Djokovic Closes In On A Fifth Australian Open, Faces Raonic; Nishikori v Wawrinka; Wednesday QF Picks And Pans
by Sean Randall | January 27th, 2015, 1:08 pm
  • 87 Comments

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)[18]
Not Before: 12:30pm
Serena Williams (USA)[1] vs. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)[11]
Not Before: 2:00pm
Stan Wawrinka (SUI)[4] vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN)[5]

Rod Laver Arena 7:30pm Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB)[1] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN)[8]
Martina Hingis (SUI)[7] vs. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)[4]
Leander Paes (IND)[7] Alexander Peya (AUT)[4]


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87 Comments for Djokovic Closes In On A Fifth Australian Open, Faces Raonic; Nishikori v Wawrinka; Wednesday QF Picks And Pans

Patson Says:

Djokovic in 3.

Nishikori in 4.


Wog Boy Says:

mat4,

Don’t you even dare to come out with predictions..


mat4 Says:

But, hey! here I am!

BTW, was it a threat? A bit sexist, ageist, “tennist”?

Don’t worry, WB, won’t making predictions.


Wog Boy Says:

Thanks mat4, I am worried of this first time trend at AO..


Humble Rafa Says:

My star is not fading. It is in hibernation.


brando Says:

Today is D Day for Milos for me. He’s got to at least put in a performance v nole. He got thumped by Federer at Wimbledon and has not done anything of note in a grand slam at all in his career. And apparently- so north American writer’s tell us- he’s a future grand slam winner: well show your credentials. I don’t think he can beat novak here at all: for that to happen no matter what Novak has to be off his game. That’s Novak’s side of the bargain. Milosevic has to: compete, put in fighting performance, win a set and play solid throughout the match for me to walk away from here with his credentials being genuine. Anything less- ie 3 set loss- would just shows he’s all media hype. He’s gotta step up: saying he’s young and Novak is in his prime is a BS excuse since Nadal-Federer showed: if your good enough, your age don’t mean anything regardless of how great the opponent is. There is no hinderance if you do have the goods. So today he’s got to show something: he does not need to win to prove a point, but show some fight, win a set, make Novak work hard for the win. Show something tactical scope beyond serve and hit hard if the ball returns. The top players have routinely made him look one dimensional when they have met him: if he’s the genuine deal he just cannot allow that to happen again today.


brando Says:

Kei v stanimal: the most 50/50 matchup in the event and probably on tour between top players today. There is no favourite nor a player with the edge. The winner- I guess (cop out call)- will be the one who rides his momentum for the longest period in the match.for example, dimitrov had his chances v Andy. There was a real opportunity for him to win. But typically he did not make it count. Whoever wins this one will likely be the one who rides momentum to the fullest. Flip of a coin match.


Wog Boy Says:

What a match, good on Keys, got injured, was broken twice in the last set just to come back and win against Venus. She went fir her shots and it paid off. Big big heart this girl has.

BTW, I watched her in Sydney when she retired against Pironkova, and she hits the ball very clean and mighty hard.


jane Says:

congrats to madison keys; unfortunately i missed that match. this serena vs cibulkova one is rather boring.


pogi Says:

i will bet on the Robotron (Milos) for today…
Djokovic might be last casualty of the trend after Fed and Nadal…


jane Says:

is this another one of those…can anyone stop serena? seems like it.


Wog Boy Says:

jane, it was very interesting match, they just compared speed of Keys ground strokes and Serena’s, would you believe that Key’s ground strokes are 122km/h on average and Serena’s 110km/h!!
I knew she hits very hard, I was standing almost next to her in Sydney, but to be faster than Serena for 12km/h, that’s big. In serving departament they are much the same, but I still can’t give Keys more than 30-35% chances to beat Serena.


