On what turned out to initially be a tough day for Americans in action at the Australian Open Friday, which included Serena Williams being sent packing by Wang Qiang in a shocking upset, Alison Riske weathered the storm to set another fourth-round Slam showdown with world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty.
Riske overcame Barty’s doubles partner, Julia Goerges, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in two hours and 16 minutes to achieve her best run Down Under. Goerges worked to control the bulk of their exchanges with her assertive play, but Riske grew in confidence as the decider progressed, breaking twice to complete the come-from-behind victory. As a result, Riske leveled the pair’s head-to-head series to two wins apiece.
"I think starting out the match, Julia was definitely at the highest level of her game, in my opinion. I couldn't even touch her first serve. I thought, if she's able to play like that for the entire match, then that's just too good and it just wasn't meant to be," Riske reflected in press.
"I just tried to keep a positive attitude about it and felt like if I could get a couple things going on my end, particularly my serve, maybe get a few returns in play, that I'd probably have some looks. That's kind of exactly what happened."
The No. 18 seed broke through with her first major quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon, where she toppled Barty in three sets. At the time, Barty was riding a 15-match win streak after raising her first Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros and backing it up with the Birmingham title, a stretch that enabled her to first rise to the top of the rankings.
Barty dropped her first two service games, but quickly put the nervy start behind her to cool off a red-hot Elena Rybakina, 6-3, 6-2. Rybakina, the No. 29 seed, started the day 11-1 on the season, and like Adelaide winner Barty, brought a title to her campaign after triumphing in Hobart. Barty is bidding to become the first home champion since 1978, when unseeded Chris O’Neil tasted victory.
Coco Gauff later pulled off the second stunner of the day, when she ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening night session match on Rod Laver Arena. After breaking Osaka for the third time, Gauff closed out the impressive win with a love hold to avenge last September's US Open defeat.
The 15-year-old and her next opponent, countrywoman Sofia Kenin, will each bid to get through to their first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam event. The No. 14 seed had her back up against the wall in both of her sets with Zhang Shuai, saving four set points in the first, and one in the second, to squeak by, 7-5, 7-6 (7), just after midnight struck.
Madison Keys, who looked to be in fine form after coming to Melbourne with a runner-up effort in Brisbane, was outdueled by Maria Sakkari in a first-time encounter. The No. 22-seeded Greek dispatched the No. 10 seed, 6-4, 6-4, to end to her 0-7 winless mark in the third round of major matches.
Keys was hindered by 40 unforced errors and managed to win just a third of her return points. Rallies turned in favor of Sakkari once they reached the five-shot mark (+7), enough to lift her into new territory. The 24-year-old will next take on last year’s finalist Petra Kvitova, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over recent Shenzhen champion Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Tommy Paul saw his best Slam effort ended by Marton Fucsovics, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. Paul was coming off a grueling five-set upset over Grigor Dimitrov, though Fucsovics came into the contest with a hot hand, having knocked out No. 13 seed Denis Shapovalov and rising teenager Jannik Sinner. The Hungarian did not relinquish his serve, and broke Paul six times to match his Happy Slam showing from two years ago.
World No. 100 Tennys Sandgren avenged his 2019 Wimbledon loss to Sam Querrey with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour and 52 minutes. Two years ago, Sandgren made a surprise run to the last eight and can return to that stage with a win over the man he beat in the third round at the All England Club, Fabio Fognini. The No. 12 seed eased past No. 22 seed Guido Pella, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3.