Australian Open R4 preview and pick: Djokovic vs. Fognini

Novak Djokovic is one win away from the Australian Open quarterfinals, perhaps against familiar foe Stanislas Wawrinka. Standing in his way on Sunday, however, is Fabio Fognini.

Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini will be going head-to-head for the seventh time in their careers when they collide in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday afternoon.

Djokovic has won all six of their previous encounters–including three on hard courts–and he is 12-2 in total sets against the Italian. They most recently faced each other last fall in Shanghai, where the Serb cruised 6-3, 6-3. They have never square off at a Grand Slam, although they had a scheduled quarterfinal meeting at Roland Garros in 2011 before Fognini withdrew.

Djokovic’s winning streak (all on hard courts) now stands at 27 dating back to the start of the fall swing. The world No. 2 booked his spot in this match by rolling over Lukas Lacko, Leonardo Mayer, and Denis Istomin in straight sets.

Fognini captured the first two ATP titles of his career last summer (both on clay in Stuttgart and Hamburg) and that propelled him to success on all surfaces. The world No. 16 advanced to quarterfinals in Beijing, Vienna, and Valencia while also progressing two rounds in Shanghai. So far Down Under, Fognini has taken out Alex Bogomolov, Jarkko Nieminen, and Sam Querrey with the loss of only one set.

“He’s a clay court specialist, so that’s where he made his best results,” Djokovic said of Fognini after their respective third-round victories. “But lately he’s been performing really well on hard court. Today he beat Querrey, who is a hard-court specialist; big serve, in form, and Fabio won. I don’t take anything easy.”

It should not, however, be too difficult. A similar match to the favorite’s tilt with Istomin can be expected; plenty of flair from a shot-making underdog at times, but in the end nothing more than straightforward stuff for Djokovic.

Pick: Djokovic in 3 losing 11-13 games

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