It’s hard to argue with the men’s final 16 at the Australian Open. What a group, what a lineup, led by the Fab Four Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
I said in my last post that after two rounds it was hard to differentiate playing levels among the Top 4, but after seeing another few days of play things are coming more into focus.
Federer I thought really played one of the best matches I’d seen from him in quite a while in his win over Marat Safin. Sure, Safin’s not the same guy he use to be but it was an impressive performance by Roger. For the win Fed now gets Tomas Berdych who shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Swiss. Then it will be a 20-year-old, either Marin Cilic or Juan Martin del Potro, in the next round. That match is going on at the moment (why is the Tennis Channel is stuck on Jelena Jankovic-Marion Bartoli?) and I still like JMDP to get through even though he’s behind. Regardless of the opponent, I think Fed’s experience over either Cilic or JMDP should win out in the end.
While Fed’s looked very good the same cannot be said for Djokovic who was teetering on the brink of a five-setter against the lowly Amer Delic. Credit to Delic, but that’s a match Novak’s got to put away quickly and easily but he didn’t. Now he’ll test Baghdatis and his faithful fans tonight in what should be a colorful match (I’ll be taping it!). Djokovic is the better player than Bags, but the crowd, the environment, the pressure and the moment could get the Novak. But I think the Serb advances.
Andy Roddick is also alive in that section. After three very cushy opponents Roddick will have a big step-up in class today against Tommy Robredo. Roddick owns Robredo 9-0 so it’s hard to go against the American here. But I think it will be much closer than their previous meetings as Robredo comes into the match without the loss of a set. If there’s an upset today, this is the one.
In the bottom half it’s hard to pick who’s looked better, Nadal or Murray. Last night Nadal dismantled Tommy Haas (I didn’t see the match but that’s what I gather from the reports). Nadal now gets a revenge meeting against Fernando Gonzalez who thrashed the Spaniard at the 2007 Australian Open. Gonzo outlasted Richard Gasquet last night, and after two five setters in the first week I don’t think the Chilean has enough left in the tank for Rafa.
Probably the best match of the 16s may be between friends Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. My man Monfils has shown no indication of a foot problem he had entering the tournament so that’s a good sign because he’ll need his speed and agility to beat his steady countryman tomorrow, and I think he does it.
If there’s a second 16s match I’d want to watch it’s Murray v. Fernando Verdasco. Of anyone left, Fernando has arguably been the hottest player surrendering a tournament-low 12 games. But let’s not forget, he is Fernando Verdasco after all and at some point he’ll come back down the earth. So I’ll take Murray in this one. But it should be exciting.
Last year’s finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is quietly hanging around and in the fourth round Monday he’ll meet James Blake. Not much to choose between these two big hitters, but I’ll take Tsonga’s experience here to edge the American in an entertaining affair.
As for the women, it still looks like Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva and everyone else. Right now Jankovic is down a set and a break to Bartoli, though I wouldn’t bet the farm the Bartoli holds that lead. I think in the top half today Dinara Safina’s the pick to get the final. No one else really grabs my interest and at this stage, looking ahead the women’s event really pales in comparison to the men’s.
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