And then there were eight. After eight days of sometimes remarkable, sometimes boring play we are down to just eight players in the men’s field at the Australian Open. There’s no Rafael Nadal of course but Spain is well represented with a pair of quarterfinalists, Nicolas Alagrmo and David Ferrer, who will do battle tonight.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic authored another 5-set opus Sunday night to reach his 15th straight Major quarterfinal where he’ll now square off against the dangerous Tomas Berdych much later.
The head-to-heads in both matches are decidedly one-way traffic, but hopefully the tennis will prove better. Here’s what we have tonight:
Nicolas Almagro v. David Ferrer
Ferrer owns his countryman 12-0 in this series, if you can even call it that. Almagro is long on explosive ability with his serve and from the ground, especially the backhand. But he’s short on what’s between the ears, and that’s what you need to beat Ferrer. David makes his opponents work and thus far Nico hasn’t shown he can punch the clock as needed and have the required patience to outrally Ferrer.
Still, could this be lucky No. 13 for Almagro? It could.
Both guys are playing pretty well. Ferrer had a so-so win over an ailing Kei Nishikori but he did impressively bounce an in-form Marcos Baghdatis last week, so I give him a lot of points for that win.
Almagro didn’t have much to worry about with Janko Tipsarevic who quickly retired in the second set. And he did end Jerzy Janowicz’s run in straight sets. But Ferrer is a totally different sort of customer than say Steve Johnson who stretched him to five.
In addition to his sizable mental edge on Almagro, Ferrer also has been to the semifinals at the Australian Open before. He’s got the experience, the head-to-head and he’s playing like he did a year ago. So I’ll lean his way.
The Pick: Ferrer in four
Novak Djokovic v. Tomas Berdych
This was supposed to be Djokovic’s first test. But that of course came two nights ago when Stan Wawrinka pushed the two-time defending champion to the very limit. Djokovic survived the 5-hour slugfest but did his body? That’s the big concern with this one. Given his history of last year’s Herculean effort in the semis then the final, I’ll cautiously say it did.
If he’s fit to go, Djokovic should prevail here. He’s surprisingly beaten Berdych in 11 of their 12 meetings including nine straight! That nine isn’t a typo either. Djokovic has dominated since the Czech beat him for the only time at the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals.
Novak also got him in this round at the 2011 Australian event. But Berdych has kept it close and he is playing exceptionally well.
On a court that should suit his game, Berdych has blasted his way through Jurgen Melzer and Kevin Anderson in recent rounds – not exactly top of the chart guys, but good wins. And he hasn’t lost a set or really been pushed yet. That, I think, should change tonight.
Djokovic looked so sharp in the early rounds that maybe the Wawrinka match was a wake up call. So I think Djokovic had his rough patch already and should rebound tonight. He is super human on that Rod Laver court after all.
The Pick: Djokovic in four
The Almagro-Ferrer match begins in a few minutes.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Na Li (CHN) v. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
David Ferrer (ESP) v. Nicolas Almagro (ESP)
Not Before:3:30 PM
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30 PM Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)/Matthew Ebden (AUS) v. Elena Vesnina (RUS)/Leander Paes (IND)
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