• Naomi Osaka [3] v Hsieh Su-Wei
  • Grigor Dimitrov [18] v Aslan Karatsev [Q]
  • Serena Williams [10] v Simona Halep [2]
  • Novak Djokovic [1] v Alexander Zverev [6]
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The quarter-finals begin with three former champions battling to make it to the end of the week.

 

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Naomi Osaka [3] v Hsieh Su-WeiH2H & Match Fundamentals

Naomi Osaka [3] v Hsieh Su-Wei H2H: Osaka leads 4-1 (incl. ITF)
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
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The first day of quarter-finals opens up with a corker, between former Australian Open champion and 3-time Slam champion Naomi Osaka, and the tricky Hsieh Su-Wei.

Osaka had her first challenge in this year’s tournament, having to come from a set down against Garbiñe Muguruza in a tightly fought battle to secure her semi-final spot. Hsieh overcame Sara Errani in the third round in a war of attrition but in her fourth-round match against Marketa Vondrousova, she was in commanding form.

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Hsieh does not have the same kind of aggressive game as Muguruza that proved to be a tough match-up for Osaka, but the sheer variety she has to make up for the lack of power is going to be another example of being out of her comfort zone.

Osaka admitted that she knew she could not lay up short against Muguruza as she would come in and attack, and while Hsieh is not really seen as an attacking player, she will make Osaka very uncomfortable.

Osaka said, of the match-up: “I mean, have you watched her play (laughter)? It’s like, What? She’s one of those players that, for me, if it was a video game, I would want to select her character just to play as her. Because my mind can’t fathom the choices she makes when she’s on the court. It’s so fun to watch. It’s not fun to play, but it’s really fun to watch.

“In a sense, whenever I play, I feel like the racquet or the ball is on my racquet. Whenever I play her, there’s a bit of hesitation in that mindset for me. It’s definitely going to be tough. At the same time it’s the quarters of a slam, so it would be weird if it wasn’t tough.”

Hsieh always delights in post-match press because of her personality, but she has had to work hard and overcome many obstacles from the start of her career, and behind the quirkiness is a lot of steel coupled with pragmatism.

She said: “We all know [Osaka is] a very good player. Anyone play her, they will get troubles. I not worry about it. She probably going to smash me on the court. I try to play my game, do my job, see what happens.

“For me, I mean, I don’t really care I win or I lose. I just try my best and play the game. All the girl, they play different games. Of course, there will be some difficult stuff on the court. It’s very interesting when you have some difficult situation. I want to try to find a way and try to get into the game. At least I try. If I lose, I don’t lose anything. Is no problem for me.”

Prediction: Osaka in three sets.

 

READ MORE | Tennis | Australian Open 2021 | Latest Schedule, Draws, Results & How to Watch

 

Grigor Dimitrov [18] v Aslan Karatsev [Q] H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Grigor Dimitrov [18] v Aslan Karatsev [Q] H2H: Svitolina leads 1-0
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$525,000
Second on Rod Laver Arena, not before 3pm

(4am GMT).

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Next up will be the battle between the Lost Boy and the Lion-heart! Grigor Dimitrov was the poster-boy of the Generation Lost-Boys – the one-time chasing pack of the Big Three (four or five, if you include Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray who were the only ones to win multiple Slams in the Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic era).

Dimitrov was seen as one of the natural successors and has reached three semi-finals in his time. He has yet to drop a set, and perhaps been a bit fortunate that his last two opponents have had issues, with Pablo Carreno Busta retiring a game into the second set and Dominic Thiem unable to get a game on the board in the third set.

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He will face qualifier Aslan Karatsev who not only came through the earlier qualifying rounds but also was on doubles duty for the winning Russian ATP Cup team. There is a lot of tennis in those legs to go with a lot of adrenalin.

His five-setter against Felix Auger-Aliassime was his longest by far, coming from two sets down, and if her was perhaps a little grumpy during the ATP Cup press conferences that no-one was asking him the questions, they sure are taking an interest now!

Dimitrov said: “It takes time for everyone to get to somewhere, but the best part is that you treat every player the same way, and I will treat this match with no difference. I will still go through my routines. I’m still going to do my work. It’s just honestly another match.

“I’m not going to think of what the guy has done, what he has accomplished or what is going on. Clearly in order for him to be here, he’s done something right, and he’s playing great tennis right now. Of course he’s a dangerous player. You’re entering deep into the second week, it’s a quarter-final match of a Grand Slam.

“You don’t take any of that lightly, and I think it should never affect anything coming in your head to that extent, just focus on your side of the net, focus on your game plan, control what you can on your end and then progress through.”

He plays an aggressive game and likes to keep the points short, so the key for Dimitrov will be to move him around a lot. Karatsev has absolutely nothing to lose so this is a real free hit for him, but for Dimitrov, this is a golden opportunity to make it to another semi-final and he has the experience, and probably is a little more rested coming into this match.

Prediction: Dimitrov in four sets.

 

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Serena Williams [10] v Simona Halep [2] H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Serena Williams [10] v Simona Halep [2] H2H: Williams leads 9-2
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$525,000
First night match on Rod Laver Arena, not before 7pm, (8am GMT) Eurosport Player via Amazon Prime

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This quarter-final is one of the most anticipated of the tournament, because of everything that hangs on it. Serena Williams continued quest to equal the record of 24 Grand Slams ground to a halt twice in 2019 – and one of those was devastatingly at the hands of Simona Halep.

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That day in Wimbledon, Halep played the match of her life to just allow Williams two games in each set. The last time Halep dominated Williams was at her debut at the WTA Finals, and Williams made sure that their second meeting in the final went very differently!

Halep has had more than a few challenges this tournament, having to come from a set down twice to make it this far. Williams has had a few slow starts and had to fight back in the last round against the equally hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka.

This tournament, Williams has moved better progressively, and has weathered a few storms but this will be a whole different challenge. Halep had to dig deep in her fourth-round match against Iga Swiatek when she found herself rushing after falling behind in the first set, getting impatient and eventually having to regroup and start again.

Williams will need to keep pressure on, and not allow Halep a chance to get into her game. Halep can scramble around and run everything down all day long and prepare for this to be a hard-hitting match. Halep can match her for aggression but will need to be a lot cannier to manage the raw power that Williams can send down.

Prediction: Williams in three sets.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Alexander Zverev [6] H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Alexander Zverev [6] H2H: Djokovic leads 6-2
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$525,000
First night match on Rod Laver Arena, not before 8:30pm, (9:30am GMT) Eurosport Player via Amazon Prime

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Once more all eyes will be on Novak Djokovic to see how his abdominal injury holds up. Alexander Zverev has largely flown under the radar this tournament with the focus on Djokovic’s injury and to a certain extent how Rafael Nadal would pull up having missed the ATP Cup with a back issue.

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Djokovic would have wanted to be on and off court quickly since suffering the pulled muscle in his third round match against Taylor Fritz, and while at times he grimaced during another four-setter against Milos Raonic, he came through but facing Zverev will mean him often being at full stretch to return the serve bombs the German can send down.

Zverev had a four-setter to start but since then has come through three straight sets matches and having made the US Open final he must fancy his chances of making another Slam final.

This will be a very physical match – and that favours Zverev, who beat Djokovic in a tight match in the ATP Cup. In normal circumstances you would give the edge to Djokovic, and indeed he does still start as the favourite, but this could very easily be dragged out to five tough sets.

Prediction: Djokovic in five sets.

 

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