title. These should be memorable matches. Look for the Argentine to upset Federer and Berdych to outlast Rafa.


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