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Top seeds being pushed but surviving

By: Allan Blanks and Corey Johns

WawrinkaDjokovic, Wawrinka battle to victory

Novak Djokovic didn’t allow Gilles Muller to win a set in their fourth round battle but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a war. Muller pushed Djokovic and responded to almost all of his big plays. Djokovic was eventually able to score the 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 victory and showed why he is the No. 1 player in the world. At this Australian open, upsets have been the story and often times, when the underdog gets momentum, the ranked player got rattled and seemed to let the pressure get to them. But Djokovic was calm and played his game.

Same thing with Stan Wawrinka. Facing the unseeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Wawrinka went in heavy favorite but was pushed to four sets and each of them was a battle before he ultimately came out victorious, 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.

Williams sisters advance

For a second-straight match, Serena Williams, the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world, lost her first set but stormed back for a dominant victory. After losing the opening set to Garbine Muguruza, 6-2, Williams got in a groove and showed why she’s the most dominant woman on a tennis court, taking the next two 6-3, 6-2.

Her sister Venus, the 18th seed, upset No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in her fourth round match, 6-3, 2-6, 6-1. In the two sets she won, she was dominant.

On the women’s side, the quarterfinals are now set. Serena Williams will face No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova and Venus will face fellow American Madison Keys. On the bottom side of the bracket, Maria Sharapova is headed for a great match against Eugenie Bouchard.

Cibulkova beats rival to advance to quarterfinals

Power and precision dictated the pace between Victoria Azarenka and Dominika Cibulkova. Meeting for the 10th time, both contenders pounced on shots early and generated tremendous spin from both sides of the racquet. After three hard-fought sets, Cibulkova emerged victorious 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Throughout the contest, fist-pumps were frequent and points were decided by winners. For the match, 76 wins were shared between the two competitors and 44 came by way of Cibulkova.

From the onset, Cibulkova took advantage of Azarenka’s game plan. In the opening stanza, the 44th ranked Azarenka struck 65-percent of her shots to the Cibulkova forehand. This tactic proved costly as Cibulkova crushed Azarenka’s approaches and painted lines with authority. More than half an hour later, the first set came to a quick and emphatic close as the Slovakian punished Azarenka with a barrage of forehands.

After the first intermission, Azarenka realized the error of her game plan and made two major adjustments. Azarenka greatly reduced her shots to Cibulkova’s forehand and implemented a slicing drop-shot. The slice was an effective strategy as it abruptly changed the pace of rallies and forced Cibulkova to react defensively. Aside from changing the pace and mixing the depths of her shots, Azarenka also asserted herself at the net. In the second set, Azarenka won 12 points at the net compared to being shut-out in the opening stanza.

Prone to hot and cold spells, Cibulkova went from the hunter to the hunted. With Azarenka dominating the course of play, Cibulkova had to switch gears and play a less familiar style tennis. Cibulkova transitioned from the powerful baseliner to a scrambling counter-puncher. Bidding her time, Cibulkova grinded points out and fought patiently for opportunities to unleash her power. Aside from her penetrating forehand, Cibulkova’s slice serve was extremely effective and disrupted the timing of Azarenka’s return. The following changes turned the match around and elevated Cibulkova to the quarterfinals.

Cibulkova looks to face either 24th ranked Garbine Muguruza or the five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams.

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