The Australian Open began what will be at least five days of spectator-less tennis on Saturday after a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne led to a snap lockdown in the area.
Play was allowed to continue on the court, but fans were barred from attendance through at least Wednesday. Here’s what happened in the empty stadiums of the Melbourne Center.
Karolina Pliskova smashes racquet(s), melts down
No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova has had better days at the office.
The Czech player fell in the third round in straight sets against No. 25 seed Karolina Muchova, but the 7-5, 7-5 score doesn’t quite reflect the ugliness the of the loss. Pliskova had been ahead 5-4 in the first set, but dropped three straight games to lose the set, and it was then things boiled over.
Frustrated, Pliskova slammed her racquet against the court and received a code violation. Apparently committed to finishing the job, Pliskova took a bathroom break, then had this scene play out when she returned:
Karolina Pliskova just received a point penalty after smashing her second racquet of the match. She did the second one off-court during her bathroom break which the line umpire reported.
KP: “I can do what I want off-court”
Umpire: “Yes, but you’re still not allowed to do it”
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) February 13, 2021
Pliskova came out with a vengeance in the second set, taking a 5-0 lead, then completely fell apart and dropped a jaw-dropping seven straight games to fall out of the tournament in shocking fashion. In total, she committed 40 unforced errors and 10 double faults.
Muchova will move ahead to the fourth round, where either Belinda Bencic or Elise Mertins will await.
Daniil Medvedev avoids comeback loss
Daniil Medvedev has had easier wins, but the net result is advancement to the fourth round after a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 win over Serbian Filip Krajinovic.
The world No. 4 looked on his way to an easy win, but dropped two straight sets to land himself in hot water. After receiving treatment on his thigh, Medvedev hung a donut on Krajinovic to survive the three-hour match.
Novak Djokovic skips practice with oblique injury
One of the Australian Open’s biggest stories has been the health of two-time reigning champion Novak Djokovic, and Saturday didn’t provide encouraging news.
According ESPN, Djokovic skipped practice and received scans while dealing with an oblique injury sustained in Friday’s match against Taylor Fritz. Djokovic was visibly affected by the injury and struggled with returns, but still managed to win the match.
After the win, Djokovic speculated the injury might be a tear, which would be bad news for his chances to remain in the tournament:
“That got me a couple of crucial breaks … you know I am obviously very, very proud of this but at the same time I’m also a bit worried, I don’t know what’s going on, I think it’s a tear, I had this weird feeling on one of the returns, just before I went out to get the medical time out, and I knew straight away that something not so great is happening and it was confirmed from a physio from the ATP. But I don’t know, let’s see, I don’t have a great experience with tears in terms of continuing in the tournament, so that’s something that’s kind of in the clouds for me at the moment, whether I’m going to step out on the court in two days. Hopefully, God willing, I will be able to play.”
Elina Svitolina dominates after slow start
What looked like a potential upset quickly turned into No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina’s most dominant effort of the tournament. The Ukrainian opened Saturday’s match against No. 26 seed Yulia Putintseva by getting broken, evening the score, then getting broken again, but then won nine games in a row for the 6-4, 6-0 win.
Svitolina played nearly flawless tennis in the second set, recording only four unforced errors while winning 14 of Putintseva’s service points.
Svitolina advances to the fourth round, where she will face American Jessica Pegula, who has not lost a set through three rounds. That includes her first-round upset of Victoria Azarenka.
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