After a first week in Melbourne that went more or less to plan, the script is starting to unravel – to the distaste of a few pre-tournament favourites. The Women’s draw is in tatters with the exit of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to opponents who saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands and then some!
The Men’s draw has been a lot sedate by comparison, though Juan Martin Del Potro may not entirely agree with that. That could start changing as early as today as we start pencilling in the Quarter Finalists of the first slam in 2014. Let us take a look at the matches the Big 3 play on Day 8 of the Australian Open 2014
Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori
Rafael Nadal has been thoroughly dominating in the 7 sets he has played. The tennis world was expecting a brutal match against Monfils in the 3rd round, but Nadal had other plans. He raised his game to top gear and absolutely dismantled Monfils. To get an idea of Nadal’s domination on court, just take a look at this super shot from the night before. It’s going to take something really special to stop Nadal at this tournament and Kei Nishikori will be the man who will have the unenviable task of coming up with that special performance. In all probability, Nadal will repeat the dose he delivered to Monfils, but with Michael Chang in his corner, I expect Nishikori to keep it a lot closer than Monfils did, but I am not really feeling the “special” vibes from Kei.
Prediction: Nadal to get home in 4 sets.
Andy Murray vs Stephane Robert
Andy Murray could not have hand-picked a better set of players to ease himself into the business round. Coming off from an injury could be tricky, but Murray has had a nice road back and today he faces a lucky loser in Stephane Robert. While it could be dangerous to face an opponent who has nothing to lose, I am sure Murray or any top player would gladly accept that scenario rather than facing a seeded player. Murray will gladly accept this gift and make it to the quarter-finals of a slam where he has made 3 finals and a semi-final since 2010.
Prediction: Robert in straight sets? Of Course I am not serious. Murray will breeze through to the Quarters
Roger Federer vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
This is THE match of the tournament to date. Federer and Tsonga have already given us some epic encounters like the quarter-final in Wimbledon 2011 and the quarter-final in this same arena, last year. Neither of these two supreme shot-makers has dropped a set and of course, they are both going to drop the 1st set of this tournament today. The question is who will drop less than 3? My answer is Federer. He has had early exits in his last 2 slams and he does not want to make this 3 slams in a row. To do that, Federer will have to serve well and be aggressive on the returns, in particular the 2nd serves. There are very few players who can rush Federer on a tennis court, but Tsonga is definitely one of them. Needless to say the 1st set will have lethal impact on the result of the match, so both players would like to get that all important first cut! Both of them can rain winners from all parts of the court, so the onus will be to keep the opponent under the gun. If either player breaks free, their games could resemble a freight train on full throttle. On that theme, the Federer Express will just edge this battle of run-away trains.
Prediction: Federer in 4 tough and enthralling sets.
Who have you got, folks? Enjoy Tennis and Life!