No offense to Roger Federer, but what a quarterfinal lineup at the Australian Open these next two days. We have seven of the top eight players in the world still alive, the only casualty being Federer who just had one of those “senior days” in his loss to Seppi – there will be more of those ahead. The Swiss’s spot goes to the electric 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios who will have to face Andy Murray tonight.
Up first though is former champ Rafael Nadal against Tomas Berdych. So to my picks…
Rafael Nadal v Tomas Berdych
Yeah, yeah. Tomas Berdych has never played this good. He hasn’t dropped a set. Hasn’t missed a ball. He looks great. Says he’s playing better now than when he reached the Wimbledon final (where he lost to Rafa). He has a new team. Newly engaged.
Whatever. I’m not buying in. Sorry, Tomas: You have lost 17 STRAIGHT matches to Nadal. So I don’t care if you come out in a superman cape and a machine gun, I can’t pick you to take out Rafa. Not until you actually do it. That simple.
Yes, Berdych has a great game that matches up well with Rafa – big power, decent backhand, hits flat. Though movement is an issue. But the biggest problem is between the ears. And I just don’t think he has the mettle nor the belief to pull off the big win. Something will go wrong. The wind might whip up. He’ll miss a volley or he’ll get a bad line call. Just something.
That said, Nadal, though, definitely has some issues with confidence. But he also seems to be working them out nicely. Since that Tim Smyczek escape, his stomach bug has vanished and he just whipped a big man Berdych-clone in Kevin Anderson, so that should make him feel a lot better. And it’s week two, so…
The pick: Nadal in four
Andy Murray v Nick Kyrgios
The story of the men’s event so far has been continued rise of Nick Kyrgios. The 19-year-old has won two 5-set matches including an 0-2 comeback over Andreas Seppi the other night. It’s astonishing what this kid can do. He’s got a huge game, moves well and has the moxie and flair you just can’t teach. Remember how he beat Nadal at Wimbledon?
My guess is in a 3-4 years when he becomes a steady Top 5 player he’s going to be one of the polarizing guys on the tour, much like Roger, Rafa or Agassi.
Now that I think about, if Agassi and Sampras were put in a blender, Nick would come out!
But that’s down the road because tomorrow night Andy Murray is going to give him an old-school lesson. Thats’s right. I figure the Scot will make him hit a lot of balls, watch him run side-to-side and up-and-back and eventually wear him down. The Rod Laver crowd will be juiced for their new star but that should bother Andy.
Murray’s fit. Kyrgios isn’t.
After an emotional week and some taxing tennis, I can’t see Kyrgios authoring another stunner. I just can’t. He has to be spent. And Murray – as we saw in his thrilling win over Grigor Dimitrov – is all business right now.
With Federer out, Nadal perhaps not in top form, he’s got to smell the blood, the opportunity. Kyrgios will have his time – and heck, he might even have a better career than Murray – but right now it’s Andy.
The pick: Murray in three
As for the women quarters, which is pretty good as well, I think Halep wins in straights and I also like Sharapova today in straights over Bouchard.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00am Start Time
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
Not Before: 12:30pm
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Not Before: 7:15pm
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
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