Five Unseeded Women Are Aiming For A Grand Slam Quaterfinal At The Australian Open

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

The first week of the Australian Open has officially ended as far as the woman’s singles is concerned, with Daria Gavrilova winning against Timea Bacsinszky in the last match of the day.

The fourth round scenario is thus defined. Among the women, five unseeded players reached the fourth round, some after huge and unexpected upsets, other just taking advantage of favorable draws.

Let’s see who they are, how they managed to reach the second week and what they are expected to do in the following rounds.

Coco Vandeweghe – #35

The American is the second highest ranked unseeded player, being #35 in the world. Therefore, her fourth round is no surprise at all.

Moreover, Vandeweghe started her season very well, displaying good shape in reaching the final of the Hopman Cup, winning three of her four single matches. In Melbourne, the American drew Roberta Vinci in the first round. The two faced each other in Wimbledon last year, and the result this time was really similar to that one. Vandeweghe won in two sets, displaying power and bashing balls to neutralize Vinci’s superb touch.

Taking advantage of a seed’s draw, Vandeweghe then defeated Pauline Parmentier and Eugenie Bouchard. Against the latter she lost the only set she has lost in the tournament.

However, next she faces Angelique Kerber, World #1. In the opening rounds, Kerber’s game has been full of flaws, though the German managed to overcome her opponents with her usual mental strength.

It’s going to be hard, for the American, though if she is on fire, only God knows what’s going to happen.

Sorana Cirstea – #78

The elegant Romanian player has been struggling with her game for a long time now, due to inconsistency and injuries. In 2015, she fell out of the Top 100, starting her 2016 season ranked #244. However, injury-free and a bit more confident, she found her way back to the Top 100, entering the Australian Open ranked #78.

This is just the second time the Romanian has found herself in the second week of a Grand Slam, the previous one being Roland Garros in 2009, when she eventually reached the quarter-finals. Her last third round in a Grand Slam can be found in 2014, at Roland Garros.

Cirstea was able to take advantage of a good draw, defeating Russian Irina Kromacheva in the first round, an injured Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, and the in-shape Alison Riske in the third.

The next challenge will be Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard is clearly favorite, though the Romanian has yet to lose a set and has been displaying athleticism, power and mental strength. If she can handle Muguruza’s powerful baseline shots, it is going to be one of the best matches of the tournament.

Mona Barthel – #181

The German is the lowest-ranked player among those still in the tournament, and giving her recent poor performances, her fourth round is truly a surprise.

Struggling with injuries, she fell out of the top #100 in 2016, though after winning her three qualifying matches, she managed to reach her first ever second week of a Grand Slam.

Kissed by the tennis Gods, the German drew local wildcard Destanee Aiava in the first round. Aiava is a millennial who managed to defeat Carina Witthoeft and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Brisbane two weeks ago, though a definitely beatable opponent for the German.

In the second round, she overcame Monica Puig in straight sets.The Puerto Rican has struggled with consistency after her lifetime achievement at the Rio Olympics. In the third round, she was the antagonist of the night session, when she defeated not only her opponent Ashleigh Barty – who was in the spot of Simona Halep, who lost in the first round – but also the audience cheering for their favorite. Barthel showed not only talent, but also the necessary strength to face such a situation.

Next up, Venus Williams. No need to say it’s going to be her toughest match so far.

Jennifer Brady – #116

The youngest player still in the competition is the American, Jennifer Brady, born in 1995, who entered the main draw through qualifiers. In the final round she defeated fellow American Taylor Townsend in a tough three-setter.

The 2017 Australian Open has been her first ever appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam, and, honestly, it could not have been any better!

Once qualified, she took advantage of a fabulous first round, against a lucky loser, and then played the match of a lifetime against Heather Watson, winning 10-8 in the third set after saving five – FIVE! – match points. During the third round, she defeated 14th seed Elena Vesnina in straight sets, and another unseeded player awaits her in the fourth round, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

In 2016, Kerber won the Australian Open after saving a match point against Misaki Doi. In 2014, Na Li saved a match point against Lucie Safarova, and then won the tournament.
Brady saved five match points against Watson, does this mean…?

I’m kidding, but facing an unseeded player for a spot in the quarterfinals is a precious opportunity!

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – #79

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s is the most moving story of the Australian Open. The Croatian had not won a match in Melbourne since 1998, nineteen years ago. Her career has been full of ups and downs, due partially to inconsistency on court, but mostly to a tragic family situation, with her and her family escaping from Lucic’s father, who abused her.

However, her powerful shots, when on fire, display one of the best games on the entire WTA tour. Indeed, she’s not new to big upsets at Slams. In 2014, she defeated Simona Halep in the second round of the US Open, and again in 2015 at Roland Garros.

This time, it was Agnieszka Radwanska who fell under her power. After defeating Qiang Wang in the first round, coming back from a set down, she overcame the Polish star with a flawless performance, 6-3 6-2, hitting 33 winners. Galvanized by the big upset, she came back from a set down against Greek Maria Sakkari, and reached the fourth round, where qualifier Brady awaits her.

Last time she reached a quarterfinal in a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in… 1999, where she reached the semi-finals!

A life-time opportunity awaits the Croatian. Will she take it?

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