Australian Open Day 6 picks, including Nadal vs. Zverev and Dimitrov vs. Gasquet

Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand and Pete Ziebron of Tennis Acumen preview and pick the four best men’s singles matches on Saturday at the Australian Open. Now that Novak Djokovic is gone, Rafael Nadal hopes to avoid the upset bug when he faces Alexander Zverev.

(24) Alexander Zverev vs. (9) Rafael Nadal

Ricky: No one (or at least not Zverev) will soon forget their only previous encounter. At last season’s Indian Wells Masters, Zverev butchered a forehand volley at match point on his own serve at 5-3, 40-30 in the third set. Nadal ended up prevailing 6-7(8), 6-0, 7-5. A best-of-five scenario would seem to be even more advantageous for an established veteran than a 19-year-old, but that may not be the case. Nadal is always a physical question mark, especially on hard courts, and Zverev bounced back nicely from a five-setter with Robin Haase by destroying Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in round two. The German is the prototypical Nadal nemesis: huge serve, big groundstrokes, and a two-handed backhand. Nadal has been solid through two matches, but not to the extent that I’m changing my pre-tournament pick. Zverev in 4: 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(7).

Pete: Nadal comes into this highly-anticipated match without hitting a double-fault in six sets and serving at 70 percent and 80 percent in his respective straight-set victories. As difficult as it is to fathom, the 14-time Grand Slam champion appears to be flying under the radar as a possibility to win his second Australian Open. Zverev had plenty of opportunities to defeat Nadal in their only meeting last March at Indian Wells. He will feel better about his game with his second-round straight-set win over Tiafoe after having to fight back from a two sets to one deficit in the opening round against Haase. Both Nadal and Zverev will vividly recall their encounter in the California desert for different reasons–Nadal for the mental edge that he had at the very end and Zverev for the squandered chance on match point to record a monumental win. Zverev’s failure to win the first time around against Nadal will continue to ring in his head. Nadal in 4: 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

(15) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (18) Richard Gasquet

Ricky: Very little will separate the two competitors in this battle of one-handed backhands that should feature lots of incredible shot-making from the back of the court. Who will get the best of it? Gasquet leads the head-to-head series 5-1 and has been the more impressive through two matches. But Dimitrov won their most recent meeting last fall in Shanghai and is 7-0 this season with a title in Brisbane. The Bulgarian has been riding a wave of momentum since the second half of 2016. This could be the most entertaining match of the tournament other than Denis Istomin vs. Novak Djokovic. Well, that and–of course–Benoit Paire vs. Fabio Fognini. Dimitrov in 5: 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2, 7-5.

Pete: A prime opportunity awaits the winner of Gasquet and Dimitrov, as whoever previals will have an easier than expected passage into the quarterfinals in facing the Denis Istomin vs. Pablo Carreno Busta winner next. Gasquet was sidelined at this time last year, denying him the opportunity to continue his excellent play in majors (semifinals at Wimbledon and quarters at the U.S. Open in 2015). We have been waiting a long time to see if Dimitrov can indeed live up to all of the hype that has accompanied his game. Thus far, one semifinal (Wimbledon 2014) and a quarterfinal (2014 Australian Open) are his best showings.  Gasquet owns a 5-1 head-to-head record, but Dimitrov won most recently last October at the Shanghai Masters. Gasquet’s efficient play through two rounds as well as his confident recognition of a potential deep run make the difference. Gasquet in 4: 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3.

(13) Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (21) David Ferrer

Ricky: Ferrer leads the head-to-head series 2-0, but the previous meetings between the fellow Spaniards and Rio Olympics doubles partners came in 2013. Ferrer, now 34 years old, was still in his prime at that point and Bautista Agut had not yet peaked. The tables have now turned drastically, to the extent that Bautista Agut is will ahead of his countryman in the rankings (14th and 23rd)–and deservedly so. Bautista Agut is undefeated this season, with a title in Chennai and two easy wins so far in Melbourne. Ferrer, on the other hand, hasn’t shown any real signs of ending a slump that began in earnest last year. Bautista Agut in 4: 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.

Pete: Ferrer boasts a 27-6 record at the Australian Open since 2011 and corrected his game in time last round against the young American upstart Ernesto Escobedo to advance. The tennis world is certainly not used to seeing Ferrer with a double-digit seed–especially not a numeral as high as 21, where he entered the draw this year. Bautista Agut has dropped just 13 games in six sets through two matches and generally performs well in the early rounds of majors. Ferrer knows very well that time is–and has been–ticking on his solid career and this recognition, plus his years of success at the Aussie Open, will all play a part in the end result. Ferrer in 4: 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.

