The Australian Open quarterfinals begin and even with Andy Murray on a flight back home to Great Britain, the men’s field is still absolutely loaded with seven of the Top 8 seeds. In about an hour we get Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic in a match I’ve been waiting for since their US Open meeting last September. Then, early morning my time it’s 3-time champ Roger Federer trying to fend off the fast-rising Juan Martin Del Potro.
There are also a couple QF women’s matches weaved in there also (Vera Zvonareva is en route to victory), but no offense to WTA fans, the men have the stage today.
First we get Roddick and Djokovic. We all remember how this went down at the Open last year. Roddick made some snide remarks/jokes about Novak’s injuries and reputation in the press. Novak didn’t take kindly to Andy’s words and promptly took him out in his own backyard. But then in his infamous on-court post-match after the match, Djokovic let loose on the American to a rain of boos.
Now the tasty rematch. Bad blood? Surely. Important match? Of course.
I’ve often talked about statement matches, and for both players this is a statement match. With the arrival of Murray, Novak’s got to be feeling slighted in the No. 1 conversation and in Australian Open title picture despite his impressive resume. Roddick, meanwhile, would love to get revenge on Novak for the US Open and also get back into that top player conversation.
So who’ll win? Well, just as he was at the US Open Novak’s the better player than Andy in just about every department except serve. But if you’ve been watching the tournament here in the U.S. as I have it’s tough to steer clear of the Roddick hype. We hear he’s slimmer, he’s playing well, he does well in odd years and his new coach, Larry Stefanki, has a strong pedigree of success in Australia. Plus, we’ll hear that Novak’s late finish the other night doesn’t bode well in the heat of the day, and there’s the issue of that racquet change and the Serb’s sub-par play.
And I agree, Roddick been playing well but I question his opposition thus far, and more importantly his ability to win the big match at a Slam against Top 5 players. And because I think Novak needs this win more than Andy I’m taking the Joker here.
Playing at night should really help out JMDP. Had that match been in the heat of the day I think Federer would win comfortably over the lumbering Argy, but under the lights it should be a tougher challenge for the Swiss. But I still think Federer and his experience win out in a tight affair.
For tomorrow, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is going to have his hands full against the red-hot Fernando Verdasco. If we’ve learned anything about the Australian Open the last ten years it’s that we often get a surprise finalist, and this year Verdasco could very well be that guy. The two have never played before so there will be feeling out by both these guys.
In the second quarterfinal Wednesday, it’s hard to bet against Rafael Nadal at this stage. Gilles Simon will play him tough but he just doesn’t have the fire power necessary to win three sets off Rafa on a slow, hot hard court. Nadal advances.
As for Murray, I guess the pressure caught up with the Brit. As I’ve said before winning in lower ATP events is much different than winning a best-of-five at a Slam, just ask Tomas Berdych. Murray will get his Slam titles in due time, but maybe not this year.
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