Australian Open Day 6: Rafael Nadal advances, while Karolina Pliskova melts down

Chris Cwik and Jack Baer
·5-min read

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.

Rafael Nadal defeats Cameron Norrie

The No. 2 ranked men's player didn't have much trouble with Cameron Norrie in round three. Rafael Nadal advanced past Norrie in just three sets. With the win, Nadal keeps hope alive that he'll win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam. Nadal currently shares that record with Roger Federer.

Nadal's path to victory isn't assured, especially since a match with Fabio Fognini is next. Fognini defeated Nadal in the 2015 U.S. Open. The two have produced some excellent highlights in the past.

Ashleigh Barty easily moves past Ekaterina Alexandrova

The top ranked women's singles player is moving on to round four at the Australian Open.

It took Australian Ashleigh Barty just two sets to defeat Russian Ekaternia Alexandrova in round three. Things started slow for Barty, however, as she dropped the first two games of the first set. Barty rallied, winning six straight games to take the set 6-2. The second set also started slowly for Barty, but she was able to win the final four games to take the second set and the match 6-4. 

The win sets Barty up a rematch against Shelby Rogers — who upset Annet Kontaveit in round three. Barty and Rogers should be familiar with each other, as they faced off Feb. 4 at the Yarra Valley Classic. Barty defeated Rogers at the event.

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:

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.

Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic throws her racket in frustration during her third round match against compatriot Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic throws her racket in frustration during her third round match against compatriot Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

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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