Eight time Champion Novak Djokovic, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal stay in contention for another showdown in the final next Sunday as they have been joined by the U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev as the NextGen players finally appear set for a change in the guard.
The eight time Champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia who is defending the title he first won in 2008, overcame an injury crisis as he squandered a two set deficit against the American Taylor Fritz before advancing in three hours and twenty five minutes with a 7-6(1),6-4,3-6,4-6,6-2. Nadal, the 2009 champion, kept alive his hopes of becoming the only player in Open Era to claim all four majors twice after a 7-5,6-2,7-5 win over left handed Briton Cameron Norrie in the final match to wrap up the Round of 32 action at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic suffered a tear while sustaining a fall in the third set against the 27th seeded American in a match that saw the crowds being ejected out of the Arena midway through the fourth set at Victoria entered a five day lockdown at Midnight on Friday. The second seeded Spaniard was tested by Norrie whose only claim to fame was in a Davis Cup tie against Spain in which he rallied to beat Roberto Bautista Agut after trailing by two sets.
In what was by far the most eagerly awaited encounter of the tournament, last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem fell two sets behind to the talented but controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios in front of a raucous crowd on the Rod Laver Arena. Thiem, who had rallied from two sets down to claim his only major crown in New York last September, showed great poise and character as he completed a 4-6,4-6,6-3,6-4,6-4 win and now faces the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who advanced after his opponent Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain retired trailing 0-6,0-1.
Fourth seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia squandered a two sets lead against Fillip Krajinovic of Serbia before finishing strongly in his 6-3,6-3,4-6,3-6,6-0 win on Saturday. Medvedev, who won the World Tour Final in London in November next plays the American Mackenzie McDonald who was a 7-6(7),6-1,6-4 winner over the South African Lloyd Harris.
Fifth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas who had needed five sets to beat the local hope Thanassi Kokkinakis overpowered the Swede Mikael Ymer 6-4,6-1,6-1. Also advancing are the ninth seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini who won 7-6(1),7-6(5),7-6(5) against the Russian Karen Khachanov, while the sixteenth seeded Fabio Fognini triumphed 6-4,6-3,6-4 against the Australian Alex De Minaur to set up a fourth round meeting with Rafael Nadal on Monday.
The German Alexander Zverev and the Russian Andrey Rublev had easy straight sets wins against the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and the Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. Falling by the wayside was the eighth seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman who had a shockingly one sided 3-6,3-6,3-6 loss to the Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
Showing a welcome return to firm is the former world number three Milos Raonic of Canada who ended the run of the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 7-6(2),5-7,6-2,6-2 as he joins another Canadian Felix Auger-Alliasime who beat the highest ranked fellow countryman Denis Shapovalov, seeded ninth, 7-5,7-5,6-3. The remaining two spots have been claimed by Norway’s Casper Ruud, a 6-1,5-7,6-4,6-4 winner over Radu Albot of Moldova, and Dusan Lajovic of Croatia. The 23rd seeded Lajovic was a 6-7(6),7-5,6-1,6-4 winner over Pedro Martinez of Spain.
The following is the line up for the round of sixteen matches with my pick mentioned first :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Milos Raonic (14)
Alexander Zverev (6) v. Dusan Lajovic (23)
Dominic Thiem (3) v. Grigor Dimitrov (18)
Felix Auger-Alliasime (20) v. Aslan Karatsev (Q)
Andrey Rublev (7) v. Casper Ruud (24)
Daniil Medvedev (4) v. Mackenzie McDonald (PR)
Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) v. Matteo Berrettini (9)
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Fabio Fognini (16)
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]