By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Roberto Bautista Agut [22] v Stefanos Tsitsipas [14]
  • Petra Kvitova [8] v Ashleigh Barty [15]
  • Frances Tiafoe v Rafael Nadal [2]
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – We are getting to the pointy end of the tournament and we have picked three must see matches from today’s quarter-finals.

 

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Roberto Bautista Agut [22] v Stefanos Tsitsipas [14] | First meeting

Roberto Bautista Agut US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, USA

Photo by PETER FOLEY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock |
Roberto Bautista Agut US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, USA

Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut has had quite the tournament. First he could well have signalled the end of Andy Murray’s career in a five set thriller, but one five setter is not enough for our guy. He come through three five setters including ousting last year’s finalist Marin Cilic.

 

Next up for him is Stefanos Tsitsipas who sensationally dumped defending champion Roger Federer out of the tournament. He has not been averse to long matches either, having been fairly consistent at four sets so it is nip and tuck as to who might be the more tired going into this quarter-final.

Tsitsipas is bidding to become the youngest man to reach the semi-final of an Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2003, and indeed the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Novak Djokovic did it at the US Open in 2007. Then again, he is the first Greek player, male or female, to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in history.

There are plenty of firsts for Bautista Agut as well – he is bidding to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final and if he does he will go joint-20th for the most attempts before finally reaching the semi-final stage. Just by reaching the quarter-finals here, he has recorded his best Slam performance, having reached the round of 16 on nine previous occasions, including three attempts at the Australian Open.

Tsitsipas was able to go toe-to-toe with Federer trading blows from the baseline and throwing himself about with reckless abandon at the net. Bautista Agut can make his experience count here, but a lot depends on how much is left in his legs. The same of course is true for the young Greek, who has a lot of court time and was struggling a little.

Prediction: Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets.

 

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Petra Kvitova [8] v Ashleigh Barty [15] | H2H: Kvitova leads Barty 3-0

Petra Kvitova in the third round of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne

Petra Kvitova in the third round of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

This is the one we will be parking ourselves down to watch. Their ding dong battle in Sydney saw Petra Kvitova edge Ashleigh Barty in front of a Sydney crowd for her first title of the year, and with the Czech looking to continue her nine-match winning streak this year. Still potentially in the running to finally (long overdue) occupy the World No. 1 spot, she needs to batten down the hatches for what is likely to be another long one against Barty.

Her match against Maria Sharapova saw the Aussie come from a set behind to knock out the former champion, and rather than struggling in the face of home crowd expectation, she thrives on it.

While Kvitova has her leftie serve, and crazy angles and an incredible fighting spirit, Barty has variety, the same spirit and will have an entire stadium willing her on. It really is one of those encounters where you hate anyone to lose as both players are incredibly popular.

Kvitova has the experience, not only having two Slams of her own, but being able to grit out some of the toughest matches. Barty will have the crowd on her side, and she has more than held her own this tournament, achieving a best run at the majors since reaching the fourth round of the US Open last year.

Prediction: Kvitova in three sets.

 

Frances Tiafoe v Rafael Nadal [2] | First Meeting

Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, ATP Monte Carlo 2018

Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, ATP Monte Carlo 2018 | (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The young ones might be all the way there, but they are coming. Frances Tiafoe has won many fans over with his exuberant celebrations on his emotional way to a first Grand Slam quarter-final, but also just by being such a shining example of hard work and commitment.

Of course, those same qualities can be levelled at Rafael Nadal who has more than recovered over his stumbling start to the season by being pretty well by not dropping a set on the way to the quarter-final. Tiafoe has had a few long ones including a five-setter in the third round, and while he cheekily reckoned Nadal should be ready for him, we saw how the Spaniard effectively demolished his fellow NextGen star Alex De Minaur.

Nadal will look to neutralise Tiafoe from the off, driving him back and forth from the back of the court, before finishing him off. The occasion is unlikely to be too big for ‘Big Foe’ – I think he is indeed ready to bring the fight, but in the form that Nadal has been thus far, it will be a struggle to get a set off him, although he may make it a little tighter than Nadal will like.

Prediction: Nadal in three sets.

 

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