World No.1 Simona Halep remains in the running for her first grand slam and the maintaining of her World No.1 ranking but she has a tough task ahead. She plays Naomi Osaka in the fourth round while Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber are amongst those potentially standing in the way of her and the final.
Halep will have needed plenty of time to recover after her extraordinary three set win over Lauren Davis in the previous round. Down 0-40 on serve when needing to hold to stay in the match, she did so and went on to win 15-13 in a 4 hour fight. Often criticised for her mental toughness at the grand slams, the win will do wonders for her confidence even if Davis is never likely to be considered a contender at the deep end of slams. “I think now I’m much stronger. Mentally, of course, I was talking a lot during the match. And yeah, I was a little bit frustrated because of the leg. I felt the pain all match, but I didn’t give up. For sure I’m stronger mentally, and I could resist like for every moment in the match.” she said.
Osaka dampened spirits for the home crowd with a dominant performance over Ashleigh Barty, beating the Australian 6-4 6-2 to make her first fourth round at a grand slam. She hit a surprising 12 aces in the win, ensuring that Barty could not even get a look in on return for large parts of the match. Halep’s match going long meant they had to move from the scheduled Rod Laver Arena so Osaka will be relieved to have spent relatively little time on court in the end.
“I’ve played her twice, and both times it was three sets. I had fun both times. I feel like I learned a lot. I feel playing the No. 1 is really an honor. No matter what happens, I’ll try my best. I’ll just see what happens from there.” Osaka said. Halep won both those matches but if ever there was an opportunity for a shock result, it has to be on this occasion with Halep potentially drained both physically and mentally from her last outing.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in three sets