Australian Open quarterfinal picks, including Wawrinka vs. Tsonga and Nadal vs. Raonic

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.

42 Comments on Australian Open quarterfinal picks, including Wawrinka vs. Tsonga and Nadal vs. Raonic

  1. Can’t wait to see all 4 of these show-downs…will set the tivo!….I like Fed in 3, Wka in 4, Rafa in 4, and Dtrov in 3.

  2. oops my prediction for the Zverev Fed match came way too late… the Fed is about to win in straight sets…

  3. I think you have to like the improvement of Raonic over the past few years. When your overall game is solidly respectable to go along with a dominant serve, Raonic can win this in 4 sets. Nadal’s intensity and drive will only keep him in so long. It will be tough to break Raonic.

    Federer and Wawrinka won easy (which we expected for Club Fed, but not so much for Stan The Man). Grigor should win a tough match against Goffin. Go Milos!

  4. I know moya knows raonic in and out but he was with Rafa in Brisbane too. It did not seem to help.

    Philloupousis is old now. He won’t have the same power on his serves as Milos. Rafa got good practice against Zverev who has a huge serve himself.

    • Sanju (AT 12:21 PM)

      Moya wasn’t with Rafa in Brisbane. The AO is the first tournament they are together.

  5. Rafa already has played 7 hours in last 2 matches over 9 sets. If this goes to 5 what stamina will he have left for future rounds

    • I understand that this is a different time in his career, but when he won the AO in 2009, he overcame a long, grueling 5-setter in the semifinals to defeat Federer in another tough 5-setter the next day in the final. Again, it’s a different time, but points in this match should be short (not physically demanding). Nadal himself said that if he doesn’t play aggressively, he is “dead”. Also, the next match shouldn’t go to 5 sets if he wins. I’m not worried about his stamina for this match, but grinding with Goffin is dangerous, and Dimitrov on a given day can beat anyone. I like his chances to win it all if he wins today.

        • The court in 2014 was also quick and Rafa came through that one to reach the final. He practically schooled everyone (Monfils, Kei, Fed) except Dimi (whom he lost a set to) on his way to the final then.

          • Nah, Rafa didn’t face a player with that bomb of a serve in 2009.

            I’m talking about Raonic’s serve on a fast court, compared to when Rafa won on a slower court in 2009.

    • Sanju,

      1.If Rafa lost, doesn’t mean Moya’s advice didn’t help. I think having this extra day off to practice and make strategies will help them.

      2. M. Philippoussis still has a BOMB of a serve. Saw his serving in IPTL and he still has a massive one. PLayers don’t lose their serve that quickly. Remember how potent Sampras’s serve was when he played all those exhos against Federer?

      3. Don’t forget that the other equally challenging part of returnign a serve is to manage its trajectory. M. Philippoussis is almost EXACTLY as tall as Raonic so the trajectory of the serve would be kind of identical.

      4. On a practice court, players can generate even more pace on serves but they don’t have to worry about getting them in all the time. Ljubicic once said that Raonic sometimes serves 160 mph plus on practice courts!! SO, I am sure Mark would have sent some huge serves to Rafa.

      This was a very good idea to practice with M.P . I also agree with the strategy of changing the return positioning every now and then.

      • where do you get this info, who trains with whom, i’m unable to find this nowhere, otherwise predictions:
        rafa in 4
        goffin in 4

  6. If Rafa wins this one, he is my favourite to win the title. The semi will be difficult if it is Grigor but Rafa will manage. I will start dreaming about G.slam #15 if he wins tomorrow.

  7. TO me one very very important barometer for Rafa’s baseline game is the pace+depth he gets on his ‘average groundstroke’. That has been an issue so far. He is happy to pull the trigger with his forehand DTL and does so well enough but he has been taking more shots in a rally to do that than he should be taking. Against Raonic, his ‘average forehand’ will need to have more pace and depth. This is crucial esp for the forehand CC. No series of loopy balls around the service box Rafa !

    • Nah, it’s in the Monfils match that he needed more shots in the rally and that’s because Monfils was so quick in retrieving all the shots; also Monfils was the one who hit moonballs after moonballs at Rafa, preventing Rafa from hitting with depth and pace!

      Strange it might sound, but Monfils was the one who slowed down the play intentionally; perhaps Monfils was trying to adopt the Simon style of play when playing against first Djoko (at USO last year) and Rafa now. It’s when he failed to harm Rafa in the first two sets that had him changed his strategy and started hitting so hard that many of his FHs (some BHs too) were > 100mph, making life difficult for Rafa.

      I doubt Raonic is going to hit moon balls at Rafa but Raonic’s shots could be huge like Monfils; so Rafa has to move the giant around and not give him the comfort to hit those shots. The key is for Rafa to stay calm and unfazed, and works his way into Raonic’s serves and of course protecting his own service games first.

      • You obviously missed VR’s point.

        Rafa’s average grounstrokes over his first four rounds lack pace and depth.


        • I don’t think so; vs Zverev his ground strokes weren’t lacking in depth. It’s not like Zverev had many chances except in the first set when Rafa started slow. He problem to me happened mostly in the Monfils match.

          • I do, if you consider first four rounds as a whole and compare it to years when he was winning slams.

            Nah, Rafa gonna have to play closer to that to go any further and to get by Fed on a fast court.

            He can if he does, but won’t if he doesn’t.


            • Can’t compare to his heydays; to me it’s his court positions that were the problems so far this tournament; esp when returning serves.

            • That’s being black and white.

              Maybe you can’t but I can if we are talking about what he needs to win slams. He needs to do closer to that (much closer) than he is today.

              I agree with VR that he’s had earlier opportunities to take control of points on opponents shorter or weaker shots (like he used to), ending points quicker (like you’ve criticized him for not doing.

              His court positions weren’t always so problematic, which you say they are now.

              So you are inherently comparing his problematic positions to better days, whether you know it or not.

              I knew you could do it Lucky!

        • The problem with Rafa : he was playing from so far behind the baseline, returning from so far back, hence his returns were short and his opponents capitalized on them, pushing him further back. He has to move forward and plays more inside the court or at least at the baseline.

            • Last few years meaning? 2015 onwards? Well in 2014 he was in better conditions and even though he wasn’t really playing from the baseline, he was still quick enough to cover his ground. Not now.

            • No, he became more aggressive 2010 onwards coming in more often and ending points quicker. I remember commenting on how I wanted to see Rafa do that and being so happy for him when he added that to his game as his confidence grew. His game became much more than defense and chasing down balls.

              He’s lost a lot of that ability – what you now want him to do.

              Your the one who just said ” He has to move forward and plays more inside the court or at least at the baseline.”

              I’m only agreeing with you.

  8. For myself, I have been taking this one match at a time. Rafa has met my initial expectations for this tournament. Now it’s time to see if he can do even better.

    If Rafa beats Raonic then I will think about whether he can win against either Goffin or Dimi. I am not assuming that he will make the final.

    Rafa has had two physical matches lasting a combined total if 7 hours. I know he is physically fit, but he hasn’t give deep in a flan in a while. I want to see how his match with Raonic plays out. If it goes 4 or 5 sets, I will be a little concerned. It is early in the year. Rafa has handled it well so far.

    I hope that Rafa will get some words if wisdom from Moya. Practicing with another big server is a good idea. Moya can only help Rafa prepare.

    I am not making a prediction, but do believe that Rafa can win this match, to read fine of the comments here, one would think Rafa has never beaten a guy with a big serve.

    My biggest problem is going to be how to stay up to 3:00 am to see this match! Good luck Rafa!

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