Okiegal Says:

Madison’s thigh is in question. Hope she get it into better shape for the SF. Serena was on fire tonight….extremely focused!! She has a bad cold to boot. Hope she is feeling better by semi time too.


jane Says:

stan is hitting hard so far…up a break on kei.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Amazing tennis from Kei and Stan.
Regarding this article, I don’t think Rafa’s star is in decline at all, or at least its too early to know. I do think that Rafa and Novak now have to face real threats in Stan and Kei, and POSSIBLY Cilic, so there is new danger out there for everyone.
Stan and Kei are playing real championship tennis here right now.


Michael Says:

It is very tough to predict the outcome in Stan Vs Nishikori match. Both are playing fabulous Tennis at the moment and match each other well. Therefore, to pick one over another is a dicey proposition and a virtual nightmare for those making the prediction. But, my gut sense tells me that Wawarinka will enjoy a very slight edge in this match and might eventually win. This match might go the distance and Wawarinka would ultimately prevail. But, still there is everything to play for and Nishikori too can fancy his chances. So, there is a lot to look forward for in this match with curiosity and bated breath.

As regards Novak Vs Raonic, I have to go with Sean. Raonic with his fiery and lethal serve might make things a bit hard for Novak, but the best returner in the World would have answers for it.


jane Says:

stan’s a smidgen better thus far. double the winners and more first serves in too. he hasn’t faced a break point yet either. they’re on serve in the second, though just now it’s 15-30 on key’s serve.


jane Says:

stan’s backhand is SMOKIN’!


kjb Says:

I wish I could hit a backhand like Stan…


Margot Says:

It looks far too hot to play tennis and Kei looks as if he’s sorry he turned up – hot’n bothered, lethargic, slow. Whereas Beefy is cooking in the heat.
Well done Maddy btw!


the DA Says:

I want whatever Stan had for breakfast. He’s making Kei look like a novice at times. I guess that near miss with GGL woke him up. I can’t for the life of me understand why Kei keeps hitting to Stan’s BH. It’s en fuego – stop it.


jane Says:

stan is in the zone. everything is working but especially his serve and his backhand. both are unbeatable. the commentators are saying that his serve was nowhere near these numbers in previous rounds, so either he was holding back and just playing as well as he needed to to get by, or, as you say the DA, he “woke up” last round and raised his level. anyhow, atm, he looks unbeatable.


jane Says:

doh, and just like that kei is pushing to break back. ha ha.

do you know the temp margot? during serena’s match, they were saying it’s much cooler than normal in melbourne.


the DA Says:

He’s still getting treatment on his serving arm. Whatever it is, it’s working. Knowing Kei, this is when he’ll mount the comeback ;)
But this is pretty ominous for Nole – I know he has to get through Raonic but I’d be shocked if he didn’t.


jane Says:

it’s ominous for anyone if stan can maintain this level! he’s looking every bit the champion.


the DA Says:

What did I say? Kei breaks. haha The comeback commences.


the DA Says:

Or maybe not. I think I’ll give up on the commentary. Maybe I’ll get some rest before the Nole-Raonic match later.


Wog Boy Says:

It 24 degrees, not hot at all, everything is working well for Stan and Nishikori is just playing in to Stan’s hands, giving him angles and low balls.


jane Says:

some people on twitter are saying that too, wog boy, that kei is hitting right into stan’s wheelhouse.


Margot Says:

@jane
No I don’t know temp, just judging by the sweating levels! To us poor Brits anything over 18c is way way 2 hot!
@DA
I cannot understand either, why Kei is “targetting” Beefy’s backhand. Does he think it will br8 down? Does he think he is playing the other Swiss?
*innocent face*


Wog Boy Says:

That is excatly right jane. I don’t think about Stan right now, Nishikori is goner, I am more worried about Rainic.


the DA Says:

@Margot – hehe, naughty. It’s baffling why Kei keeps hitting there. Stan’s FH is much more prone to break down, especially if he has to hit it on the run. Chang must be muttering.


jane Says:

lol, margot. then 24 is too hot. :)

looking like tiebreak to decide whether the match ends here…


jane Says:

wog boy, i won’t be able to watch; too late. unless by chance i happen to wake up… but yeah it’s nerve wracking to watch “big server” matches. and milos is slowly improving and rounding out his game too.


skeezer Says:

Wow, Wawa has backed up last years run at AO with another great run this year. Congrats to the Swiss making it to the Semi’s again.


skeezer Says:

Sean lost out on prediction one….we’ll he go 2 for 2?


