Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem stay on course for a repeat of the Australian Open final but they can expect stiff resistance from NextGen stars if they are to meet on Sunday for the title clash. Both have dropped only one set in three matches, however the Young Guns are ready as they continue their quest for a maiden grand slam winner born after the Nineties.
They have been joined by the last year’s beaten finalist Daniil Medvedev, the German Alexander Zverev, the Italian Matteo Berretini, Frances Tiafoe – the lone American left in the draw, Canada’s Felix Auger-Alliasime and Denis Shapovalov.
The three time champion Djokovic, winner in 2011, 2015 and 2018, restored normal service in the third round against the German Jan-Lennard Struff, two days after dropping his first set of the tournament to the Briton Kyle Edmund. Djokovic was barely pushed in his 6-3,6-3,6-1 win over the 30 year old German, seeded 28th in the rankings. He next takes on Pablo Carreno Busta, a semi-finalist three years ago at the U.S. Open. The Spaniard, seeded 20th who needed five sets to beat Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama in the first round, swept past the journeyman Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-4,6-3,6-2.
In what was a battle of two GenNext stars from neighbouring countries, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov came back from the brink of defeat to beat the American Taylor Fritz 3-6,6-3,4-6,7-6(5),6-2. It will not get any easy for the left handed Shapovalov as he takes on the seventh seeded David Goffin of Belgium, 6-1,7-6(5),6-4 winner over the in-form Fillip Krajinovic of Serbia.
In what was easily the most entertaining match of the tournament, the fourth seeded Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas blew six match points against the Croatian Borna Coric who should little signs of any after effect after testing Covid-19 positive in June. Tsitsipas squandered a 5-1 lead in the fourth set and was up 40-0 on serve in the ninth game as Coric grew in confidence to cause the biggest upset of the tournament to date as he advanced with a 6-7(2),6-4,4-6,7-5,7-6(4). Coric broke serve three times as he reeled of six straight games in the fourth set. Next up is the Australian Jordan Thompson who was a 7-5,6-4,6-1 winner over Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin.
Alexander Zverev, seeded fifth knew only three hours before his match against the Frenchmen Adrian Mannarino that he would require to play his match as there was some drama before the US health Authorities gave the green signal to the Frenchmen whose compatriot Benoit Paire had to withdraw from the Open after testing positive for Covid-19. Zverev prevailed in four sets against the left handed Mannarino 6-7(4),6-4,6-2,6-2. He now faces the little known Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, a 7-6(2),4-6,6-2,6-1 winner over the left handed Briton Cameron Norrie.
In the bottom half of the draw, third seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev ended the hopes of Wildcard American Jeffrey John Wolf, ranked 138th in the world after a 6-3,6-3,6-2 win on the outside courts but will now have his hands full against the lone American left in the draw, Frances Tiafoe. The 22 year old Tiafoe, who also had tested positive for Covid-19 in July, easily accounted for his practice partner Marton Fucsovics in a surprisingly one sided 6-2,6-3,6-2 win. Tiafoe had made his US Open debut three years ago on Arthur Ashe Stadium in a night session match against the five time champion Roger Federer, losing in five sets.
Last year’s semi-finalist Matteo Berretini of Italy continued his impressive run in the tournament as he beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-4,6-4,6-2 and next faces the Russian Andrey Rublev, a 6-0,6-4,6-0 winner over another Italian Salvatore Caruso.
Joining Shapovalov in the last sixteen are two more Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Felix Auger-Alliasime. Pospisil who had earlier beaten countryman Milos Raonic, a former fourth ranked player and the 2016 Wimbledon finalist in five sets, again needed to go the distance against the eighth seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, as he reached the last sixteen after a 7-5,2-6,4-6,6-3,6-2 win. Next up is the Australian Alex De
Minaur who took five sets to upset the eleventh seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 6-4,0-6,4-6,6-3,6-1.
Felix Auger-Alliasime who took out the 2012 champion Andy Murray in the second round had little trouble in dispatching the Frenchman Corentin Moutet 6-1,6-0,6-4. He will play the second seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem who eliminated the 2014 champion Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-2,6-2,3-6,6-3.
The following is the line up for the round of sixteen matches with my pick mentioned first :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (20)
David Goffin (7) v. Denis Shapovalov (12)
Borna Coric (27) v. Jordan Thompson (-)
Alexander Zverev (5) v. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (-)
Matteo Berretini (6) v. Andrey Rublev (10)
Daniil Medvedev (3) v. Frances Tiafoe (-)
Vasek Pospisil (-) v. Alex De Minaur (21)
Dominic Thiem (2) v. Felix Auger-Alliasime (15).
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]