And just like that, out goes Rafael Nadal. I’m not totally stunned that Tomas Berdych beat Nadal, but I am that it took the Czech about 7,420 years to finally get back in the win column against him. After having lost 17 straight, I guess Berdych had had enough. Good for him! And yesterday he really blasted Nadal, beating him 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5) in a very one-sided first two sets.
So what do we make of it? Well, Nadal is still a little green, still working his was back into form. It’s not a bad sign but it’s not good one either. He did fight back in the third and to his credit, Tomas (somehow) kept his wits. He actually believed he could beat Rafa and he did. And he beat him bad.
But I think Rafa will rebound. I believe he has a few clay events in February, then the March hardcourts before the French run where he’ll be again favored. However like Federer, his star is also fading. Such is life…
In the evening, Andy Murray put a stop to phenom Nick Kyrgios in relative routine fashion. Nick will be a superstar someday, just not yet. Murray showed his variety and a tired Kyrgios hung in there but really was no match in the end.
As for today’s picks and matches…
Stan Wawrinka v Kei Nishikori
Wow, is this a tough match to pick. On one hand you have the surging Nishikori who just beat Stan on a similar court in five sets at the US Open. And then you have Wawrinka who has found his form again at his favorite tournament where he’s won his last 10.
This match really feels like a coin flip. You could play it a hundred times and I think they’d split down the middle 50-50. But I’m going to give a slight edge here to Nishikori. I think he has the momentum, has looked better – let’s face it Stan hasn’t played anyone of note – and Kei’s hungrier. At least I think he is.
Stan already won this title, he has his Slam. Maybe he’s content. Maybe because of that win he sleeps well at night. I’m just speculating here. I don’t know.
Nishikori came close in New York, maybe tensed up a bit in the final. He probably won’t win in Melbourne this year, but this is another step in his ascent to the top and the Australian Open is his home Slam if you will. And right now he’s healthy.
So Kei wants what Stan has. He won’t get it this year, but in a slugfest…
The pick: Nishikori in 5
Novak Djokovic v Milos Raonic
No one has looked as good as Novak Djokovic thus far. The Serb is a 4-time Australian Open champion and through the first four rounds he’s played like it, taking apart all comers, serving well and surrendering nary a set. Granted, he hasn’t faced the toughest of competition, but that changes tonight thanks to the big-serving Canuck Milos Raonic.
Raonic made it clear that during the off season he’s gotten faster, fitter and stronger. Well, we are about to see if he’s right. Because to beat Novak you have to solid in every phase of your game, and sometimes that’s not even enough.
In their four prior meetings, no surprise it’s been all Djokovic who’s used his exceptional service returns to blunt Raonic. Honestly, I foresee more of that tonight.
If Feliciano Lopez was able to break Raonic three times, what will Djokovic do? And how is Milos going to break Novak? Those questions will be answered and Djokovic will pass the test.
The pick: Djokovic in four
In the women’s draw, I was really stunned by No. 3 seed Simona Halep’s lackluster effort in her match against US Open semifinalist Ekatarina Makarova. That was curious. However, I doubt you see such an attitude from Serena Williams today. She should get through a tough one over 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova. Maybe three sets.
In the early match, I’ll lean to the new blood Madison Keys to overpower Venus. It’s a bold pick – would Madison be in awe of Venus in a Slam? And Venus eats up power – but Madison’s that good, that mature.
Tennis Channel and ESPN2 will again have the coverage.
WEDNESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00am Start Time
Madison Keys (USA) vs. Venus Williams (USA)
Not Before: 12:30pm
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
Not Before: 2:00pm
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30pm Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Milos Raonic (CAN)
Martina Hingis (SUI) vs. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)
Leander Paes (IND) Alexander Peya (AUT)
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