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Australian Open Men’s quarter-finals preview: Can Berdych upset Federer?

Previewing the men's singles quarter-finals at the 2016 Australian Open

Well-begun is a job half-done; that is definitely an adage all the top seeds understand as they’ve slugged it out over a week in the first Grand Slam of the year. For some legends like Roger Federer, this is another opportunity of winning that elusive final Slam (maybe?) after missing out the last few times.

For others like Djokovic, the CDP or career development plan in corporate jargon might be to tick off a Calendar Slam, one that he missed by a whisker last year. The quarter-final line-up isn’t exactly out as we write but the half that is already looks exciting.

The Slam, which started under the shadow of aspersions cast by match-fixing news, has so far proceeded according to plan barring the Nadal ouster, although organisers would have loved a few more close ones. That desire might be quenched come the Last 8 stage.

Quarter-final 1: Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori

Djokovic has just made it to the QF after an epic – a good one – because the five-set win over Gilles Simon was the jolt he needed following three easy rounds where he didn’t drop a set. His opponent on the other hand would be in better physical shape.

Kei Nishikori, the seventh seed from Japan won in straight sets, against none other than the 9th seeded, big hitting Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will be remembered at this year’s Australian Open, more for the viral video of his gentlemanliness, than for his tennis.

Yet, Nishikori’s form in dispatching Tsonga will keep Djokovic on his toes. Tsonga fired 13 aces to Nishikori’s three but also double-faulted eight times and had nearly 50% more unforced errors. Nishikori and Djokovic though have similar styles of playing, both being skiddy customers relying on tight angles and a lot of area-coverage.

Djokovic would be tired but he would still have to make sure he doesn’t repeat that century of unforced errors he dished out against Simon, almost undermining a big percentage of winners.

The last time Djokovic and Nishikori met in a Grand Slam was at the 2014 US Open, when Nishikori won in four sets but then, the Djokovic we know now, probably has been transmogrified by a sensational year in 2015.

The Serb holds a 5-2 head to head edge over his quarter-final opponent.

Prediction – Novak Djokovic

Quarter-final 2: Roger Federer vs Tomas Berdych

Roger Federer became the first man to garner 300 Grand Slam wins during the course of the tournament, but the number he is sick of, probably by now, is 17. Federer vanquished Belgium’s David Goffin in straight sets, losing just 7 games – an incredibly small number for a man in the twilight of his career and that in the fourth round against a 15th seed.

The Swiss legend had a clean game and wasn’t punished much for some unforced errors. He will also benefit from the fact that Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych came off a five-setter against Roberto Bautista Agut.

Federer has a 15-6 advantage against Berdych in the pair’s history, although the latter will take comfort from the result of their last Slam contest – the 2012 US Open, when he pulled off an upset against the Swiss legend in four sets.

Federer has dropped just one set in the last four rounds and seems to be the favourite to take this one. Berdych would be in the unenviable position of a player everyone wants to lose (wasn’t the US Open Final proof of that?) although it is about time the 6th seed pulls off something of note to justify his immense talent.

Prediction - Roger Federer

The Swiss maestro will be in action from 9 am IST onwards. You can livestream the match on SonyLiv.com here or their app, which is available on both the iOS and Android App stores to find out if Berdych is able to pull off a major upset.

In case you aren’t able to catch the match live, you can watch the highlights on SonyLiv.com here or the app.

Quarter-final 3: Milos Raonic vs Gael Monfils

The line-up for this quarter-final was a surprise, but the encounter between the 13th seed Milos Raonic and the 23rd seed Gael Monfils promises to be an explosive one.

Monfils has recovered well after pulling off from IPTL owing to an injury. He breezed through the first three rounds without dropping a single set. The only set that he has dropped so far in the tournament has been in the 4th round, when his opponent Alexander Kuznetsov took him to 4 sets.

Raonic pulled off a major upset in the 4th round when he defeated 4th seed Stanislas Wawrinka in an epic 5-setter, winning 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 in a marathon match that lasted 3 hours and 44 minutes.

The 25-year-old Canadian became the first player from his country to have reached the quarter-finals of all four Grand Slams.

Milos Raonic has had a great start to the year, defeating Swiss ace Roger Federer in the finals of the Brisbane International during his preparation for the Australian Open. His serve is his biggest weapon and he is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career.

The duo have met thrice, with Monfils winning twice. The only win for Raonic came in 2011, but based on his play so far this year, Raonic should edge what would be a fairly close encounter.

Prediction – Milos Raonic

Quarter-final 4: Andy Murray vs David Ferrer

The 2nd seeded Andy Murray will go up against Spain’s David Ferrer, the 8th seed in the 4th quarter-final.

Murray has been in great form in the Australian Open this year, winning 3 out of his 4 matches in straight sets, dropping only set to Joao Sousa in the 3rd round.

Apart from the match in which he dropped a set, he has shown his great court coverage and experience and has executed his strategy very well.

Facing Australian Bernard Tomic in the 4th round, Murray was able to weather the storm and in a precise manner, eliminated his opponent.

David Ferrer has so far had a straight-forward Australian Open, with the only match that generated a lot of interest being his 2nd round encounter against Lleyton Hewitt, which turned out to be the last match of Hewitt’s career.

Ferrer has been steady in all the matches so far and has not dropped a set yet. Up against big-serving American John Isner in the 4th round, Ferrer was able to negotiate his serve well and ensured his gameplan worked well.

The Scotsman Murray holds a 12-6 advantage over Ferrer in their encounters and though Ferrer has been very consistent this year, Murray should make it to the semi-finals without much fuss.

Prediction – Andy Murray

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