Margot Says:

Beefy looked awesome, but tbh Kei was so poor by his standards and awful shot selection including a drop at a really crucial point in the tie? No way hose!
BTW gonna quickly tell you all, at this moment in time I am joint second IN WHOLE bracket challenge.
Very quickly telling you, cos I picked Kei over Beefy and my standing is about to sink like a stone…. A very brief moment of glory indeedy ;)


Emily Says:

I thought Stan was holding back in his press conferences, but I didn’t think that was the case on the court as well. I believed Stan was going to win, but not in straight sets.

He came out confident and showed that he still has that game we all saw a year ago. His serving was on point and the backhand was working like a charm. Allez Stan!


gannu Says:

sean should stop predicting..
horribly wrong and downright embarrassing

better to analyse and stop at that
rather than predicting who will win


Michael Says:

Well I did pick Stan over Kei disagreeing with Sean. But the manner of his victory was a definite surprise for me. I expected a far tougher match with Stan ending up eventually as the winner. So my prediction is half way right. However, with the way Stan is playing it should already be giving goose bumps to Novak who was out done by the same player last year. Ofcourse, Novak is still not through as he has to still get past Raonic. But, I feel he will get through to face his toughest test in the Semis. If that happenes, it would be a 50:50 match and in my opinion Stan might enjoy a slight edge with the way he is playing at the moment. He has great confidence in himself and the fast Australian Court seem to be helping his game to a greater measure than even last year. So, we can anticipate a cracker of a match with fire works if these two Gladiators face each other.


sienna Says:

gannu LOL
even when he picks the winner, he makes aan mess explaining how the match will evolve.

No insight


jane Says:

sean got murray right yesterday, and rafa wrong. sean got stan wrong today… i won’t say anything else for fear of jinxes.

carole bouchard was wondering about kei’s footwork; she thought it was off and wondering if he looked heavier, more weight in the legs. i didn’t notice but maybe others did.


Wog Boy Says:

jane,

:))

As for Kei, he just wasn’t there since first brake, his body language was bad, his footwork nowhere to be seen, the balls were falling midcourt giving Stan chance just execute and even then Stan almost chocked in TB, as much as Stan was playing well Kei made him look greater, but good on Stan, Kei was there for taking.


pogi Says:

infairness to Sean, he’s just picking

pick – to select or to choose

prediction- may be a statement that probable outcome is expected


jane Says:

that’s true pogi: good distinction.

wog boy, “enjoy” the match; if i wake up i’ll peek for sure. (ajde nole! stay calm…)


Wog Boy Says:

“enjoy”, you can’t be more right about me watching Nole.


Margot Says:

Go Nole!


Giles Says:

Joker looks as if he is a bit ill. Does anyone else see this?


Okiegal Says:

Who will draw first blood?


mat4 Says:

A bit of luck for Novak, who doesn’t play well.


mat4 Says:

Easier to watch, now.


Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 @6.55pm January 27th,if that was about me i left you are post on the other thread,i dont know if you read it,if she was the only Rafafan on that particular forum then the poor girl will most probably be bullied away anyway as shes on a hiding to nothing?
As for the doping issue,then fair enough you have a valid point,but IMO as ive said before i dont think any player is above suspicion,Rafas injuries,Rogers amazing career,Novaks amazing season 2011 that came from nowhere,Andys surgery ete etc????but a topic best saved for another day i wouldve thought?
As for predictions i dont have an issue with them,its when other posters state their own as bona fide facts with a get real quote afterwards,like they believe all of a sudden they are nostradamus or something.
Anyway im not posting as much anymore,these were just a few thoughts,after reading some of your posts,over and out….


