By Jake Davies
- Alexander Zverev  vs Rafael Nadal  H2H: Nadal leads 1-0
- Grigor Dimitrov  vs Richard Gasquet  H2H: Gasquet leads 5-1
- Gael Monfils  vs Philipp Kohlschreiber  H2H: Monfils leads 12-2
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – We’re getting to the end of the first week, and the three-t0 see crop gets better and better!
Alexander Zverev  vs Rafael Nadal  H2H: Nadal leads 1-0
Young Alexander Zverev is one of the next crop of bright tennis players that have shown they can compete with the very best that the ATP has to offer and continue to rise up the rankings. Zverev’s 2016 season started off with a comfortable straight sets loss to Andy Murray, but the most notable of results was the loss to Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells, 7-6 0-6 5-7. In that match, Zverev held a match point but missed the easiest of volleys on the left side of the court. Those sort of losses are what makes or breaks a tennis player. Zverev could easily have let that match replay in his mind over and over and people would have anticipated that that heartbreaking loss would effect his performances throughout the rest of the season. Luckily for the German he ensured that he took the positives of the loss to Nadal and responded in style. He made three finals and won his first ATP title beating Stan Wawrinka in the St.Petersburg Final. The strength of character that the 19-year-old has displayed since the loss to Nadal is great to see.
Ironically enough, Nadal struggled to find form at the majors even after a gutsy win over Zverev in America. The real focus and concentration on Nadal’s season will be to remain healthy for a full season, which has proved strenuous in recent years and also to start performing well at the tournaments that matter most to the Spaniard. Beating Zverev would be a great starting point for Nadal and new coach Carlos Moya to work with.
Zverev is yet to make a Grand Slam fourth round, but has great memories from this event having won the 2014 Boys title. I think he will give Nadal his toughest match at the Australian Open so far, but think Nadal is starting to find a good run of form and is gathering some serious momentum.
Prediction: Nadal in five sets.
Grigor Dimitrov  vs Richard Gasquet  H2H: Gasquet leads 5-1
Two of the most aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhands square off in another one of the third round matches to keep an eye out for. Richard Gasquet dominates the head-to-head over the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov with five wins to just the one loss. This could be one of the trickiest meetings for the Frenchman though as Dimitrov is coming off a magical week in Brisbane where he won his first title since 2014 and his fifth ATP title overall.
Dimitrov will be feeling much better about his game and his level for the 2017 Australian Open, but I still do not feel comfortable with his credentials for a best-of-five Grand Slam run. With Dani Vallverdu overlooking his progress, Dimitrov’s long term goal should be to win a major in the near future and I still think he is quite a way off from making that gigantic step to the next level.
Gasquet may lead the head-to-head but Dimitrov should make the most of the purple patch he is experiencing right about now.
Prediction: Dimitrov in four sets.
Gael Monfils  vs Philipp Kohlschreiber  H2H: Monfils leads 12-2
The last of our matches to watch sees No.6 seed Gael Monfils face Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Frenchman has only really had a light workout in his two previous matches at this event. He dismantled Jiri Vesely in straight sets and then went on to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov fairly routinely. Many would argue that one thing that has held Monfils back throughout his grand slam career is that he makes hard work of the early rounds, which hinders his progress in the latter stages of majors. So coming through to the third round in that manner can only be a positive thing for Monfils.
He plays Kohlschreiber in the third round. It is not an easy draw as the German can play some seriously good ball when his game is clicking together. He is renowned for his consistent play from the baseline but it often goes unnoticed the ability he has to finish the point in the forecourt. The key battle will be how well Monfils can utilise the passing shot from deep behind the baseline and just how successful Kohlschreiber can be when moving forward to the net.
Prediction: Monfils in four sets.
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