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Pro Media & News

AO 2021: UCLA products Brady, 

McDonald join Serena in last 16

Arthur Kapetanakis  |  February 13, 2021
Jennifer Brady of the US reacts after a point against Slovenia's Kaja Juvan during their women's singles match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Paul CROCK / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)

The American contingent in Melbourne—which began with a tournament-high 26 combined men and women main-draw singles competitors—remains strong as the singles events progress to the Round of 16. Five Americans, including four U.S. women, are still in the hunt Down Under.


Serena Williams leads the way, as she continues her quest for Grand Slam singles title No. 24. She is joined in the women's fourth round by Jennifer Brady, Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula, with all four women winning all six sets they've played on the way. Mackenzie McDonald is the last American man standing, making it two former UCLA Bruins in the last 16, alongside Brady.


Serena was tested by Russia's Anastasia Potapova, but was able to shake off a slow start to advance, 7-6, 6-2, as she bids to match the all-time Grand Slam singles record. ADVERTISEMENT Seeded No. 10, she will face her first seeded opposition in the Round of 16, with a matchup against No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka set for Rod Laver Arena on what will be Saturday evening in the U.S. Sabalenka took out American Ann Li in Round 3.


“She hits very hard; she has a big, big power game,” Serena said of her next opponent. “She's a big girl, strong like myself. So I think it will be a really good match.”


The No. 22-seeded Brady took out Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, 6-1, 6-3, with the help of a nine-deuce, 17-minute hold to pull ahead, 5-3, in the second. Brady has dropped no more than four games in each of her opening three victories. She'll face her toughest test yet, at least in terms of the WTA rankings, when she faces No. 28 seed Donna Vekic for a spot in the final eight. This is the 25-year-old's second time in the Melbourne Round of 16, after she accomplished that feat as a qualifier in her 2017 debut. She's now two wins from matching her run to the 2020 US Open semis, where she did not drop a set until her three-set defeat to eventual champ Naomi Osaka.


After Brady and Virginia product Danielle Collins flew the flag for college tennis in 2020, with deep runs at the US Open and French Open, respectively, McDonald and Brady now give UCLA double representation in the Round of 16.


“I was just texting with Mackie,” Brady said after her win. “I'm so proud of him, happy for him that he's made the fourth round here. I think he's also pretty excited for me, as well. It's nice to have him out there doing well. It's really good to see. He works really hard.


[We’re] promoting college tennis, especially UCLA, the both of us, both the men's and women's side… I think if you really want to develop your game, develop also mentally off court, I think if you have your priorities straight, college tennis is a great route."


McDonald defeated South Africa's Lloyd Harris, 7-6, 6-1, 6-4, saving a set point in the opening set tiebreak before winning it, 9-7, and taking control. McDonald had previously taken out No. 22 seed Borna Coric in four sets in Round 2. He'll face No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev in the Round of 16. It's his first time to Round 4 in Melbourne, and his second time into the last 16 at a Slam (Wimbledon 2018).


Medvedev compared the American's game to Roger Federer’s, particularly how he takes the ball early and looks to get to the net.


“That’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever gotten,” McDonald said when asked about it. The two have practiced together in the past, but Medvedev has gotten the better of the competitive rivalry, notching three straight-set wins in their three ATP meetings.


Back on the women's side, Rogers upset No. 21 seed Anett Kontaveit, 6-4, 6-3, to extend her career-best AO run. A major quarterfinalist at the 2020 US Open and 2016 Roland Garros, Rogers will face word No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, on the Aussie's home turf, for a chance to reach that stage for a third time. It will be the pair's second meeting this month, after Barty edged the American, 7-5, 2-6, [10-4] in the Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinals. Barty, who is 7-0 on the 2021 season, would go on to win the AO tune-up event in Melbourne.


Pegula has been dominant since ousting No. 12 seed and 2020 US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka in Round 1. Full of confidence after knocking off the former world No. 1, the 26-year-old cruised through to the Round of 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Kristina Mladenovic of France. Building on her third-round run at the US Open in September—her previous career-best Grand Slam result—Pegula will face No. 5 seed Elena Svitolina in her first career major fourth round. The Buffalo native's strong hard-court form extends back to the Western & Southern Open, where she reached the quarterfinals in New York.


Wrapping up the third-rond singles action, Taylor Fritz—the lone American man to be seeded in the singles draw—nearly pulled off the upset against world No. 1 and eight-time AO champ Novak Djokovic. After falling behind by two sets to none, the American forced a fifth set, with Djokovic limited in the latter stages of the match with an oblique injury. The Serb was able to find his best game in the final set, however, to advance, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.


The men's and women's doubles draws are also complete through the Round of 16. On the men's side, defending champions Rajeev Ram (USA) and Joe Salisbury (Great Britain) are into Round 3 in their title defense. Frances Tiafoe and Nicholas Monroe are still standing, with a first-round upset of the No. 3 seeds, Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, in tow. The two teams could face off in the quarterfinals with one more win apiece.


Team McCoco—Caty McNally and Coco Gauff—are into Round 3 on the women's side, as are No. 4 seeds Nicole Melichar (USA) and Demi Schuurs (Netherlands); No. 9 seeds Desirae Krawczyk (USA) and Alexa Guarachi (Chile, born in USA); No. 12 seeds Hayley Carter (USA) and Luisa Stefani (Brazil); and Bernarda Pera (USA) and Rosalie van der Hoek (Netherlands).


The 2020 Australian Open wheelchair even begins Monday, with Americans Nick Taylor and David Wagner in the historic eight-player quad singles draw.


For complete draws, schedules and results, visit the official Australian Open website.


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