Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand and Pete Ziebron of Tennis Acumen preview and pick the four men’s quarterfinal matches set for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Australian Open. Swiss stars Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer are still alive, and so is Rafael Nadal.
Mischa Zverev vs. (17) Roger Federer
Ricky: This should be an epic showdown between Federer and Andy Murray–much better than when Federer clobbered the Scot 6-0, 6-1 at the World Tour Finals and could have won 6-0, 6-0 but admitted to donating a game out of pity. Oh, wait. Murray lost to Zverev. That’s right. I almost couldn’t believe it for a second. Zverev is someone who actually has gotten double-bageled by Federer (Stuttgart in 2013). Of course, at 29 years old this is a much different player taking the court. The world No. 50 is finally healthy, inspired by his younger brother, and playing the best tennis of his career. His run to the quarters has been incredible. Unfortunately for Zverev, Federer is in full flight with wins already this fortnight over Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori. This will be entertaining, but it will signal the end of Zverev’s feel-good story. Federer in 3: 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Pete: All of the sudden, Federer’s path to the semifinals gets easier after defeating Berdych in the third round and Nishikori in the round of 16. Surprise! In addition to Federer’s 199th and 200th career wins over top 10 players, Zverev successfully chopped down world No. 1 Murray. The 29-year-old is the lone unseeded player left in the draw. Federer, a four-time champion in Melbourne, recorded the only double-bagel victory of his storied career against Zverev in Halle in 2013, but since that time both players have meandered throughout the rankings. Expect Federer to recognize his good fortune in not having to play Murray and capitalize on it quickly. Although this match will not be nearly as efficient of his dismantling of Berdych, the Swiss will win in straight sets in a little over two hours. Federer 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
(4) Stan Wawrinka vs. (12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Ricky: Wawrinka has been far from dominant, but–as usual–he continues to get better and better as the matches become bigger and bigger. In other words, there is no more messing around like he did in a five-set first-rounder against Martin Klizan. Tsonga has mostly cruised and he is coming off four-set wins over in-form opponents Jack Sock and Dan Evans. Both of these veterans have a history of success Down Under, but Tsonga’ best effort came back in 2008 (runner-up). Since that time, Wawrinka has a title (2014), a semifinal, and a quarterfinal. It’s simply not wise to pick against him in Melbourne versus anyone other than Novak Djokovic, Murray, and maybe Federer. Wawrinka in 4: 6-2, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4.
Pete: The Australian Open is where it all started for Stan (then Stanislas) Wawrinka, who won the first of his three majors at this event in 2014. Since that time, Wawrinka has continued to be a threat at slams–seemingly getting stronger as he progresses deeper into the draw. Tsonga recorded his best-ever Grand Slam result when he reached the Aussie final in 2008. Wawrinka has won four of their seven duels, but this marks just the second meeting between the Swiss and the Frenchman. Thus far in the tournament, Wawrinka is a perfect 4-0 in tiebreakers while Tsonga has won just one of the four ‘breakers he has played. This may very well be an important statistic, as many expect the match to be tight. Stan’s beautiful backhand will be on full display again and again in this encounter as he proves to be too good for Tsonga. Wawrinka in 4: 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).
(9) Rafael Nadal vs. (3) Milos Raonic
Ricky: I see only two remaining roadblocks to what would be stunningly delightful Federer vs. Nadal Australian Open final–eight years after the last one. One is Wawrinka vs. Federer in a potential semifinal. The other is Raonic vs. Nadal. Nadal prevailed in three sets at the Abu Dhabi event last month, but that didn’t really matter. A more important–and official–match came less than three weeks ago in Brisbane, where Raonic got the job done 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. This is not exactly earth-shattering analysis, but I think the Canadian’s serve will be too much in this one. Nadal cannot afford any lapses in his own service games, and although he is playing well, he isn’t playing quite cleanly enough to go through a whole best-of-five match with Raonic getting broken only one or two times. After all, Raonic has dramatically improved his all-court game. Raonic in 5: 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3.
Pete: Despite the fact that Nadal holds a lopsided 6-2 head-to-head advantage in this series, Raonic has won two of the last three battles–including a three-set win earlier this month in Brisbane. Raonic’s biggest nemesis of late, Murray, is no longer in the tournament. Even though the Scot was on the other side of the draw, Raonic has most certainly taken note of this fact as he continues to chase his elusive first major. Nadal is still riding the emotions of surviving his impressive five-set win over Alexander Zverev in the third round. He then dispatched Monfils in a match that got a bit tighter than he may have wanted in the third and fourth sets. Nadal is continuing to serve exceptionally well in the tournament and although his is not a powerful serve, it will prove to be tricky for Raonic–who is not feeling 100 percent at the moment. But the Canadian has to recognize and respect the immediate path ahead of him and wills himself to victory. Raonic in 4: 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
(11) David Goffin vs. (15) Grigor Dimitrov
Ricky: This was supposed to be Djokovic vs. someone. Anyone. But it isn’t. Denis Istomin dashed Djokovic’s hopes for a sixth Australian title with a second-round upset and the Uzbek won another match after that before succumbing to Dimitrov in four sets on Monday. Istomin almost took a two-set lead but ended up dropping the second and then got hurt. Goffin vs. Dominic Thiem was similar. They split two intriguing sets before Thiem wilted. A Grand Slam semifinal at this point in time seems to be a natural progression for the 11th-ranked Belgian. He reached back-to-back semis in Indian Wells and Miami last spring before making a run to the French Open quarters. This is at 50-50 as it gets. I’ll take Goffin to be ever-so-slightly tougher from a mental standpoint in the latter stages of a five-set battle. Goffin in 5: 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-2, 9-7.
Pete: Dimitrov may very well be the hottest player in the tournament, sporting a perfect 8-0 record in 2017. Despite losing two lopsided opening sets in his first four matches, he immediately corrected course and now finds himself in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second time in his career. More importantly, he has conserved energy with his longest match in the tournament clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes. Goffin is making just his second career quarterfinal appearance in a major. The Belgian is 21 for 41 on break-point attempts in the tournament and he will need to post a comparable ratio in this match if he plans to advance. Goffin has improved his play on hard courts in impressive fashion, but it will not matter in this match as he is running into a focused, determined and hungry opponent in the 15th-seeded Bulgarian. Dimitrov in 4: 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.