Monday, December 6News That Matters

Australian Open: Five talking points from day eight as Novak Djokovic injury saga rumbles on

Day eight of the Australian Open saw the action continue behind closed doors in Melbourne and there were plenty of talking points.

Jessica Pegula caused an upset by knocking out the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina, the saga of Novak Djokovic‘s injury rumbled on and there were hints the lockdown may be lifted.

RICHARD EVANS brings you some of the highlights from Monday’s action.  

HEIR TO SPORTING DYNASTY CAUSES BIG UPSET  

An American who had never beaten a top 10 player or been beyond the third round of any grand slam event, caused the shock of the day when she put out No 5 seed Elina Svitolina on Rod Laver Arena. 

Jessica Pegula will now face her long-time friend and compatriot, Jennifer Brady, in the quarter finals. 

Brady beat Donna Vekic earlier to make it three Americans in the last eight (including Serena Williams) with South Carolina’s Shelby Rogers hoping to join them later on Monday when she faces world No 1 Ash Barty.

Jessica Pegula celebrates after knocking out the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina on Monday

Jessica Pegula celebrates after knocking out the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina on Monday

Jessica Pegula celebrates after knocking out the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina on Monday 

Pegula deserved her moment in the sun but it is her family backstory that is astonishing. 

Jessica is the daughter of billionaires Terry and Kim Pegula who own the Buffalo Bills NFL team and have been listed by Forbes magazine as being worth £3.7 billion. 

Pegula Snr beat off competition from former president Donald Trump and a consortium fronted by rockstar Jon Bon Jovi when he bought the team in 2014. The Pegulas own several other sporting franchises.

Jessica is the daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Kim (left) and Terry Pegula (right), who have a wealth estimated by Forbes at £3.7billion

Jessica is the daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Kim (left) and Terry Pegula (right), who have a wealth estimated by Forbes at £3.7billion

Jessica is the daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Kim (left) and Terry Pegula (right), who have a wealth estimated by Forbes at £3.7billion

MOURATOGLOU CASTS DOUBT ON DJOKOVIC INJURY 

The coach to Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas, Patrick Mouratoglou, was at pains to clarify his Sunday comments around supposed injuries to Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. 

It had been reported he said that Djokovic is not above embellishing an injury to gain a mental advantage over his opponents.

‘Champions don’t try to take pressure away by pretending they have an injury. Otherwise they’re not champions,’ he said. 

‘Champions don’t try to escape the pressure, they embrace and accept it. Of course, they’re injured. 

The saga of how bad Novak Djokovic's stomach injury is has been a theme of the tournament

The saga of how bad Novak Djokovic's stomach injury is has been a theme of the tournament

The saga of how bad Novak Djokovic’s stomach injury is has been a theme of the tournament 

‘I think that Novak, when this happened (a supposed torn muscle during his Friday night match) felt like it was worse than it probably happened to be.’

Djokovic moved well in his third round win over Milos Raonic on Sunday night despite the suspected stomach muscle tear.

‘At that level, if you have a muscle tear, it’s just impossible to do what he did yesterday,’ Mouratoglou said. 

‘But he clearly has something, he didn’t create something out of the blue.’

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou said it would be impossible to play as Djokovic did with the injury

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou said it would be impossible to play as Djokovic did with the injury

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou said it would be impossible to play as Djokovic did with the injury

HOW DRIVEN IS SERENA BY SLAM NO 24? 

The quest to draw level with Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles is not all-consuming for Serena Williams, says Mouratoglou ahead of Tuesday’s quarter-final clash with Simona Halep.

‘I don’t think she needs that validation. But clearly she came back to tennis to win some other grand slams, so that’s for sure the goal.’

The 39-year-old is not as obsessed with the No 24 as many the tennis people he said. 

Ultimately numbers don’t really matter said the coach who also looks after Tsitsipas and Coco Gauff.

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in her match with Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in her match with Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in her match with Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday

‘There is tennis before the open era and tennis after the open era. 

‘We all know it’s two different sports, an amateur sport and a professional sport. 

‘It doesn’t make really sense to compare. But it’s probably fun to talk about beating records.’

Williams is looking in top shape, he said, with her fitness, footwork and all round movement much improved.

WILL LOCKDOWN LIFT SEE RETURN OF CROWDS?  

Victoria’s top politician Dan Andrews says it is too early to consider lifting the statewide lockdown – due to end at midnight on Wednesday – after two more virus infections were confirmed on Monday.

Victoria has 21 active coronavirus cases that sent the state into a snap five day lockdown on Friday, which means that all spectators were barred from attending the Australian Open until Thursday morning at the earliest.

Premier Daniel Andrews suggested the state was ‘well-placed’ to end the lockdown.

There was again an eerie atmosphere on court in Melbourne but crowds could yet return

There was again an eerie atmosphere on court in Melbourne but crowds could yet return

There was again an eerie atmosphere on court in Melbourne but crowds could yet return

‘We will have more to say with the passage of time and more results and as more things become known to us,’ he said. 

‘Right now is too early to be definitive about Wednesday evening.’

A spokesperson for the Australian Retailers Association said the cost of the lockdown would be ‘over a billion dollars in terms of lost retail trade’.

MEDVEDEV CONFRONTS HERCULEAN TASK OF MATCHING GREATS 

Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev took just 89 minutes to dispose of the lowest ranked man left in Melbourne, Mackenzie McDonald. 

The Californian, who is down at 192 in the rankings after missing much of 2019 through injury, was no match for the Russian, who will meet countryman Andrey Rublev next. 

The winner may face Rafael Nadal in the last four, the Spaniard won his fourth match in straight sets against Italy’s Fabio Fognini.

Daniil Medvedev pictured during his win over Mackenzie McDonald on day eight in Melbourne

Daniil Medvedev pictured during his win over Mackenzie McDonald on day eight in Melbourne

Daniil Medvedev was under no illusions at the scale of his task in matching the greats of tennis

Medvedev took time out to reflect on the era of the ‘big three’ male players.

‘No matter how many grand slams they all have at the end of their career, what they did in tennis is amazing,’ he said. 

‘I’m 25, I feel like I’m one of the top players in the world (but) I have zero slams. For me to get to 20, I need to win five years in a row every slam. 

‘Five years in a row I need to win every slam against amazing opponents, five-set matches, not be injured. That’s ridiculous numbers. For me, they’re the three for sure greatest players in the history of tennis.’