By Peter Santo
The middle weekend is typically one of the most exciting parts of grand slams, and day 7 of the 2017 Australian Open was no different.
Roger Federer’s round of 16 match against Kei Nishikori marked the Swiss’ second straight huge test. The 35 year old followed up a straight set romp of No. 10 Tomas Berdych by winning a five set battle over No. 5 Nishikori 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
Entering the tournament as the number 17 seed following a long layoff due to a knee injury, Federer was going to face a much tougher draw this year. But the greatest player of all time didn’t let it faze him, turning in a vintage performance to reach the quarterfinals.
Up next for Federer will be Mischa Zverev, who advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 1 seed Andy Murray. Zverev set tennis back about 30 years in his victory, controlling the net by playing a whopping 119 serve and volley points.
Coming forward is the way to beat a baseliner like Murray, who will outlast everyone from the back of the court. But in modern tennis, not a lot of players had the confidence to keep coming forward. Zverev did, and it paid huge dividends.
Serve and volley is never taught anymore, modern players very rarely approach the net. Zverev brought back serve and volley as a viable strategy, and got the biggest win of his career.
The United States is continually searching for the heir to the Williams’ sisters throne. There is certainly no shortage of promising young players, but no one has emerged as the next Williams.
Saturday night it was big hitting Coco Vandeweghe who took center stage, using her massive groundstrokes to essentially blow Angelique Kerber off the court. Kerber has used finesse and precision to rise to number one in the world, but it was pure power that knocked her out of the Australian Open.
The exit of the top seeds on both the men’s and women’s sides certainly opens up the draw for the field, and time will tell if an aging great like Federer or Nadal or Serena will emerge, or possibly an upstart like Zverev.