Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Australian Open 2014 Day 10 Preview

After some stunning results on Day 9, I look forward to the remaining quarterfinals on Day 10 of the 2014 Australian Open.

Simona Halep (11) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (20)

Cibulkova leads the head-to-head 2-1 including a well-fought win in Indian Wells last year. However, Halep is a different player since the second half of 2013 and looks set to climb even further up the rankings in 2014. I think Cibulkova has the edge when it comes to power, although Halep is the better mover on court. It's going to be an interesting match that should go the distance. Halep just might have the edge due to her greater consistency, while Cibulkova can be prone to unforced errors when she doesn’t finish points early.

Agnieszka Radwanska (5) vs. Victoria Azarenka (2)

This match is a repeat of the 2012 quarterfinal when Azarenka beat Radwanska on the way to her first Australian Open title. Radwanska has flown under the radar in Melbourne this year, but remains one of the craftiest players on tour. Historically, Azarenka has dominated this contest, always managing to overpower Radwanska’s guile. It’s a no contest if this match is played from the baseline, so for Radwanska to trouble Azarenka, she is going to have utilize slices and drop shots to capitalize on the Belorussian’s weakness when it comes to moving up and down the court. This Australian Open is making a mockery out of pundits predictions, but I am still going to back Azarenka to overcome Radwanska, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the fifth seed manages to take a set.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (22)

In a recent interview Nadal said that Dimitrov has all the tools required to become the next great tennis player. All the niceties will be left off court for this contest, as the pressure ramps up in the mens draw. After the exit of Novak Djokovic, the giants in the top half of the draw will feel the Australian open is there for the taking if they reach the final. Despite winning in straight sets, Nadal’s round of 16 win against Kei Nishikori was anything but straightforward. The Japanese put Nadal on the back foot by playing aggressively, and Dimitrov will have to employ the same tactics if he is to have any chance. Unlike Nishikori, an attacking game comes naturally to the Bulgarian, so there is a good chance he won’t hit as many unforced errors. I believe Nadal is in for a fight in this one, and he might lose his first set of the tournament, although I still back the world no.1 to win in four sets.

Andy Murray (4) vs. Roger Federer (6)

It’s the mouthwatering clash that everyone has been waiting for since the draw was made. Both had their doubters with Murray just returning from injury after four months out of the game, while Federer was written off on the back of poor performances at Wimbledon and the US Open last year. Murray has shown little signs of trouble as he’s eased through the draw, though there was a brief stutter in the last round when he lost a tie-break to lucky loser Stephane Robert. While impressive, it must be acknowledged that Murray’s opponents so far have included two qualifiers and a lucky loser. Federer is an opponent of a different calibre altogether. The Swiss maestro has been playing some resplendent tennis at the Australian Open this year. The win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round was vintage Federer, leaving the big hitting Frenchman flatfooted by hitting winners from all parts of the court. These two played an intense five set semi-final last year, and I wouldn’t bet against a repeat this year. If omens mean anything, the lower ranked seed beat the higher ranked seed in the quarterfinals that stayed true to the draw, so despite many writing him off, a Federer win is not inconceivable. I am hesitant to make a call on this one. If it goes the distance, I am tempted to back Murray, while Federer’s best chance lies in finishing the match early.
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