By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Naomi Osaka [4] v Elina Svitolina [6]
  • Serena Williams [16] v Karolina Pliskova [7]
  • Novak Djokovic [1] v Kei Nishikori [8]
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The last quarter-finals are going to be decided with Slam champions and finalists on parade today.

 

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Naomi Osaka [4] v Elina Svitolina [6] | H2H: Svitolina leads 3-2

The task for US open champion Naomi Osaka will be to find a way of getting past Elina Svitolina, and to snap a two-match losing streak against the Ukrainian. Svitolina will be acutely aware that after winning the WTA Finals last year, there will be a lot of expectation that she can turn this around in the Slams.

After two relatively easy rounds Svitolina had to come from a set down against Zhang Shuai and came through a tough three-setter against Madison Keys, so she certainly has some matches in her legs.

It is the same story for Osaka, who has had to come back from a set down twice in a row, and it will be a battle between two aggressive players. Perhaps you might edge Svitolina as being a better mover than Osaka but what has impressed since the US Open is how Osaka can keep her focus.

This has all the elements of a match that could go either way, and this could well be a big three-set tussle.

Prediction: Osaka in three sets.

 

Serena Williams [16] v Karolina Pliskova [7] | H2H: Williams leads 2-1

Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian open 2019, Melbourne

Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Let’s just take a minute to assess the impact of Serena Williams since she returned to the tour after the birth of her daughter Olympia. She reached the fourth round of Roland Garros before pulling out with injury. She reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.

It has been a while since Karolina Pliskova has reached a Slam final, and to be fair she has flown quite a bit under the radar this tournament. The Czech has had a couple of tests including having to come from behind, but her performance against Garbiñe Muguruza was very impressive as she bossed the two-time Slam champion off the court for the loss of just four games.

Both will get free points off their serves, and while Williams has a lot of variety to her game, Pliskova, when you can pull her towards the net has good hands and at times a deceptive touch.

One thing is for sure – the pair have never gone three sets before and this will be all about who can play the best first-strike tennis.

Prediction: Williams in straight sets.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Kei Nishikori [8] | H2H: Djokovic leads 15-2

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It seems strange to pick such a one-sided head to head as a match to see, but after Rafael Nadal’s dominant display on Tuesday against Frances Tiafoe, it is worth casting an eye on Novak Djokovic and see how he holds up against Kei Nishikori, who can occasionally be capable of a surprise – think back to the US Open 2014.

While Djokovic does indeed seem like he is on the verge of another period of dominance, at times he still gives into frustration and he has had a couple of tests in his last two matches. Then again Nishikori has had three five-setters so far, including the somewhat bizarre ending to his fourth-round match with a contentious line call that sent Pablo Carreno Busta into meltdown.

The question will be whether Nishikori has much left in the tank to put Djokovic to the test. While he lacks some of the power and weapons of his contemporaries, Nishikori has the speed and footwork to disrupt Djokovic’s possession of ground from the back of the court. He is handy at the net and has worn down his opponents with speed and agility.

Then again Djokovic is no slouch either and can attack and defend equally well so this is more an exercise in balance of his temperament in my eyes. If we are indeed on the way to a Djokovic/Nadal final he needs to be back in that dominant zone and if anyone can test that, it will be Nishikori.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.

 

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