The Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon and Steen Kirby of Tennis East Coast preview and pick the best men’s singles matchups on Day 7 of the Australian Open. This is the seventh of 13 installments of expert picks during the season’s first Grand Slam.
(8) Stanislas Wawrinka vs. (17) Tommy Robredo
Ricky: For a traditionally non-Top 10 player (although he has reached such a level at times), Robredo is one of the most consistent Grand Slam performers of all time. The 31-year-old went even further than his normal fourth-round finish at last year’s U.S. Open and he is one win away from reaching another quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Robredo is coming off an upset of Richard Gasquet, in which he did well to finish it off in a fourth-set tiebreaker and avoid an energy-sapping fifth. He is dominating the head-to-head series 6-1 over Wawrinka, whose easy path so far Down Under may backfire on him. He has not been tested and he has not even played a match since Wednesday due to Vasek Pospisil’s withdrawal. Robredo should be able to start fast and gain confidence that will carry him through the entire match. Robredo 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(6).
Steen: This is an interesting matchup in which the head-to-head favors Robredo 6-1 overall and 2-1 on hard courts. But form would have to favor Wawrinka, who has followed up a career year in 2013 with an ATP title and two wins plus a walkover in Melbourne. The Swiss has to be fresh, as Pospisil pulled out with a back injury and in his first-round match Andrey Golubev retired before the end of the second set. After a week that had been plagued by dangerously hot temperatures, Wawinka may be the freshest player left in the draw. Robredo is in good form and has played some great, warrior-like tennis for yet another very solid second-week run in a major. His five-set win against Lukas Rosol was gutsy and finished 8-6 in the fifth set, then he worked his way past solid customer Julian Benneteau in four before upsetting a clearly not 100 percent Gasquet. I do see this one going the distance, but form and freshness favor Wawrinka in that scenario; plus he always plays well in Melbourne. Wawrinka 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
Florian Mayer vs. (3) David Ferrer
Ricky: Mayer is a respectable 3-4 lifetime against Ferrer and he just downed the Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 last fall in Shanghai. However, that result came when Ferrer was playing way too much tennis and had run out of gas at the end of a remarkable season. Their head-to-head history at slams may paint a more accurate picture, with Ferrer having destroyed Mayer in their two previous meetings (2007 and 2011 U.S. Opens). Ferrer has been counted out of late due to his age (31) and relative poor play, but the guy is still one of the fittest players on tour. He can stay out there all day and just keeps on trucking. The world No. 3 looked especially impressive in making quick work of a dangerous Jeremy Chardy on Friday. Mayer is playing well, but a win over Jerzy Janowicz these days should not be overestimated. Ferrer 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Steen: Mayer is the in-form player who has taken the most advantage of this weak section of the draw. The veteran German beat Denis Kudla in straights without much trouble then needed five tough sets against Mikhail Youzhny before dispatching an injured Janowicz.. He truly out-beguiled and out-worked Youzhny, who did not play poorly. For Ferrer, on the other hand, he has wins over Alejandro Gonzalez in straights, Adrian Mannarino in four, and Chardy in straights. All of his opponents have been relatively weak and noncompetitive most of the time. Ferrer continues to show more chinks in his armor than usual, but he hasn’t yet faced an opponent who can exploit that for an entire match. Mayer seems to be the player who can do that, as he has a very competitive head-to-head record against the Spaniard and beat him in Shanghai. Ferrer hasn’t been his usual self for months, and though he is usually a lock in most matches against non-Top 10 players, I’m going with Flo and not even in that difficult of a match. Mayer 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6.
(7) Tomas Berdych vs. (19) Kevin Anderson
Ricky: This is one of the worst matchups in tennis, with Berdych completely dominating the head-to-head series 9-0 and 22-4 in total sets. It’s rapidly approaching Andy Roddick vs. Tommy Robredo levels (11-0). Heck, at this rate it could challenge Ivan Lendl vs. Brad Gilbert (16-0). The problem–an immense one–for Anderson is that Berdych can do everything he can do and Berdych can do all of it better. Anderson has continued to be a solid performer at this event, but he had been mired in a dreadful slump dating back to the end of last summer and he has relied more on guts than great play in Melbourne (the South African staged the first two comebacks from two sets down of his life against Jiri Vesely and Edouard Roger-Vasselin). Berdych, on the other hand, has rolled. Berdych 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4.
Steen: Berdych and Anderson seem to meet in almost every tournament they mutually enter, but Anderson has lost nine times to the Czech–who is simply better at a very similar style of play. They both play heavy, serve-forehand power tennis, but Berdych is more consistent in most facets and has more intangible advantages. Berdych reached the round of 16 without giving up more than four games in a single set, so his form looks great even if his outfit does not. Anderson, meanwhile, had to come from two sets down in his matches against Vesely and Roger-Vasselin, although he did beat Dominic Thiem in straights. Given the heat (now gone) and the long matches, Anderson may well be out of gas. Berdych 7-6, 6-4, 6-3.