Hippy Chick Says:

^Meant to add,has i ever occured to people that when it comes to Rafa,that people might actually be a fan of his tennis,i really get sick and tired when women get put on that pedestal?^….


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

The post was left for Brando, not for you. Come on, you have to know that I wouldn’t write something like that if I knew you were there just of respect for you.


mat4 Says:

Amyway, we already have discussed about that specific topic a few years ago, expressing the same fears and the same suspicions. So, no, it wasn’t about you, my dear ethereal friend.


Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 thanks and fair enough,but i do stand by what ive said in both my posts….


mat4 Says:

Didn’t see them.


Hippy Chick Says:

Ethereal friend ah sweet,thanks Mat4 :-D….


Giles Says:

Raonic making joker look good. As I said on a few occasions Raonic is rubbish!


Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 4.53 and 4.57am above yours,although i left some on the Rafa/Murray ahead thread,anyway ive made my point….


mat4 Says:

I read those in the Rafa/Murray thread. Of course, there are no blogs with only one rafan. And, even if I were serious, the comment wouldn’t be nor sexist, nor ageist, if true.

I’ll try to find the others after that match.


Michael Says:

Contrary to the expectations of intense matches, all the four quarter finals have ended up as tame straight set affairs (the ongoing one between Novak Vs Raonic too is likely to end in a similar fashion with Novak leading 2 sets to love and a break up in the third). This was largely unexpected as the World’s creamy top were battling it out and some high drama action was anticipated. But, those high expectations were largely belied due to lack of intense contests. Hope this would be compensated adequately in the Semi finals and finals which should produce quality marathon matches keeping the spectators in the edge of their seats.


Hippy Chick Says:

Alright Mat4,anyway Novak looks very good….


mat4 Says:

I see. You mean the posts you made here. Of course I read them. I just repeat — it was a joke. And this is a fan blog — we write our own articles. Nobody gets bullied, and people are extremely nice toward each other, even when we disagree.

And there isn’t only one rafan, I repeat, since the blog is open to anybody.

About the doping issue, I do thing that we should talk about it. In Rafa’s case, it’s just another brick in the wall…


Giles Says:

Hoping Wawa knocks you know who’s block off!


mat4 Says:

I do thinK…


mat4 Says:

Novak doesn’t look good. He is out of rhythm, and I think that Stan is the favourite in the semi.


Wog Boy Says:

This was the way to beat Raonic, stay focused, protect your serve and wait for your chance, soon or later Raonic will drop his serving level and

Margot thanks, you gave Nole extra energy…and little Stefan with “ajde tatice”.

mat4, I think this was very good performance by Nole, focus focus focus, is a key word.


Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 i am just over sensitive at times….


mat4 Says:

@WB:

You know that Novak need some rallies to find his shots… And, unfortunately, he had almost none in the last two matches, a just a few against Verdasco.

@Al.:

To be sensitive should be a virtue. But in this ugly world, it is a heavy burden.


Wog Boy Says:

mat4, I know, you are right about that and is why he was so frustrated agsinst Muller, tonight he had few rallies, wasn’t as bad as with Muller. I am just watching his presso.


mat4 Says:

He played a bit better than against Muller. Where Novak has improved his game in the last year is the serve and the serve/first shot combo, where he is very efficient.

Then, in the second and third set, he made 5, then only 3 UE. It would be quite impressive if Milos didn’t play and — especially — returned so badly.


Wog Boy Says:

Ok, one thing Nole just said and he is right ” there is pressure on me but also on Stan, he is defending champion”.


mat4 Says:

If Novak plays the way he did at the WTF, he has a very good chance. Anyway, he is the no1.


Wog Boy Says:

Keep in mind that Znole never played against Muller before, he is lefty and has really nasty sliding serves that are running away from you. His only plan was to serve snd hope Nole will drop his level and get iritated, what actually almost happened.

