After eight days of heat and hard work, it’s really the same guys we see at all the events who are still standing. Arriving in our men’s quarterfinals are 7 of the Top 8 players in the world with only Grigor Dimitrov competently replacing Juan Martin Del Potro.
It’s status quo.
Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic is still the man to beat, though tonight he’ll be in for his toughest test thus far against the sturdy Stan Wawrinka.
Rafael Nadal finally got his test, and he passed outslugging a very keen Kei Nishikori in three very tight sets.
Former finalist Andy Murray showed signs he’s still not 100% following back surgery. The Scot struggled yesterday dropping a set to the unheralded Stephane Robert.
But to me the fourth round story was Roger Federer who played arguably the best match of this entire decade in thrashing JW Tsonga 6-3-, 7-5, 6-4 last night.
The bigger racquet, the addition of Stefan Edberg, the healed back. I don’t know. Whatever it was Federer sure looked good and if not for all those horrible losses last year, the lack of titles and the fact he’s 32, you’d have to make him a favorite not just to beat Murray in the next round on Wednesday but to win the whole title! Why not!
That said, we are a long way from crowning a champion. So turning to today’s two matches…
David Ferrer v Tomas Berdych
Surprisingly it’s Ferrer who leads this head-to-head 7-4 and 4-2 on hardcourts, all under a roof! So on paper Ferrer gets the edge here. But really, Berdych should win this match. In fact he has to win this match.
Thus far the Czech hasn’t dropped serve at the Australian Open through four matches. The court is playing fast to his liking and the weather has cleared. As long as he’s on his game he should overpower Ferrer.
But irrespective of conditions and court surface, few fight like David (in stark contrast to Tomas) and he’ll make Berdych work for everything – maybe that’s the problem here. David’s just wants it more than Tomas?
And David’s also been playing pretty good.
“Every day I am playing better,” said Ferrer Sunday after beating Florian Mayer. “Today was my best match this week. Now I am in quarterfinal. Well, I hope the next match I have the chance for play similar like today.”
But I think Ferrer’s run ends here.
I really hate picking Tomas for anything these days – just when you think he’s going to win, he loses; and when you pick him to lose, that’s when he wins! But I’ll just take his talents over Ferrer’s willpower and reluctantly advance him to his first Australian Open semifinal.
The pick: Berdych in four
Novak Djokovic v Stan Wawrinka
Two of the biggest baseline bashers in the game meet for the third straight hardcourt major. Djokovic leads 15-2 but Stan pushed him to five in two losses last year in Australia and at the US Open. But this time I think Novak is playing much better than he did a year ago or in New York while Stan’s forehand looked little shaky in his last win over Tommy Robredo. (OK, I’m nitpicking.)
So I have to lean Djokovic here. He’s simply the better player.
“He’s an amazing player, especially in Grand Slam, especially here,” Wawrinka said on Sunday. “He’s playing so good.
“He’s really, really tough to beat. Had five sets against him last year here. Five sets in the US Open. But I didn’t win. I didn’t find the solution to beat him. So it’s going to be really difficult. But I’m trying every time to improve. I’m practicing to play that kind of match, a quarterfinal here against one of the best player in the world. I will have a chance to try to beat him. That’s the most important.”
I think Stan can and will keep it close. He’s got that wicked backhand and improving serve, and Djokovic is still prone to a lapse here and there. But the Serb just looks so comfortable and focused right now. I don’t see anyone winning three sets off him here, but maybe the Swiss has the best chance other than Nadal in the final.
The pick: Djokovic in four
In the women’s field, now that Serena’s out obviously the role of favorite falls on Victoria Azarenka. She’s been too tough and I see her playing Li Na in a rematch of the 2013 final.
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