Sunday 22 January 2017

Australian Open 2017 : 4th round predictions

Since Roger Federer decided to take the latter part of 2016 off, I have taken no interest in tennis whatsoever! I now doubt whether I love tennis or is it just Roger Federer. Don't know what I'll do when he retires. But that's a discussion for some other time, for he is back playing some good tennis, even showing flashes of brilliance at times, and there is a lot to look forward to in 2017.

With my rejuvenated interest in the tennis world, also comes my habit of speculating who will make it to the next stage of a slam, and who would falter. With the last 15 matches to go in this year's Australian Open in the men's draw, and the king of Melbourne, Novak Djokovic ousted in the second round, anything can happen in the coming few days. 
The new world number 1, Andy Murray, is the favourite to go all the way, but there are former champions such as Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal still alive in the competition, posing a threat to Murray. Then there are a few dark horses as well, in the form of world number 3, Milos Raonic, and the in-form Grigor Dimitrov, who are potential land mines for the big guys mentioned above, and are serious contenders to the title.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The winner will have to win 4 more matches and the rankings and reputation can hardly be taken for granted, because one bad match for someone, or a Denis Istomin-like match from a much lower ranked player, can send a great player packing. So let me just focus on the round of 16 matches in this post. So here are my picks and predictions for the next two days.


I haven't seen Mischa Zverev play before. En route to the 4th round, he defeated accomplished players like Garcia Lopez and John Isner, which is pretty commendable. From the statistics, he seems to be a player who comes to the net more than most players nowadays, and is probably not the biggest hitter of the tennis ball, yet has a decent balanced game. I might be awfully wrong though. I feel it doesn't matter much, because on the other side of the court, will be the world number 1, Andy Murray, who is in the form of his life. No matter what he throws at Murray, he will come out disappointed.



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This is by far the most mouth watering contest of the 4th round. This could easily have been a semifinal for crying out loud! I am having a tough time trying to imagine what this match might offer. Either Federer might steamroll Kei (not as easily as he did with Berdych though) by conjuring some tactical brilliance like only he can, or a misfiring baseline play might hand down the advantage right back to Nishikori, I can't say for sure. Important to mention here also is that we cannot yet say that Roger is back to his absolute best; one match cannot be a parameter for a statement like that. I can say though that the shorter Federer keeps the rallies, the better, because unlike Berdych, the Japanese is a great mover on court, and he will absorb everything if Federer tries to move him around too much, and will counter attack lethally. Needless to say, Federer will also need to serve at his best, to make sure that he can confidently put pressure on the Nishikori serve. For Nishikori to win, he will have to work on playing extended rallies, serve well, and keep Federer on the baseline as much as he can. Even before the first round, I felt Nishikori would be a much bigger challenge than Berdych, and I still maintain that. Their first meeting at a slam might go either way, but I will make a bold prediction and say that the 35 year young will outclass the 5th seed in 4 rollercoaster sets

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3

Andreas Seppi's greatest moment in his career came a couple of years ago at this very tournament, where he shocked Roger Federer in the 3rd round. This win shows that Stan cannot afford to take the Italian veteran lightly. This applies more to Wawrinka among other multiple-slam winners, as he has been upset by lesser known players early on in slams more than once. Taking these factors into consideration, it seems like it might go either way. Still, I feel that Wawrinka will blow Seppi away with his power game. Chances are that he might have one bad set, but I am calling 3 sets on this one.



I don't see an upset on this one either, so I'll just keep it short and simple. I say the brute strength of Tsonga will tame the world number 67 in 3 easy sets



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Coming into the bottom half now, this is easily the second-best match-up of the round of 16. Many might put it as a match as tantalising as the Federer Vs Nishikori match, but I wouldn't give it the same status, mainly due to the hugely lopsided head-to-head. Nadal has conquered Monfils in 12 out of the 14 times they have met, last losing to him last way back in 2009. Having said that, this match might be lit up by some Monfils magic here and there, and even though their recent matches have hardly gone the distance, I expect 4, or maybe even 5 sets in this one. But buoyed by his victory over Zverev in 5 sets, it will be very difficult for Monfils to break Nadal's spirit and claim this one.

PREDICTION : RAFAEL NADAL 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2


I actually feel 2017 might be the year when Raonic takes another step forward, and establishes himself as a serious threat in slams by stringing together consistent deep runs in tournaments, and possibly even winning a slam or two. I might be a bit over-ambitious on this call but I like how he has made improvements in his game brick by brick over the last couple of years. I have seen a gradual improvement in Agut's game too, and let's not forget he has come into this round at the expense of the legendary David Ferrer. He might take a set off, but I think Raonic might be a bit too hot for him to handle as of now.

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


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There is nothing much separating these two. Head to head is 4-3 in favour of Goffin, but Thiem has beaten him in 3 of their last 4 encounters. It's one apiece in slams, both going 4 sets. One notable difference is their path to the round of 16. Goffin overcame a 5 setter in the opening round, and since then, hasn't dropped a set. Thiem on the other hand, has come here after three 4-setters. I expect it to be a very close match with 4 tight sets, or maybe 5. I have a feeling Goffin will come out on top in this contest.

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


Denis Istomin pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of all time, beating the 6 time Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic, in the second round. Great to see that he followed it up by beating another seeded player, Pablo Carreno Busta (seeded 30), in 5 sets in the next round. But I feel the in-form Grigor Dimitrov will put an end to Istomin's fairy tale run down under. I see it getting over in three sets. Istomin will fight hard for the most part, but will succumb eventually.


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