Verdasko (lefty) and Milos have bombs, which Nole prefers, Stan is the same.


Wog Boy Says:

mat4, put it this way, whatever happens, Nole is in SF, which is good, I was worried that he will be third to fall, but wasn’t to be:)


mat4 Says:

WB:

Listen, to quote Rafa: let’s be humble. Novak’s career has already been great, and everything know is a bonus. He is in the semi for the 25th time, he plays well overall, and just let’s hope it will continue a few years more. I would like to see him play at 34, like Fed does.


Wog Boy Says:

mat4, agree but I am not sure I would like to watch him another six years, but my GP would like;)


Daniel Says:

Wow, Did not see this score for Wawa. Djoko against Raonic was expected.

Still think Djoko is favorite against Wawrinka. Wawrinka only got last year victory over Novak and will have pressure on him, as Djoko said, both will.Pus by the comments Kei was playing just the way Wawa liked.

Even if Djoko is not match sharped playing two servers in a row, once the baseline exchanges began he will find his groove. Think he will win in 4.

But really nice to see that the players who lost fewer sets are through. Djoko and Berdych haven’t lost a single set, Murray 1 and Wawa 1, impressive stuff from this 4.


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

I finally understood the nature of your comments, and which commentary of mine you referred to (“sexist, ageist, “tennist”)…

The misunderstanding occurred because I also made nasty allegations about the biological passeport — and I thought you were answering to that…

But, in fact, it wasn’t at all a joke. Right now, in my homeland, the freedom of expression is eradicated in the name of the “freedom of expression”, and I am very sensitive about it. A fairly innocent joke becomes something punishable, “sexist” (so I shouldn’t comment on girls), “ageist” (come on, so now you can’t comment or joke on the naivety and foolishness of young people). Censorship is right at the corner, and there is way to much censorship already.

It is a very delicate and complicated question.


Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 its all good, as i say im quite sensitive as ive suffered with depression,and can often get hold of the wrong end of the stick,and therefore sometimes go off on a rant,my apologies as i didnt mean to offend….


brando Says:

Congrats to Novak but milos spanked again in a major grand slam match is telling. For me not a contender.


brando Says:

Wawrinka has done well to play he has this event. Fair play to him: he’s defending his title with fight.


Emily Says:

So happy for Stan since only Darren Cahill predicted he would win (Brad Gilbert said Kei in straight sets). As soon as I saw the draw, I checked to see if Stan and Novak were seeded to meet each other since it wouldn’t be an AO w/o that match-up and this time, it’s bigger stakes than ever.

Stan will need to bring his best game and the confidence he used last year to get over the finish line. He’s definitely the underdog and he’ll need to play even better then yesterday, so I’m hoping he comes out swinging and mixing up his serve.

Never understood why nobody thought the defending champion would have a chance to win again. They even asked him in the press conference why he’s playing so well and he just answered “Why not”? Give him a little credit, whether he wins tomorrow or not.


martins take Says:

Gotta go out on a limb and give Stan Wawrinka a slight edge to prevail over Djoker in their semi shootout. Stan is hitting the ball as hard off the backhand side as humanly possible with a single-hand backhand, but he can finesse it as well. Should be a fascinating match.
https://martinstake128.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/stan-the-man-can/


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

It’s ok. No hard feelings, as I wrote. And depression? I know all about it. I have been depressive for 25 years already.

Come on, then, you know I can’t be angry at jane, WB, skeez, and you. We’re here already for ever plus one day.


Mr. Larvey Says:

I’m extremely happy for Stan. What a great match. And he is really making the statement that last year was no fluke. His serve was amazing today. Espcially in the breaker.

Overall great SF pairs! Clearly the four best guys left in the draw. In my mind both SFs can go either way. Of course Murray and Djoker are the favourites – at least in my book, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we have Wawa-Birdy final.

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