(30) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Denis Istomin

Ricky: Almost no one follows up a monumental, career-defining performance with a win in his next match. Sam Querrey managed to do it at Wimbledon last summer, when he stunned Djokovic and then rolled over Nicolas Mahut before falling to Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals. Still, Querrey is an aberration to the rule. And he is also far more proven with far more Grand Slam experience than Istomin. The Uzbek also endured a much greater physical test in his 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 upset of the world No. 2 on Thursday. They played for four hours and 50 minutes–something Istomin did not need heading into a date with a baseline grinder like Carreno Busta who has cruised though two rounds. Istomin will be gone, but he won’t be forgotten. Carreno Busta in 4: 7-6(4), 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

Pete: Istomin stood toe to toe with the great Novak Djokovic for 288 minutes and ultimately defeated the six-Australian Open champion. Winning two tiebreakers, coming back from a two sets to one deficit, hitting just three double-faults in 29 service games…take your pick, Istomin accomplished all of that in advancing to the thrd round to match his best-ever result at this event. Next up is Carreno Busta, who lived up to his No. 30 seeding by winning his first career matches in Melbourne in this, his fourth appearance. The Spaniard swept aside upstart Brit Kyle Edmund with surprising ease and has spent 39 minutes less time on court in his two matches than Istomin had to play in Rod Laver Arena against Djokovic. The veteran Uzbek recognizes that he has quite an opportunity to keep his feel-good story going for a bit longer and will prevail. Istomin in 4: 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

65 Comments on Australian Open Day 6 picks, including Nadal vs. Zverev and Dimitrov vs. Gasquet

  1. Rafa, you da man!!! Vamos!

    Love the snarl at the end of the match. Can’t believe how great Rafa looked at the end.

  2. So proud of our Rafa! Now he needs to rest and focus on Milos!! He is able to beat Milos if he is agressive and serves well! And please Rafa attack Milos on the backhand side! That is his main weakness!

    I thought Rafa served great! As I previously said, Rafa’s body serve is such a beauty! His Fh is gaining speed and precision, so beautiful to watch! And Rafa is in great shape! No physical issues! Please stay that way!

    Vamos Rafa!

  3. Wohho rafa through. Never mustered the courage to see the match as knew it was huge banana skin.

    Hope rafa was good and this 5 setter did not take much out of him ? Hope he has enough in tank for further matches…any thoughts?

  4. I used to have a nickname for Simon: a bloodsucker! He goes under opponent’s skin sucking his blood until he surrendered… ?Too bad Simon is not in good form right now, otherwise he would make a thrilling five-setter out of this…

  5. Hello! It was a very tough match for Rafa. He still has many problems on receiving serve, I am worry about it. He stays too back on the court, and his return is , many times, too short, easy to atack by his opponent.
    Rafa must be more agressive against powerful Raonic. In other way, he will have just a few chances.
    Vamos, Rafa! 🙂

    • Hi, Nic! Welcome! I share your view on Rafa, in fact I said the same thing about the need to be aggressive against Raonic! But what I noticed in thiis match, some of the balls lending short during the long rallies lead to Zverev making an error because it disturbed his rhythm.. Aldo Rafa’s slices even when lending short were very effective!
      Rafa meets Monfils next, not going to be easy as LaMonf is in great form! Will be entertaining mach to watch as long as Rafa wins! ?

    • How can he stand on the baseline for a great server like zverev. Zverev serve was rocking

      Yes some returns landed short but zverev won only 42 percent second serve points and rafa 60 percent

  6. Istomin backed it up!! Yes!! That’s awesome stuff from him to have the stamina after that taxing Djoker battle to take it in five. Great stuff from the Uzbek.

  7. Go Rafa go! Rafa has the toughest quarter. Actually Nole’s quarter is the easiest but he couldn’t capitalize. Did Rafa hit any FH dtl? I watched only the first set and thought Rafa looked ready for a fight. Rafa’s CC FH is fine but he really needs fh dtl too. Anyway for me it is one match at a time.
    AO is lucky with both Rafa and Federer there to hold out hope to their millions of fans. A Fedal final would be like time travel to a magical past. But I do not think Fed is getting past Muzz unless the Scot’s rolled ankle is really bad.

    • I did not see match but saw highlights and saw fh dtl from set 3 onwards

      The cc fh and i/o was great too

      Rafa seemed quick too

      His serve was good too

      He said he made adjustments from 3rd set and started settling and just said to himself don’t care about result go for it and fight

      • Thanks Sanju. Love to hear so many positives about our Rafa. I always watch his body language and its been good this year.
        Zverev is the real deal and I think he will win slams starting 2018 or 19.

