Australian Open: Last year's runner-up and US Open champion Thiem stunned in last 16

By Sports Desk February 14, 2021

Dominic Thiem's bid to reach back-to-back Australian Open finals was dashed by Grigor Dimitrov as the US Open champion surprisingly crashed out in the round of 16.

Thiem lost a thrilling final to Novak Djokovic in last year's Melbourne Park decider before breaking through for his maiden grand slam title at Flushing Meadows later in 2020.

But Thiem failed to secure another second-week berth in Melbourne, where the third seed was stunned 6-4 6-4 6-0 by former world number three Dimitrov on Sunday.

Thiem was aiming to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second time and become the second Austrian man to feature in the quarters in Melbourne on multiple occasions after Thomas Muster (1989, 1994 and 1997).

The 27-year-old Thiem was also bidding to reach his ninth slam quarter-final and equal Muster's record for most major last-eight appearances by any Austrian – male or female.

However, Thiem – who rallied from two-sets-to-love down to top Nick Kyrgios in the previous round – was no match for Dimitrov behind closed doors on Rod Laver Arena amid a coronavirus lockdown in Victoria.

Both players hit 25 winners, but Dimitrov only tallied 18 unforced errors to Thiem's 41 following just over two hours on court.

Dimitrov progressed to his fourth Australian Open quarter-final, extending his record for most last-eight appearances at Melbourne Park by a Bulgarian player – man or woman.

An Australian Open semi-finalist in 2017, Dimitrov will now contest his sixth grand slam quarter-final – the 29-year-old is third for most quarter-final appearances by a Bulgarian player, behind Manuela Maleeva (nine) and Katerina Maleeva (seven).

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  • Australian Open: Shapovalov regrets 'corrupt' outburst at umpire but says Nadal gets preferential treatment Australian Open: Shapovalov regrets 'corrupt' outburst at umpire but says Nadal gets preferential treatment

    Denis Shapovalov regrets labelling umpire Carlos Bernardes as "corrupt" but refused to relent on his view that Rafael Nadal "100 per cent" gets preferential treatment from officials.

    Canadian Shapovalov fell short in a valiant comeback bid against all-time great Nadal, who eventually won through 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 after over four hours on Rod Laver Arena.

    The 14th seed was left fuming between the first and set second, though, when he felt a time violation should have been given after Nadal made him wait for play to resume.

    "Started the clock so long ago, he's still not ready to play. You've got to call him," Shapovalov said to Bernardes.

    After Bernardes opted against doing so, Shapovalov said: "You guys are all corrupt."

    "I think I misspoke when I said he's corrupt or whatever I said. It's definitely emotional, but I do stand by my side. I think it's unfair how much Rafa is getting away with," Shapovalov told a news conference when asked about the incident.

    "I mean, I'm completely ready to play and the clock is ticking three, two, one, clicking towards zero, and I'm looking at the ump, and obviously I'm going to speak up and say something. 

    "I've been ready to play for a minute and a half, and he tells me he's not going to give him a code violation because I'm not ready to play. To me, it's a big joke if somebody says that."

    Shapovalov was further frustrated ahead of the deciding set where Nadal left the court for a medical check up having struggled with a stomach issue and also had a toilet break.

    The 22-year-old felt the extended break quelled his growing momentum and that the elite players have different boundaries.

    "And then after the fourth set, the guy goes – and for the same thing last year I wasn't allowed to take a toilet break when I asked for a medical," he added.

    "He had already taken two medicals. He was getting medically evaluated, that's what the ump said after the fourth set, getting medically evaluated, and after the evaluation the guy goes and takes a toilet break.

    "It's like, where is the line? Where are you going to step on the players and again, I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he's an unbelievable player. 

    "But there's got to be some boundaries, some rules set. It's just so frustrating as a player. You feel like you're not just playing against the player; you're playing against the umpires, you're playing against so much more.

    "It's difficult. I mean, it was a big break after the fourth set for this reason, and the momentum just goes away. It's much more difficult to play, I think.

    "Again, not trying to say anything against Rafa; he's a great player, I really respect all he's done, but I just think it's super difficult and super frustrating as an athlete to go up against all of this."

    Asked if he feels Nadal gets preferential treatment, he added: "Of course. 100 per cent he does. 100 per cent. Every other match that I have played, the pace has been so quick because the refs have been on the clock after every single point.

    "This one, after the first two sets it was like an hour and a half just because he's dragged out so much after every single point. He's given so much time in between sets and all this. It's just dragged out.

    "Like I said, for the same reason I wasn't allowed to go to the washroom last year at the Australian Open because I had called a medical. I'm not arguing the fact that he had a medical or whatever it is. But how can you get evaluated medically and have a toilet break at the same break and just causing so much delay in the game?

    "I mean, it's just not balanced."

    Shapovalov and Nadal had a discussion at the net, but the former explained that it was an amicable exchange.

