Andy Murray will continue his Australian Open campaign on Saturday against Feliciano Lopez. Kei Nishikori and Donald Young are also in search of a spot in the fourth round.
(4) Andy Murray vs. (26) Feliciano Lopez
Who knew Murray would be on any kind of streak going into the third round of the Australian Open? After all, the fourth-ranked Scot did not play another 2013 tournament after last year’s U.S. Open and he got unceremoniously bounced from his return in Doha by Florian Mayer two weeks ago. Murray, though, won a shocking 23 points in a row to end his second-round match in Melbourne against qualifier Vincent Millot. That’s right; the No. 4 seed trailed 5-1, 40-30 in the third set and did not lose another point the entire rest of the way.
Speaking of streaks, Murray is 7-0 lifetime against Lopez, his Saturday opponent. The favorite is 17-2 in overall sets in the head-to-head series, but their most recent encounter was their most competitive. Murray prevailed 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4) in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. At 32 years old, Lopez remains in fine form at No. 27 in the world. He booked his spot in this showdown by dismissing Somdev Devvarman and Michael Berrer in straight sets. Lopez is dangerous when he serves well, but Murray is one of the best returners in the world–which is one easy explanation for their past history against each other. Murray may not be all the way back in peak form, but he is clearly playing well enough to hold off Lopez.
Pick: Murray in 4
Donald Young vs. (16) Kei Nishikori
Occasional doubles partners Young and Nishikori will be squaring off for the second time in their careers at the ATP level on Saturday. They battled early last season on the indoor hard courts of Memphis, where Nishikori cruised 6-3, 6-3 on his way to the title. The world No. 17 kicked off his 2014 campaign with a semifinal performance in Brisbane and he has advanced so far in Melbourne with defeats of Marinko Matosevic and Dusan Lajovic. He needed five tough and somewhat controversial sets to get past Matosevic in round one.
Young is the last American left in the draw following victories over Robin Haase (via fourth-set retirement with Young leading 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-2, 1-0) and Andreas Seppi, the latter via a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 decision. Although he is still ranked down at 91st in the world, this did not come completely out of nowhere for Young as he enjoyed plenty of Challenger success last fall. The underdog actually may have more variety in his game that his opponent, but Nishikori is ruthless from the baseline and should be able to dictate the majority of play and find Young’s backhand more often than not.
Pick: Nishikori in 4