    • Agree with Sanju. Fed looked awesome in his last match but Berdych has been playing like crap for a while. The conclusion of the Nishi match is not foregone.
      Fed fans think he is back and are confident he is going to win the whole thing!
      Rafa fans on the other hand are never sure! Our Rafa has always sprung surprises on us, both good and bad!

      • Agree on the rafa fans statement..we all love him and wish him well but always fear he will lose and maybe he has given us reasons to behave this way…however I still feel we should show more faith in Rafa…

        I made a comment few days back that if Federer had drawn zverev he would be picked to beat zverev despite being beaten by him 2 weeks back..however Ricky and many others picked rafa to lose to zverev…

        • Fed used to be favorite at RG despite Rafa’s successes there!
          Both Fed and Nole look invincible as their perfect bodies make it possible for them to play for consecutive seasons at a high level. Both have benefited from weak eras and because of that were able to sustain what appeared to be scary dominance for a long stretch of time.
          After Fed went past his prime, I expected Rafa to dominate but Fed’s decline meant Nole could get past the semi. So Rafa never had a weak era to dominate and also his body keeps letting him down. A good part of his prime has been spent on the sidelines recovering from injury.
          So we Rafa fans are always anxious and uncertain.

      • Berdych hit 26 winners and 14 winners those aren’t even bad stats. Fed just hit 40 winners and 17 unforced errors so that’s why I think Roger will take down kei. Andy will be a huge challenge though.

  8. Fed fans think he is gonna win the whole thing…really ? I don’t think Fed hinself thinks the same…did he not say in his interview post the match not to be surprised with a hiccup…I bet nishikori and Murray and Stan etc have not decided to hand favours to him 🙂 …getting past Murray will be ultra tough for Federer as Murray is high on confidence and is far more match fit than Federer…and that match ain’t getting over in 3 …the longer it goes the worse for Federer. ..

  9. The quality of tennis from Dimitrov right now is truly unbelievable. If Djokovic had made the fourth round, and Dimitrov played like this against him, the Bulgarian would’ve had a terrific shot. He’s got an even better shot now that he will be facing Istomin. Just 15 winners 4 unforced errors in the second set. Great performance from Grigor.

  10. Where are people getting the idea that Fed has an easy draw? In this order- Berdych, Nishikori, Murray, Stan, and then either Rafa or Roanic… Last I checked, that is by far and above the most difficult draw to get through of all time! Please tell me what could be any worse than having to get through Stan, Murray, and then Rafa/Roanic back to back to back?

    • Difficult, certainly. But hardly the most difficult of all time! Even two years ago it would have been a routine slam draw for Federer and one he would have been the massive favorite to go through and win the whole thing. But, while Nish’s health is always a question he is a much improved player. So are Raonic and Stan and even Murray, for that matter. But Fed’s record vs all of them is excellent. The big question is how match tough is he? It is a huge challenge for a 35 yo guy playing his first real tournament after a six month layoff.

  11. Kevin your idea of a good or bad draw is not correct. To win the title you have to get through tough opponents in the quarters, semis and final. What makes a draw easy is having easy earlier rounds with gradually increasing difficulty so that when you meet the formidable players, you are peaking into form and fresh whereas the others maybe tired or injured due to earlier round battles.

    • Thanks for saving me the effort.

      Fedfans like to forget that.

      And Berdych tough? Against fed any time recently?

      Not to mention not having to face Djokovic even if he’s not at his best.

  12. Love rafa’s fighting spirit. Great fight for the win.

    He’s steadily improving and is 80% where he needs to win Australia and rising.

    His body language showing the belief is there.

    Great signs.


  13. I’m a huge fed fan and I’m the first to say Fed got an awesome draw. That’s why I’m actually confident that he can do some real damage here. Five straight against Murray doesn’t lie. And if he plays like he did against Berdych, Nishikori is going down.

    • Fed had easy early round matches. That is where he hit the advantage. That gave him time to work off the rust. Rafa having to face someone like Zverev in the third round is as tough as it gets. But this win was very important for Rafa. It’s not going to get any easier. Monfils is playing great tennis and is not the athletic clown of the past. Rafa will have to continue to play well. One match at a time!

      I said that if Rafa was going to beat Zverev then he would have to dig deep and find something special. That is exactly what happened!

      I don’t think it’s a given that Fed will get past Nishi. Nishi being do injury prone is what has done him in. Murray is not going to let Fed have his way this time.

      • Hey Nny!I heard you’re a very happy human being on earth today because of a certain that true?If so,may i be happy together with u?He he..

