Monday, January 20, 2014
The men's quarterfinals for the 2014 Australian Open are set. Last year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year I also have made predictions for the women's quarterfinals. Below are my predictions for this year's men's quarterfinals.
Rafael Nadal (ESP)  vs Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) . The World #1 has yet to lose a set and has been the lucky recipient of an effective walk-over in the first round when Bernard Tomic retired after losing the first set. Nadal has looked sharp in dismissing dangerous opponents like Gael Monfils and Kei Nishikori in the last two rounds. Dimitrov is playing in his very first major quarterfinal, and is , literally, "happy to be here." However, since the Bulgarian with the Federesque game is widely expected to assume the mantle of greatness eventually, lots of people will be observing his debut in the concluding stages of a major tournament very carefully. That being said, Nadal's game matches up particularly badly for players with with one-handed backhands, as Maria Sharapova's beau will soon discover, to his chagrin. Mad Professah's pick: Nadal in 3.
Andy Murray (GBR)  vs Roger Federer (SUI)  This should be the most interesting match of the four, since it is a rare quarterfinal meeting between what used to be known as The Big Four. Murray is coming off of back surgery while Federer is basking in getting revenge on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round in straight sets. Murray currently leads Federer 11-9 in their overall head-to-head and won the last match they played, a 5-set semifinal in Melbourne where the 32-year-old appeared to run out of gas in the final set after squeaking out sets in tiebreakers. Strangely, all but two of their twenty matches have been on hard court, with the two splitting their very important grass court meetings at Wimbledon. Despite Federer's recent resurgence and his 3-1 lead in major meetings, his quest to reach his eleventh(!) consecutive Australian Open semifinal will come up short. Honestly, I believe that even Federer will be relieved that he won't have to face his arch-nemesis Nadal in another hard court semifinal. Mad Professah's pick: Murray in 4.
Tomas Berdych (CZE)  vs David Ferrer (ESP) . You would think the 6-foot-5 Czech would own the 5-foot-9 Spaniard in their meetings but you would be wrong. There's a reason why David Ferrer is ranked #3 in the world while Berdych has never been in the Top 5. Ferrer has a significant 7-4 advantage and even though their last six meetings have been on hard courts, Ferrer leads 4-2. Surprisingly, the two have never met in a major and I believe Berdych will discover how difficult it is to put away "The Little Beast" in a 5-set match, or blow him off the court in straights. Mad Professah's pick: Berdych in 3 or Ferrer in 4 or 5.
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)  vs Novak Djokovic (SRB) . Their meeting in the 4th round of this tournament last year was the most exciting match of the tournament and some thought the nest match of the year (I disagreed with the latter assessment, delegating it to #4 on my Top 10 Men's Matches of the Year.) Djokovic is playing his usual astonishing tennis in Australia, and is currently on a 25-match winning streak since his loss to Nadal in the finals of the U.S. Open in September. Wawrinka played Djokovic tough in two great matches last year (they also met in a stirring 5-set encounter in New York) but the results don't lie: Djokovic maintains a 15-2 head-to-head, having not lost to Wawrinka since either of them became the world-class players they both are. That being said, Djokovic has not played his "off" match in the tournament yet and if it comes when Wawrinka is on the opposite side of the net, he will regret it. But he respects the Swiss too much not to be prepared to bring his best tennis. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic in 4.