By Jake Davies
- Stanislas Wawrinka  vs Jo Wilfried-Tsonga  H2H: Wawrinka leads 4-3
- Roger Federer  vs Mischa Zverev H2H: Federer leads 2-0
- Rafael Nadal  vs Milos Raonic  H2H: Nadal leads 6-2
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – the men’s quarter-finals are set and we pick our three must-watch matches.
Stan Wawrinka  vs Jo Wilfried-Tsonga  H2H: Wawrinka leads 4-3
Two of the most explosive hitters of a tennis ball will go head-to-head in the quarter-finals in Melbourne as the 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka plays a former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The match is compelling because both understand what it takes to get the all-important victory in these conditions, in these settings under the watchful eye of Rod Laver himself. Tsonga fell short of winning the title in 2008, but his dominant performance over Rafael Nadal in the 2008 semi-final suggests he still has another shock up his sleeve when he faces Wawrinka.
Both players have flown under the radar this tournament. The talk of potential champions this fortnight were firmly levelled at Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, so not much has been discussed over the likelihood of one of these two putting together a truly great slam run.
Wawrinka is the favourite in this match-up. When Tsonga comes up against the Top 10 players in the world they tend to exploit the weakness of his backhand wing. He cannot really hurt his opponents on that side, so players like Roger Federer, Nadal and many more feel confident they can focus on that side in order to get the victory. While Wawrinka is just as dangerous on the forehand as the backhand, which is why I think he will advance to the semifinal.
Prediction: Wawrinka in four sets.
Roger Federer  vs Mischa Zverev H2H: Federer leads 2-0
Federer faces an unfamiliar foe in the Quarterfinal of the Australian Open – Mischa Zverev. The German had not made it past the third round of a Grand Slam in the whole of his career and had only played one Grand Slam main draw since Roland Garros 2012, mainly due to a wrist injury that required surgery.
It remains unclear what Federer’s realistic ambitions were at the beginning of this tournament. He had a very tough draw, but surely his eyes must have widened at the exits of the Top 2 players in the world, Murray and Djokovic. The 17-time Grand Slam champion now has a great shot at making another Grand Slam final at the age of 35, which is astonishing so early in his comeback to the tour.
The difference in approach from Murray to Federer against the Zverev game will be worlds apart. Federer may look to push the envelope in order to prevent Zverev from moving forward during every point, whereas Murray was happy to invite the pressure because he is the much more defensive player of the two. The serve-and-volley style of Sergiy Stakhovsky to beat Federer in the 2013 Wimbledon goes to show that you can beat the Swiss with those tactics, but it will be a mucher tougher task for Zverev to come up with the win. The low bounce and fast pace of the green grass of Wimbledon makes it much easier to be aggressive compared to the courts in Melbourne. Federer will have much more time to wave his magic wand from the baseline to come up with the passing shots.
The problem-solving of Federer to get through a match he is heavily-tipped to win will be great to watch.
Prediction: Federer in three sets.
Rafael Nadal  vs Milos Raonic  H2H: Nadal leads 6-2
No.3 seed Milos Raonic will play No.9 seed Nadal in an incredibly-poised quarter-final at the Australian Open. The Spaniard has a 6-2 H2H lead over the Canadian, but Raonic’s only two victories came on an outdoor hard court in Indian Wells and in Brisbane earlier this year. The victory in Brisbane is a very telling result as it came at a point where Nadal was gaining some momentum following another win in the exhibition in Abu Dhabi. The win in Brisbane came at a time where Raonic was at the peak of his powers also. He is at a career high and is now trying to maintain a Top 3 ranking at the Grand Slams consistently and has improved lots of facets of his game.
It can also be argued that Nadal is feeling much better about his tennis. It is possibly the most confident he has been for two years and he is winning the matches he would have lost in recent years, including a four hour epic against Alexander Zverev in the Australian Open third round. The fourth round encounter against Gael Monfils could have tilted either way, but the determined Spaniard found a way to win.
So, who will come out on top in this match-up? The good signs for Raonic is that it will be one of the rare times he has played Nadal, where he can rely on a Plan B. In years gone by, Raonic has not had great confidence in his ability to rally from the baseline and he had not always been the strongest volleyer on tour. Now when the rallies get extended he feels he can compete with the better baseliners, which opens up more tactics for him to use in match-play.
I think Raonic will win this match. It will be fascinating to see his former coach Carlos Moya in Rafael Nadal’s corner, which will add to the talking points for this quarter-final.
Prediction: Raonic in four sets.
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