Sports

Third seed Muguruza joins exodus in Melbourne

Third seed's exit clears path for in-form Azarenka

Garbine Muguruza admitted that she had a "very bad day at the office" after failing to live up to her billing as third seed in a shock Australian Open loss to Barbora Strycova yesterday.

The Spanish star, a Wimbledon finalist last year, became the latest top-10 player to crash out of the season-opening Grand Slam with her error-strewn game exposed 6-3, 6-2 by the Czech veteran, who reached the fourth round for the first time in nine attempts.

It was a remarkable upset by Strycova, 29, who had gone beyond the third round only once in 38 previous Grand Slam appearances - at Wimbledon in 2014, when she made the quarter-finals.

"Clearly not my best, for sure. Today is a very bad day at the office," said 22-year-old Muguruza, the breakout star of 2015 who had high hopes of claiming a first Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park.

"Barbora played good, very good. Also, I didn't play good. I don't know, I just couldn't find the court, my shots. I didn't really find my game."

Muguruza's flop puts her alongside second seed Simona Halep, sixth seed Petra Kvitova and eighth seed Venus Williams as top-10 players who have failed to make the tournament's second week.

Strycova's reward is a showdown with two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, seeded 14th, for a spot in the quarter-final.

"What went well? Everything," said Strycova, a key member of her country's Fed Cup winning team last year.

Strycova will have her work cut out against Azarenka, who said she is thriving on the pressure at the Australian Open as she swept into the fourth round yesterday.

The former world No. 1 was in ominous form as she thrashed Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes to make it eight consecutive last-16 appearances at Melbourne Park.

It opens up a path to the quarter-finals for the Belarusian, with third seed Muguruza no longer a concern after she was shocked by Strycova.

THREAT

After a torrid two years battling injuries, Azarenka is back on a roll and is a clear threat to world No. 1 and defending champion Serena Williams, whom she could meet in the final.

The 27-year-old said part of her intensity and focus on court came from thriving on big-match pressure, a trait that should serve her well the deeper she goes in the tournament.

"I love it, I embrace it. Pressure for me, it's part of where I came from. I always had pressure," said the 14th seed, who grew up in Minsk.

"Don't tell me nobody as an athlete isn't nervous before the match.

"It's just what you do for the nerves. Do you use them to your advantage and hype you up and use that adrenalin to your power, or use it to close in and not to do anything?"

The combination was too much for 18-year-old Naomi, who has a Haitian father and has lived most of her life in the US, but barely speaks Japanese.

"I guess this match, because it's like I'm learning," she said, when asked what she would remember most about her first Grand Slam experience.

"Honestly, I'm a bit glad she beat me like this because I have so much more to learn and I can take this as a good experience."

- AFP.

What's gone

MEN'S SINGLES 3RD RD

  • Andy Murray (x2) bt Joao Sousa (x32) 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
  • Stanislas Wawrinka (x4) bt Lukas Rosol 
6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)
  • David Ferrer (x8) bt Steve Johnson (x31) 6-1, 6-4, 6-4
  • John Isner (x10) bt Feliciano Lopez (x18) 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 6-4
  • Milos Raonic (x13) bt Viktor Troicki (x21) 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
  • Gael Monfils (x23) bt Stephane Robert 
7-5, 6-3, 6-2
  • Andrey Kuznetsov bt Dudi Sela 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)

WOMEN'S SINGLES 3RD RD

  • Barbora Strycova bt Garbine Muguruza (x3) 6-3, 6-2
  • Angelique Kerber (x7) bt Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3
  • Victoria Azarenka (x14) bt Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-1
  • Madison Keys (x15) bt Ana Ivanovic (x20) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
  • Ekaterina Makarova (x21) bt Karolina Pliskova (x9) 
6-3, 6-2
  • Johanna Konta bt Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-2
  • Annika Beck bt Laura Siegemund 6-0, 6-4
  • Zhang Shuai bt Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-3
australian open