        • MA,

          I am exhausted, but very happy! It was tough to get through it, but I am so happy for Rafa.

          He needed this win. I am not saying that it solves everything, but it was a crucial win against a rising young player who is a future slam champion.

          Those who predicted Rafa in five sets, well done! All I knew was that it would be a difficult match. I sensed that Zverev would go the limit and push Rafa. I am so very proud of Rafa for digging deep and finding a way to win. That is the Rafa we know and love!

          Rafa doesn’t have it easier moving forward. I saw some of Monfils/Kohls and this is a very different Monfils that Rafa will face. No easy matches! That’s why Rafa needed to win a challenging five setter the hard way!

          I was privileged to share it with you as we live blogged! You have a great spirit and it is a joy to go through this with you!

          • Hey Nny…he he he…thank u for the nice words Nny!Hey..u’re the 2nd person who thanked me today..Okie on TX just thanked me because i saved her from a heart attack!!he he..Nny,honestly..that’s why i’m here..acted like a crazy person,not only it’s my nature but wanna distract u from the pressure..It worked,isn’t it?he he.. I’m also wanna thank u for putting up with my craziness,it’s awesome to live blogging with u Nny…hey,i got something to cheer u up Nny…

  14. Zverev is young and a newcomer. He is improving all the time and Rafa is not familiar with his game. But Monfils is a veteran so unless Rafa is having a bad day at the office, Rafa should win this.
    Fed said it is easier to play the guys he knows, even the formidable guys, because he knows what to expect. So there are no early surprises.
    Rafa has a great team and I am sure he has the strategies against a known player all worked out. If his body is ok, the match is in the bag.

    • I agree that Rafa knows Monfils and there are no surprises. He did play Zverev last year st IW in a memorable three setter, so he did have some knowledge of his game. But Rafa has more history and familiarity with Monfils.

      I guess what I was saying is that I think this time it may not be as routine or predictable as in the past. Monfils never had the mental toughness that Rafa did. He was entertaining to watch, but lost focus. He is playing more disciplined tennis now. He always had the athleticism and talent, but not the focus and concentration.

      I am taking nothing for granted. But after this win, Rafa should feel confident about his game. I looking forward to the match and am very happy that Rafa is still in the tournament!

  15. I suppose I exaggerated just a little saying Federer’s draw is the most difficult draw ever… 🙂 I do, however, think it’s crazy to say his draw is “easy” or a “cupcake draw”, especially when the guy has been out for six months. Four consecutive top ten players just to get to the final, including two before the quarterfinals, three of which have either recently won a slam or beaten Fed in a slam before… I just don’t see how that’s an “easy” draw.

    Although I was definitely concerned about Zverev for Rafa, I honestly believed that Rafa would come through that one. We all have seen Zverev’s talent and potential, but I felt like he just doesn’t yet have the mental toughness that is required to beat someone of Rafa’s caliber at a slam. I really believe that he can, and quite possibly will, win this tournament. It will obviously not be easy, but I think he is playing at a high enough level to impose his will. Roanic will be a tough ask, but I really believe Rafa can take him out, especially if he can clean up the unforced errors a little. If he can beat Roanic, I would have to pick Rafa to win it all at that point.

    As for Fed, he can obviously beat anybody if he plays at the level he played at against Berdych. I just don’t know if he could sustain that level through Murray, Stan, AND whoever he would theoretically meet in the final. I think we can conclude that Fed certainly has the ability to still win Wimbledon or US Open, but not so sure about this one. Limited match-play and age 35 may prove to be too much for success in Melbourne. That being said, if we got a Fedal final it would be truly amazing, especially since they both are coming back from injury lay-offs.

    I’ve actually been following the discussions on this site for a while now, but always felt a bit intimidated to join in haha! You guys go hard at each other! 🙂

    • Kevin,

      I really appreciated reading your thoughts! Well said! I hope that you don’t feel intimidated and continue to post. We can get intense here at times. Passions run high. But in the end, we do get into some great discussions.

      You should feel welcome here. We need more opinions and perspectives.

      I hope to hear more from you!

    • No worries Kevin. This site is heavily skewed Rafa.

      I picked Fed to win it all and so far so good.

      I think he can get by Murray and should get his 18th as long as Rafa is not in the final which could also happen but I think Zverev-Monfils-Raonic is a tough ask.

      Feds first three rounds were two qualifiers and Berdych which for a 17th seed named fed seemed pretty good. Nishi came in with a suspect knee so I didn’t even think he’d make it.

      No doubt Murray will be a challenge but if Rafa does lose before the final that match will be the virtual final.

