The upsets we’ve seen on the women’s tour are now bleeding over into the men’s side. In one of the biggest shockers this decade, last night Stan Wawrinka finally got over on longtime nemesis Novak Djokovic stunning the Serb 9-7 in the fifth in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Djokovic had twice administered soul-crushing 5-set losses to Stan last year, at the Australian Open and against at the US Open, but this time it was Stan who put the wood to the 3-time defending champion by simply doing it better than his more decorated rival.
While Stan revels in his win, deservedly so, the bigger story is the fall of Djokovic. The World No. 2 had played so well, was so full of confidence, had the dream draw and the win streak and came into the event with new coach Boris Becker.
But in that moment he needed to be at his very best he cracked. There’s no other way to put. He just cracked. Watch the replay.
Serving 7-8, 30-30, Djokovic mishandled a shot at the net. Then down matchpoint he inexplicably pulled a serve-and-volley and completely duffed the volley part of the routine.
Was it a panic move? Did Boris influence that decision? Whatever it was, Djokovic wasn’t thinking clearly in that situation and it cost him the match and maybe the title.
That loss leaves the door wide open for any number of players including Roger Federer to take the crown on Sunday. But Rafael Nadal, who plays Grigor Dimitrov, has to be licking his chops.
Now onto to today’s matches….
Rafael Nadal v Grigor Dimitrov
The young Dimitrov has showed some promise in three previous meetings with Nadal (he won a set in each), but this is a best-of-5 format and unless Nadal is struggling in some way, I really don’t see how Dimitrov can win three sets over Rafa in the biggest match thus far of his career.
And I’m also wary of Dimitrov’s body holding up. He’s had issues in the past with some untimely cramping issues and if this match does run long and deep that’s a concern for the 22-year-old.
But I still think it should be a competitive affair. Nadal’s had a strange tournament with niggling injuries like his ankle and blisters so maybe we’ll see more of that today.
And if Grigor continues to serve well, handles that high backhand and gets the crowd going, who knows.
In the end though…
The Pick: Nadal in four
Roger Federer v Andy Murray
What a difference a match makes. After the first week at the Australian Open, Federer looked good but that was against very sub-standard competition. And based on his 2013 dataset, there was little indication Federer could rise up like he did and bomb JW Tsonga the other night.
The win not only sent Federer to the quarterfinals – his 11th straight in Melbourne – but gave those recently suffering Federer faithful some renewed hope that Roger 32 isn’t that much different than Roger 26.
Or heck, maybe they are one in the same!
Well, that’s extreme but I’ll actually buy into this resurgence. I wouldn’t have a week ago but Federer really did look that good on Monday be it the bigger racquet, the Stefan Edberg effect or whatever.
Murray, though, is a completely different animal than Tsonga. Instead of playing at one speed – fast – like Tsonga, Murray will mix it up, change pace, vary his shots and make Federer work more much more than the Frenchman.
And he’s beaten Federer 11 times in 20 tries, and beaten him on the biggest of stages.
That said, I don’t know how well Murray can execute after missing so much time off due to back surgery. That’s my pause here. And in his last match against the unheralded Stephane Robert he blinked. He also had a struggle in the final set against Vincent Millot.
So even though Murray leads the series and comes in as the higher ranked guy, I’m leaning to Federer to pull this one out. If Roger plays like he did against Tsonga – attacks Murray, serves big and is careful with his net approaches (Murray’s a very good passer unlike Tsonga), I think he can get the job done.
Murray though won’t go quietly here. Lendl won’t let him.
The pick: Federer in five
In the women’s draw, today I like Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, but as we’ve seen the last few days there simply are no guarantees in this event.
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