Monday, 23 January 2017

Australian Open 2017 : Quarter final predictions

Oh, what a round of 16 we had! It started off in the most dramatic fashion possible when the unheralded Mischa Zverev shocked the tennis world by knocking out the number one player in the world in four sets. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka expectedly beat their respective opponents, but not without facing stiff resistance from them. Roger Federer continued to put even the 20-something year olds to shame, as he outlasted Kei Nishikori in 5 gruelling sets. All the four bottom half matches went 4 sets. With young guns like Goffin, Dimitrov and Raonic trying to make their mark this year by going deeper into the draw, there still stands a 14-time grand slam champion in the form of Rafael Nadal. All the 8 matches were tightly contested, with 7 of them going 4 sets or more, and the lone 3 setter (Wawrinka vs Seppi) also being decided in 3 tie-breaks.

After all this drama, we now have the last 8 line-up, and the intensity only increases from here. In four out of the last six years, the finals have always featured the eventual champion on all four cases, Novak Djokovic, and on the other end, Andy Murray. In fact, the last time the quarter finals in Melbourne did not feature either of the two, was way back in 2007, when they both lost in the 4th round. Add to it the fact that they are the world number 1 and 2. So quite obviously, their early departure has left the draw wide open. Nothing is certain in the upcoming matches, yet I will try and predict how the matches might pan out, and who might book their places in the last 4.


MISCHA ZVEREV VS [17] ROGER FEDERER


(image courtesy : www.entornointelligente.com)


The 'Zverev' who was supposed to make headlines this year was Alexander. He obviously had a good tournament, losing in 5 sets to former champion, Rafael Nadal. But little did anyone expect that his brother, Mischa, would go one better and defeat the world number 1. He has an unconventional game, if compared to the modern way of playing tennis which is more reliant on a strong, defensive, baseline game. He comes to the net very often (more than 100 times in each of his matches against John Isner and Andy Murray), and has a very conservative, low racquet swing. He has a decent serve to back up his net play too. Will all this be enough to get him another upset win, this time against a 4-time champion here? I think not.
After a slow start, Federer found his groove in his easy victory over Berdych. I feared that he might not be able to maintain that high level of play against Nishikori, who would grind him a lot more than Berdych. But Roger, surprisingly (to me), had a great game against Kei, serving well, firing from both wings, volleying with good effect, and more importantly I feel, looking fitter than his 27 year old opponent, even after 4 hours of tennis. Yes, the unconventional style of Zverev might bother him a little bit, but I think Roger is more than just a great tennis player; he is a great tactician too. His forehand might come in handy to pass Zverev on occasions, and his variety in spin off the backhand wing, might be used to good effect to disrupt Zverev's rhythm. With any match though, serving well will a key for both players. I feel, as with Istomin's match against Grigor, Mischa's fairy tale run will be cut short by some Federer magic.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 6-2,7-6(4), 6-4



[4] STAN WAWRINKA VS [12] JO-WILFRIED TSONGA

I haven't seen much of Tsonga off late, to be honest. No one can deny that he is as dangerous as they come, and he can defeat even the best in the game. The same can be said about Stan too. But the latter part of a slam is where Stan is at his best. He can blow away anyone at that stage, and he has proved it by winning three slams out of nowhere in the last three years. Important to remember also, that this is where it all started for him back in 2014, when he beat world number 1 and 2 (Rafa in the finals, and Djokovic in the quarters, respectively) en route to his maiden grand slam title. Their head to head is pretty even at 4-3 in favour of Stan, but he has beaten Tsonga the last three times they have met. Also, Wawrinka has been in 10 quarter finals out of the last 13 grand slams he has played, winning 7 of them. Tsonga, on the contrary, has made it to the quarters 4 times out of the last 13, and progressed further just once. This shows that even psychologically, Wawrinka will have an edge, as this is, at least recently, a more familiar territory for him. Tsonga will fight, no doubt, but I see Wawrinka advancing to another grand slam semi final, by beating Tsonga in 4 or 5 roller-coaster sets.

PREDICTION : STAN WAWRINKA 6-7(7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3


[9] RAFAEL NADAL VS [3] MILOS RAONIC



(image courtesy : s3.yming.com)


I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but I have a feeling, the outcome of this match will determine the eventual finalist from the bottom half of the draw, which is why I think this is a very important match. Even if that isn't the case, this match will be key in assessing the progress of both Nadal and Raonic, one looking to establish himself as a serious grand slam contender, other looking to re-establish himself as one.
This is a really tough one to predict, as I can't really say where each one stands at the moment. They have never met at a grand slam before, but Nadal has a 6-2 lead in their head to head. Having said that, Milos has defeated Nadal in two of their last three meetings, which might give him some much needed confidence in facing one of the best defenders on tour. Raonic needs to be very solid with his serve, especially in big points, as the experienced Nadal will try and play extended rallies whenever he can get a look in on his serve. Nadal's forehand will need to be on point to take advantage of the opportunities that he gets, and I am certain that the opportunities will be less for either of the players. Whoever plays the big points well on this one, will come out as the winner. Raonic has been knocking on the door for a while now, and this is his moment to shine. I like the improvements in his game, and I think he is ready to win this one and enter the big league once and for all. As far as Nadal is concerned, I like his progress as well, and I genuinely feel that Raonic is one of the very few players who can potentially beat him. I just feel that his slight dip in confidence over the years, and a little bit of inconsistency creeping into his game in the last few years, might hurt him in the big points. But I see a 5 setter written all over this one.


PREDICTION : MILOS RAONIC 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5


[11] DAVID GOFFIN VS [15] GRIGOR DIMITROV

If head to head is anything to go by, then Dimitrov has a clear edge on Goffin with a 4-0 deficit. But 3 out of those victories had come in the challenger circuits way back in 2010. Yet, Grigor is the favourite going into the match, mainly because he is an in-form player, more aggressive of the two, and hence, more favoured to make it to the business end of grand slams. I agree with all of that, but I feel the outcome maybe very different from what people are expecting. Goffin is a more consistent baseliner, with decent counter attacking skills too. While the aggressive Dimitrov can potentially penetrate his defences, and break it down, he will need to keep a check on his errors. I just feel that the Dimitrov forehand is vulnerable to say the least and can leak a lot of errors if put pressure on. If Goffin is consistent and solid with his defence, he can frustrate Grigor and force him to pull the trigger at inopportune moments. I might be wrong, but I'll make a bold call and say that Goffin makes it to his first ever semis by going past Dimitrov in four tight sets

PREDICTION : DAVID GOFFIN 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5)

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