It’s never easy to back up a big win but American Olivia Hauger coped well with the additional pressure as she reached her first grand-slam quarter-final at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The 16-year-old had beaten top seed Varvara Flink in the previous round and knew she had to back up that performance with another of the same quality.
Thankfully, she did just that, beating Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 64 61 to take her place in the last eight against Croatia’s Jana Fett.
“Yesterday, I went in there thinking I just had to go for it and swing through it and it was successful,” Hauger said. “Then my coaches told me, ‘OK, you’re basically the No. 1 seed now, so you have to back it up. So I had to forget about yesterday’s win, come in fresh today, play my tennis, stay aggressive and try not to think about that match.
“It was difficult but when you’re in a match you really focus on the ball and your shots and it worked out. It started creeping into my mind at the end of the second set, at 5-0, and I was like, ‘no, you need to focus’.”
Hauger is from Oklahoma, where she combines her burgeoning tennis career with academic work. It’s something few juniors do, these days, but she said she manages to balance both things.
“I actually still go to public school, so I am juggling that and travelling,” she said. “I keep up with my work by emailing my teachers while I’m gone. They’re normally pretty supportive and great about it and they let me catch up stuff.”
Hauger, who said she enjoys maths and history, said she is considering going to college, depending how her tennis career goes over the next couple of years.
“I’m going to see how I do after this tournament but I think I am planning to graduate a year early, maybe try to go to play WTA for a year and a half and then maybe go to college,” she said, singling out Stanford as a potential destination.
“If I do well, then I can continue on. It’s good to back-up and have a second option in case it doesn’t work because you’re always one injury away.”
Australia’s Kim Birrell upset 15th seed Fiona Ferro of France 64 61 to reach the last eight.
At 15, Birrell is the youngest player left in the draw and after a slow start, believes she is coming into form as she heads into a clash with 10th seed Anastasiya Komardina.
“I think that I am starting to play well, find my shots and really hit the ball well,” said the Australian, whose favourite player is former women’s champion Kim Clijsters from Belgium.
“I am trying not to think about (how far she can go) too much, just take it one match at a time, but that’s my goal to still be here on finals day. We’ll just see what happens.”
In the boys’ event, 10th seed Andrey Rublev ended the run of Australian Harry Bourchier with an epic 75 67 14-12 victory. The Russian had a string of match points before finally putting Bourchier away, much to his relief.
“I really had never played a match as long as this,” Rublev said. “I was really thinking that I was not going to win because he was winning his serve so easily and I was not. Maybe I just got lucky.”
Many tennis players have their superstitions and Rublev said he was trying to get over his belief that January is not a good month for him.
“For five, six years, I lost everything in juniors in January,” he said. “I don’t know, why, but think I have not the best time in my life in juniors in January. But now it’s getting better.”
Rublev now plays American second seed Stefan Kozlov, who cruised into the last eight with a 61 62 victory over Boris Pokotilov of Russia.
“I played Kozlov in America and he’s really good. I have to play a really good game to beat him,” Rublev said, adding that he hoped the windy conditions of Wednesday would die down in the quarter-finals.
“I hate playing in the wind,” he said “My game is to play fast and to attack but with the wind, the ball goes somewhere else.”
Top seed Alexander Zverev enjoyed a comfortable passage through with a 62 63 win over Marcelo Zormann Da Silva of Brazil, while 11th seed Hyeon Chung upset No. 8 Daniil Medvedev of Russia 63 36 61.