MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray and a much lesser-known British player, Johanna Konta, advanced to the Australian Open semifinals Wednesday, when the action on court had to compete with news about the integrity of the sport.
Murray, making his 18th trip to a Grand Slam semifinal, beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday. Konta, who will be playing in her first major semi, had a 6-4, 6-1 win over Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai.
It’s the first time since the December 1977 version of the Australian Open that two British players — John Lloyd and Sue Barker that year — have advanced to the final four of any major.
Konta, the first British woman to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal since Jo Durie at the 1983 U.S. Open, will play Angelique Kerber, who beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5.
The No. 2-ranked Murray, who has lost four finals at Melbourne Park, will meet Milos Raonic in the semifinals. The 25-year-old Canadian beat Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a night match, continuing his strong form that has seen him beat Roger Federer in the Brisbane International final and French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round here.
Novak Djokovic and Federer will contest the other semifinal.
From the start, the first Grand Slam of the season has been overshadowed by media reports alleging that tennis authorities had failed to thoroughly investigate evidence of match-fixing.
On Wednesday, just as Kerber began her match with Azarenka, the governing bodies of tennis announced they will commission an independent review of their anti-corruption unit to restore “public confidence in our sport.”
In announcing the review, ATP chairman Chris Kermode said the reports had “caused damage to the sport,” which compelled the major stakeholders in tennis — the International Tennis Federation, ATP and WTA tours, and the four Grand Slams — to take quick action to address the issue.
Back on the courts, Murray’s match with Ferrer involved plenty of long rallies. Two of them — at 27 and 31 shots in length — came during the second-set tiebreaker, and Murray lost both of those points. But the Scotsman moved out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, during which there was a brief break when the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed due to an approaching thunderstorm.
Murray liked it with a roof over his head.
“That helped me a little bit. It’s tough in those situations,” Murray said. “I like playing indoors, I grew up in Scotland, it’s not quite like here.”
Murray and Raonic, who advanced to his second Grand Slam semi — he lost in the final four at Wimbledon to Federer in 2014 — are 3-3 in career meetings.
“I think just the perseverance throughout it, I had a lot of opportunities even in that set I lost,” Raonic said. “I just said to myself keep making opportunities and hopefully they’ll go my way.”
Kerber went down a break in the second set before winning five consecutive games and saving five set points before beating Azarenka, the result coming as a surprise despite the difference in seedings. No. 7 Kerber broke No. 14 Azarenka’s serve to end the match, her first win in seven matches against the Belarussian.
“When I was down 2-5, I was actually playing more aggressive,” Kerber said.
Six-time champion Serena Williams and No. 4-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska will meet in the other women’s semifinal, also on Thursday.
Wheelchair king shocked
Melbourne Australia KYODO
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda fell to a surprising first-round defeat Wednesday in the Australian Open men’s wheelchair singles, going down 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) to Britain’s Gordon Reid as he failed in his bid for a fourth-straight title.
The 31-year-old, who won the past two Paralympic tournaments and eight of the previous nine Australian Opens, lost in the opening round of a Grand Slam for the first time after giving away seven straight points from 1-0 up in the second-set tie-break.
“I felt I’d done enough preparation to win in the Grand Slam,” said Kunieda. “This is a huge shock. I might need to change something.”