Sunday, January 19, 2014

A look into men's 2014 Australian Open 2nd week

The second week of the Australian Open begins with the top half’s round of 16. The most interesting match is probably Roger Federer against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which I analyse later in the text. The winner of that match faces the winner from Andy Murray vs. Stephane Robert match which is probably Murray; Robert got an easy draw as a Lucky Loser but now his luck will end. The other two round-of-16 matches in the top half are Rafael Nadal against Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov against Roberto Bautista-Agut. Nishikori is a dangerous player who has beaten Djokovic and Federer in his career but outside slams. I cannot see Nishikori now beating Nadal in a slam. Bautista-Agut should be a beatable opponent for Dimitrov but Dimitrov may still lack some routine in playing in slams and a loss would not be such a big upset. Still I believe that Dimitrov will win.

Round of 16: [6] Roger Federer vs. [10] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Head-to Head: 9:4)

These two players faced last year in the quarterfinals with Federer winning in five sets. Their other meeting last year was at the French Open quarterfinals when Tsonga won in three sets.

Both players have played well at the Australian Open this year, on the other hand, neither player, especially Federer, has not faced very strong opponents. Still, I believe Federer is playing better than last summer whereas Tsonga’s from may have dropped from last year because he had an injury break in the summer.

The surface is obviously faster than last year, probably medium-paced. Of these two players, Tsonga is usually considered to be the one who benefits more from faster conditions. But I am not sure it is the case this time and in this match-up. Last summer Tsonga beat Federer on slow conditions on Roland Garros’ clay. I think Tsonga’s ground game is nowadays more reliable than Federer’s, so he can win the longer rallies on slower surfaces. Also, the aging Federer is not anymore so fast, so baseline rallies do not suit him so well. But this is not such a slow surface. It is harder to break and easier for the underdog to hang in the set. And in case of a tight set and a tiebreak, I think Federer is calmer during the big points.

I give a slight edge to Federer. I believe his form is good enough to beat Tsonga. He beat Tsonga in Melbourne last year, and I think Tsonga was in a better form last year.


The quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. The bottom half will begin on Tuesday with Ferrer vs. Berdych and Djokovic vs. Wawrinka matches. Especially Djokovic vs. Wawrinka seems very interesting.

Quarterfinal: [3] David Ferrer vs. [7] Tomas Berdych (Head-to-Head: 7:4)

Head-to-Head is favouring Ferrer in this match-up. Last year these players met twice. Ferrer beat Berdych in three sets at the Paris Masters whereas Berdych beat Ferrer in the following week at the World Tour Finals in two sets. Berdych has never reached the semifinal at the Australian Open whereas Ferrer has a good record from the Grand Slam events in the last two years, he has always reached the quarterfinals and semifinals four times, including last year’s Australian Open. But his game is not anymore on the peak level that he showed in 2012, so Berdych has a chance. Berdych is yet to drop a set in this tournament, so I pick him as the winner.

Quarterfinal: [2] Novak Djokovic vs. [8] Stanislas Wawrinka (Head-to-Head: 15:2)

Last year these two players played an unforgettable match on the round of 16. Wawrinka won the first set and was controlling the second set but eventually lost it. Djokovic won the third set but Wawrinka managed to win the fourth set, so the match went into the fifth set which was won by Djokovic. These players had also another great five-setter last year at the US Open. Once again Wawrinka was playing great tennis and won the first and third sets but eventually, Djokovic won the match in five sets. Last year they faced each other also at the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals. Those matches were easier for Djokovic; he won both of them in two sets.

Those Australian and US Open matches showed last year that Wawrinka’s game had all it would have taken to beat Djokovic. He was controlling those matches. But what went wrong? Unfortunately it seems very difficult for him to beat big names; he has horrible Head-to-Head records also against Federer and Nadal. That’s why I am afraid he cannot beat Djokovic also this time. Also, Djokovic has improved his game after last year’s US Open; he has been unbeatable since then. He had no trouble in beating Wawrinka in those two last meetings in 2013.

I cannot see any other result than Djokovic winning. If Wawrinka plays his best tennis, this can be a tough match for Djokovic but with his routine, Djokovic should win.

Top half quarterfinals

Nadal beating Nishikori in the quarterfinal seems very likely and he will face either Dimitrov or Bautista-Agut in the semifinal. Bautista-Agut should have no chance against Nadal but Dimitrov might have. Last year, Dimitrov was playing a tight three-setter against Nadal in Monte Carlo on clay, Nadal’s favourite surface. Eventually he lost it, partly because cramps stated to affect his playing at the end of the third set. But we saw he has potential to beat anybody in the World, he beat Djokovic in Madrid some weeks later. Still, Dimitrov is the clear underdog here; he is No. 22 in the rankings and Nadal the No. 1. And first Dimitrov needs to beat Bautista-Agut on the round of 16.

The other top half quarterfinal will most likely be Murray against Federer or Tsonga. Murray had a back surgery so we cannot expect him to be quite at his best yet. If Federer can beat a well-playing Tsonga, then I think he should be able to beat also Murray. But I am not as sure about Tsonga being able to beat Murray. His Head-to-Head against Murray is horrible 1:8.

Semifinals and the Final

The bottom half semifinal played on Thursday will probably be Djokovic against Ferrer or Berdych. I do not see Ferrer having much of a chance against Djokovic. It has been some time since his last win over Djokovic and he has never beaten Djokovic in a slam. And also Berdych’s chances do not look too good. The Head-to-Head is 15:2 to Djokovic. So Djokovic seems like a clear favourite to the final.

The top half semifinal played on Friday will probably be Nadal against Murray, Federer, or Tsonga. Nadal seems like the favourite in any scenario. Murray had the back surgery and we all know the Federer –Nadal match-up. Tsonga might have most potential to upset Nadal like he did in the 2008 semifinal. But that requires a perfect match from him, and given his inconsistency, I doubt we will see that happening again.

So, the final most likely seems to be Djokovic vs. Nadal. I give the edge to Djokovic. He has played awesome tennis after the US Open last autumn and not lost a match. And he is so great at the Australian Open; he has won the title four times, including last three years. If the final has only Nadal but not Djokovic, then there is a risk of a very one-sided final. I cannot see Wawrinka, Ferrer, or Berdych beating Nadal in a slam final. On the other hand, the top half has also other good players than Nadal, so Djokovic will not have an easy final even if his opponent is not Nadal. If the one surviving from the section of Federer, Tsonga, and Murray can beat Nadal, then he must be in a good form and should be able to challenge also Djokovic unless he is already too tired.

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