    "It was nothing against Rafa. Rafa was serving and I would expect the umpire to be looking at Rafa and the umpire was staring me down. It didn't make sense to me," he said.

    "Rafa is getting ready to serve, there's a clock right there, as an umpire you should be looking at the server. The guy is staring me down so I just looked at him like, 'Why are you looking at me?'

    "It was shortly after I had said – obviously, like I said, I misspoke, but he was staring me down, so I felt like there was some feud or something. I looked at him.

    "I was just explaining that to Rafa that it had nothing to do with him."

  • Australian Open: Kyrgios embracing 'role model' tag after overshadowing Nadal Australian Open: Kyrgios embracing 'role model' tag after overshadowing Nadal

    Nick Kyrgios is hoping to inspire the next generation of tennis stars after taking centre stage at the Australian Open with his run to the men's doubles semi-finals.

    The 26-year-old fan favourite and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis downed sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus 7-5 3-6 6-3 in Tuesday's quarter-final clash.

    The contest was watched by a lively crowd on Kia Arena and overshadowed Rafael Nadal's five-set win over Denis Shapovalov on Rod Laver Arena at the same time.

    Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, who were given a wildcard into the draw after being knocked out of the singles early on, will now face Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

    "I'm not finished – I want to win this f****** thing," Kyrgios declared in his on-court interview. "We know what we do well and it's world-class. 

    "That's what we'll do again. I just want to play and give the people of Australia a show and genuinely grow the sport of tennis."

    Kyrgios showed his caring side early in the match when handing a racket to a fan in the crowd after accidentally hitting the youngster with one of Kokkinakis' faulted balls.

    The Australian public have embraced the pair's deep run in the competition and Kyrgios, often a controversial character, is glad to see so many younger spectators watching on.

    "There is no way around it; me and Thanasi are definitely role models to the youth in Australia. We obviously attract that crowd," he said at his post-match news conference.

    "I know that over the years I haven't been the best role model, but I was just learning how to deal with everything. 

    "I think now at 26 I have matured, and I've definitely realised that a lot of young kids and people, even people that are low on confidence, they do look towards us.

    "We are not special people. We're normal humans that you might see walking in Australia, and we are now in the semi-finals of a grand slam.

    "I feel like I think we are just relatable. I think that's what's the best thing about it. They go out and get behind their mates. Most of the guys in the crowd are our mates.

    "You've got Roger Federer and these guys that are just once-a-generation athletes. I can't be like that. We're not like that. I feel it has to be people that are a bit more relatable."

    The Aussie pair's next opponents Granollers and Zeballos have won six tour-level titles as a team, but have never gone all the way at a grand slam.

    Kokkinakis is hoping to have similar backing from the expectant home fans on Thursday.

    Asked about the support he and his doubles partner have received so far, Kokkinakis said: "The rowdier the better. Sink p*** and come here.

    "The next guys are experienced veterans, but we're going to keep playing how we play, have fun and enjoy the crowd."

  • Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth

    Ash Barty was in clinical form to swat aside Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-0 in just 63 minutes and book her spot in the Australian Open semi-finals.

    The world number one is still to drop a set at her home slam in Melbourne and made easy work of her opponent as Barty continued her bid to become the first female Australian singles champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

    Barty won nine games in a row from 3-2 up in the first set to take complete command and she can now prepare for a semi-final showdown with another American in the form of Madison Keys.

    A nervy-looking Pegula was rushing her shots in the early exchanges and Barty broke in the first game when a forehand cross set up a break point chance that her opponent put into the net.

    Barty had chalked up 12 unforced errors by game four, but it was her aggressive tactics that had Pegula completely on the ropes and when a thumping forehand set up another break point in game seven, it was little surprise when it was converted.

    By this point Barty was in complete command and Pegula had no answer to the variety of shots her opponent rained down on her.

    The second set raced by in just 28 minutes, with Barty putting the finishing touch on a mightily impressive performance when Pegula put a return long on the second match point.

    "Jess is an incredible person and a brilliant girl. I love to test myself against her. She's had sensational couple of years, she's definitely a top-20 player, there's plenty more to come for sure," Barty said after the match.

    On reaching the semis in Melbourne for the second time after doing so in 2020, she added: "I've grown as a person, as a player, I'm a more complete tennis player.

    "Credit to my team, they do so much work behind the scenes to make me the best version of myself, I love playing out here. Hopefully I've got a little bit more left."

    DATA SLAM: Barty serves up a treat again

    Barty defeated both Pegula and Keys en route to winning her maiden slam title at the 2019 French Open and history could be repeating itself here with the world number one playing arguably the best tennis of her career.

    Behind her dominance is phenomenal success on serve. Barty is still yet to drop a set in Melbourne, and went 63 games without being broken before Amanda Anisimova did so in the previous round. Here, she lost just five points on first serve (22 of 27, 81 per cent) and gave up just a solitary break-point opportunity in the match.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 17/22
    Pegula – 7/26

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 6/2
    Pegula – 1/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 5/9
    Pegula – 0/1

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