      • Fed looks great btw. I said he’d play himself into form and that’s what he’s doing.

        I also meant to say that we need fans of more players here like on tennis-x so yeah welcome. Problem with that site is that the moderator is quite biased.

      • Kevin,
        One poster, who is a Fed-lover, has made huge efforts during a long time to make this site to be dedicated to worship Fed as his beloved & notorious tennis-x is. (I don’t visit tennis-x, I have read what tennis-x-lovers have written on the GS about it and some links they have posted). He welcomes efforts to help him.

        • Kevin please forgive her.

          She only has opinions on other posters but never a single original opinion on tennis.

          She’s quite funny to read once you get used to her. 🙂

          • Kevin, be careful what you believe.
            He is well known for making up stories (aka ‘original opinions’).

            • Kevin has been here less than a day and has already contributed more original opinion on tennis than Augusta. Too funny. 😉

            • Is this really necessary? Must you do this with a new poster?

              Can’t you just be gracious for once and leave this petty crap alone already?

              Unbelievable! This guy is going to be scared off before he gets a chance!

        • Augusta- I know this is hard to believe, but I am a Rafa fan AND a Federer fan! My personal favorite player is Andre Agassi, but he doesn’t play anymore, so I’ve had the luck of being able to just enjoy this “Golden Age” of men’s tennis that we’ve had for the past decade or so. It’s always been interesting to me how a lot of people seem to believe that everyone must specifically be “a ______ fan”, thus making you automatically NOT a fan of the other players… I will say, however, that I am a big fan of underdogs! And Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have actually arguably been underdogs for the past couple seasons, so I have rooted for them a lot in the last few years. I am also a big fan of Nishikori. For me, he has one of the most exciting game to watch (when he’s healthy). In recent years I had definitely rooted less for Djokovic because he was expected to win everything. I think one reason I like to root for Federer is because he reminds me of my man Agassi when HE was 35 and was still managing to contend for titles. And one of the main reasons I root for Rafa is because he has, in my opinion, the biggest heart and desire to fight that we’ve ever seen.

          So, as much as the people on this site seem to want everyone to be either a Rafa fan OR a Federer fan, I’m just not going to play that game. 🙂 It may sound boring and/or cliche, but I try my best to just enjoy the fact that we have gotten to watch arguably the 2 (soon probably 3) greatest tennis players of all time play in the same era… I know, I’m lame! 😉

          • Same dude. Fed is my all time favorite but I would love to see rafa make the final even if it would probably be tougher for fed.

    • Now that Murray is out, Fed’s draw is no longer that tough! Unless Stan (I assume it’s him in the SF) is playing his hard hitting, overpowering and relentless tennis, I think Fed will beat him (and Zverev) to reach the final.

      For Rafa, we shall see how he does vs Monfils. After seeing how Rafa handled big serving and hard hitting Zverev, I feel he’s better prepared for Raonic should they meet. I think over five sets, Rafa can have more time to problem solve on court.

      Rafa played a tentative first set vs Zverev; but, it’s so good to see how he problem solve his way to a win in the end, and that’s why I like Rafa’s tennis, as he plays a thinking game.

      Those with raw power can look to overpower others with their power – big serving and hard hitting – but it’s how one neutralizes their strengths to beat them that’s the thrilling thing to see. Fed beat others through fast pace of his attacking game; Rafa beat others through neutralizing their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses.

      • lucky,

        I think you gave a solid analysis of both Fed’s and Rafa’s prospects. Fed does have it easier now that Murray is out. He was the one I thought would beat Fed and get to the final.

        I don’t know if Stan can do it. He is not yet at his best. He has the power game when he’s on, but I don’t know if he will produce that kind of tennis. Fed will deal with Zverev, who will not be able to take out both Murray and Fed.

        Rafa got a lot out of that match with the other Zverev. I do agree that it was good preparation for Raonic. It is true that a best of five set match gives Rafa more time to problem solve. That was what he did against Zverev. That was good to see!

        One match at a time for Rafa.

  16. Thanks for the welcoming! Now I don’t even know what to make of this tournament with both Murray and Djokovic out before the quarters… A Fedal final seems even more possible now!

  17. Personally Fedal final will be vintage but my prediction is federer Dimitrov final. I think it’s Dimitrov’s time.

    • I think Rafa has a tough road to get there. Monfils is playing some of his best tennis right now, so I think it could be a more challenging match. Then he will be facing Raonic, who is looking good.

      Rafa will get a boost from his win over Zverev. That is what he needed. He had to raise his level of play. You can never count out Rafa completely if he is on his game.

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