For the second straight major, Roger Federer and Andy Murray are again on a semifinal collision course, this time at the Australian Open. The two seemed destined to reprise their rivalry at the US Open, but Tomas Berdych got in the way of that. Now it’s up to a pair of Frenchmen to deny what many of us are hoping to see.
Murray is on the day session against surprising Jeremy Chardy while Federer will returns to the night to face former Australian Open finalist JW Tsonga.
So to my picks…
Andy Murray v. Jeremy Chardy
The little-known Chardy has had a nice run thus far. Some would say a career run. The 25-year-old possesses a decent serve and a big forehand which he used to somehow dismantle Juan Martin Del Potro in the upset of the tournament in the fourth round.
To his credit, Chardy wasn’t done beating the steady Italian veteran Andreas Seppi to reach the quarterfinals. And now he gets two-time Australian Open finalist Murray. And that’s where it ends.
:We grew up around the same time in juniors,” Murray said of his opponent. “Know each other pretty well. The Cincinnati match was disappointing from my side. I normally play quite well against him. But he’s playing good tennis. I mean, he’s had some big wins this week. He serves well. He’s very aggressive off his forehand. His backhand is his weaker side, for sure. He hits a lot of slice, doesn’t come over it too much. He likes to come forward. He can be erratic. But when his game is on, like it’s been the last few rounds, he’s a very tough player to play because he doesn’t give you too much rhythm. And, yeah, he really goes for it.”
Chardy did beat Murray last summer in Cincinnati, but that was after the Scot had a grueling stretch in which he lost to Federer in the Wimbledon final and then won the Olympic gold. So I’ll chalk that loss up to pure exhaustion. It doesn’t count. Sort of.
That win, though, should help Jeremy a little in the mental department, but Murray did beat him in the four earlier meetings pretty easily. And that’s what will happen here. Murray’s too strong right now and coach Lendl won’t let him slip up to a chum like Chardy. Not again.
Murray, though, hasn’t really played anyone worth a lick, so it’s hard to gauge where his game is at. Unfortunately, we probably won’t fully know the answer to that until the semifinals.
The Pick: Murray in three
JW Tsonga v. Roger Federer
This one should be fun! Federer has the big edge in this series leading 9-3. Tsonga did get him twice when Federer choked a 5-1 third set lead in Canada in 2009 and then that two-set collapse at 2011 Wimbledon. Tsonga, of course, plays well at the Australian Open, the site of his lone Grand Slam final back in 2008. And we know what happens when he redlines.
But last year Tsonga was a dud against Top 10 players and even though he beat up on countryman and No. 10 Richard Gasquet, I don’t think he’s where he needs to be mentally to beat the upper crust. Not even with new coach Roger Rasheed. Not yet, at least.
Meanwhile, Federer has been super sharp in this his first event. Remarkably, he hasn’t dropped serve in 57 games, a mark even more impressive when you consider he’s been up against some stiff competition in Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic in recent rounds. And he also beat Nikolay Davydenko after opening with Benoit Paire.
So we know he’s feeling good, confident and battle tested, and I think that should be enough to overcome Tsonga. If Federer can keep serving the way he has and keep Tsonga off balance and in check (don’t let him get on a run), he’ll get through. The crowd support for Roger should also help in what will be for Federer a real test.
The Pick: Federer in four
The Murray match will begin around 11pm ET with Federer at 3:30am for you nightowls. Both matches will be shown live on ESPN in addition to the Serena quarterfinal. Azarenka’s match will be on the Tennis Channel at 7pm ET.
WEDNESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Not Before:12:30 PM
Serena Williams (USA) v. Sloane Stephens (USA)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30 PM Start Time
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
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