By Mike McIntyre
We are down to the final eight players at the Australian Open and unlike on the women's side there are very few surprises up to this point. This should make for some very entertaining and hotly contested quarterfinal matches. Here is a quick breakdown of the four contests ahead of action on Tuesay and Wednesday in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Kei Nishikori (7)
The undisputed favourite coming into the event and also the defending champion, Novak Djokovic suddenly seems like he may indeed be vulnerable after his five set win against Gilles Simon in the round of sixteen. Roger Federer was quick to defend Novak and his 100+ errors in that match saying that Simon has the tendency to make players go for broke on their shots, but none the less I don't think anyone quite expected it to get to a fifth set. Djokovic has defeated Chung, Halys, Seppi and Simon to get to the quarters and will face a stiff test from the 7th seeded Nishikori.
Nishikori has not yet gone the distance in any of his victories over Kohlschreiber, Krajicek, Garcia-Lopez or Tsonga and is perhaps a bit more rested than his adversary in this upcoming match. Beating a player of Tsonga's calibre by a score of 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 is quite impressive and bodes well for his confidence at this stage of the tournament. Djokovic leads the head to head by a margin of 5-2 including the last four in-a-row. Nishikori can draw strength from the fact that he has beaten Novak at a Grand Slam before, in the semifinals of the 2014 US Open.
I think anyone would be crazy to predict anything other than a victory for Djokovic in this one. That being said I also believe the possibility for an upset has increased somewhat due to the results in recent days. All in all I'm going with Novak in four.
Roger Federer (3) vs Tomas Berdych (6)
This will be the seventh career meeting at the Slams between Federer and Berdych with Roger holding a 4-2 advantage, although Berdych has won their last two battles which came at the U.S. Open in 2012 and at Wimbledon in 2010. Overall Federer leads their career head to head 15-6 and has taken the last four in-a-row between them. A rejuvenated Federer won all three meetings in 2015 with ease, not dropping a set in any of those matches.
Federer has started 2016 fairly strongly with a loss to Milos Raonic in the finals of Brisbane and with four relatively convincing wins so far here at the Aussie Open. He has wins against Basilashvili, Dolgopolov, Dimitrov and Goffin to get to this stage. Even Roger knows that his window for winning an 18th major gets smaller and smaller with each passing Slam so that undoubtedly is providing him with a little extra incentive. Despite the fact that he still looks like he could play for another ten years, even Fed fans know realistically that is not going to happen. As he approaches the four year mark without a Slam victory, Federer needs to make something happen while the body is still co-operating.
Berdych has been most comfortable here at the Aussie Open where he has now made the quarter-finals or better the past six years straight. The Czech has beaten Bhambri, Basic, Krygios and Bautista-Agut to reach this point. If he's able to play his best and not get caught up in the fact that Roger has had his number of late, Berdych could move into the semifinals for a third straight year. I certainly give him a better shot of upsetting Federer than I give Nishikori versus Djokovic.
That being said, I'll take Roger in three sets given how he looks lately to set-up a final-like SF against Novak.
Milos Raonic (13) vs Gael Monfils (23)
You don't want to miss this one folks! Five sets written all over it and between two enormously different styles of tennis players. This match will have canon-like serves and circus-like acrobatics. An excellent opportunity for two players who have struggled with injuries to get some satisfaction with a semifinal appearance at a Slam. The pair have faced each other but twice before in their careers with Monfils coming up victorious both times. You can throw those results out the window however as both came before Raonic solidified himself as a top-level threat on the ATP World Tour. With a tournament win already under his belt this year and a new coach in Carlos Moya to provide a different perspective on things, I would say that the Canadian is the slight favourite coming into this quarterfinal match.
This is the fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal for Raonic who will be aiming to attain just the second major semifinal of his career. For Monfils meanwhile it is the seventh Slam quarterfinal, although most of those came on the clay of Roland Garros. Regardless of the result, I think this will be the most entertaining of the four matches to watch and I wouldn't want to miss it.
I'm giving the edge to Milos who will prevail in five sets.
Andy Murray (2) vs David Ferrer (8)
Not surprised one bit at the two who will be facing each other in this quarterfinal match. Soon to be father Andy Murray has always performed well at the first Slam of the year and this edition has been no exception. He has beaten Zverev, Groth, Sousa and Tomic to get to this stage and has only dropped one set along the way. It does not seem as though impending fatherhood has distracted him from his goal of winning the third Slam of his career.
Ferrer for his part has been even more workmanlike than Murray en route to his sixth Aussie Open QF. He has taken out Gojowczyk, Hewitt, Johnson and Isner to get here. He'll work his butt off against Murray but at age 33 I don't know if he truly has enough to take the No. 2 seed down.
Murray holds a 12-6 career edge against Ferrer, including the past five straight times they have played one another and eight of the past nine in total. In fact if you take the clay matches out of the equation, Ferrer has only defeated Murray twice. Expect that trend to continue and witness Murray advancing in four sets.