Australian Open: Djokovic, Williams, Tsitsipas heat up Melbourne

Australian Open: Djokovic, Williams, Tsitsipas heat up Melbourne

In what has been a thrilling week of tennis, the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open has had it all;upsets, comebacks, emotions, fun, nail-biting and hair-pulling moments. From Stefanos Tsitsipas conquering the great Roger Federer to Serena Williams and Simona Halep playing one of the most exhilarating matches of the tournament, it has been quite a ride.

Going into the second week of the Championships with the titles, £2.58M, rankings and more on the line, the tournament is heating up as the last 8 men and women will battle for it all in Melbourne.

Men’s Singles Quarterfinals Preview: 

Novak Djokovic v Kei Nishikori

World number one, Novak Djokovic has won the last two Grand Slams and is clearly the favorite for the title, especially with Roger Federer out of the way. Even as the top seeded player, Djokovic has faced some tests on his way to the quarterfinal. He met with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round, dangerous young gun, Denis Shapovalov in the third and Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16 but pushed through, dropping two sets along the way.

Kei Nishikori’s path to the quarterfinals were pretty tough, playing five sets in the first round against Kamil Majchrzak, also going the distance with big serving Ivo Karlovic and another five tedious sets for over 5 hours against Pablo Carreno Busta. The 8th seed, who is on a quest for a first Grand Slam title will need to be sharper to take Djokovic down.

Very familiar foes, Djokovic and Nishikori have faced off 17 times with Djokovic winning 15 times. Yikes! In better form, fresher and having faced less pressure, Djokovic will have an 18th win over the Japanese.

 Rafael Nadal v Frances Tiafoe

A week ago, one would never had envisaged young, unseeded American, Frances Tiafoe going so far in the tournament, beating big names on the way. After stunning fifth seeded Kevin Anderson 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round, Tiafoe grew in confidence, taking out Andreas Seppi before upsetting 20th seed, Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 on his 21st birthday. The young American has announced himself to the world and has told his Quarterfinal opponent, Rafael Nadal to “be ready”. Tiafoe will be relying on his effective backhand to tackle the veteran.

Rafael Nadal is definitely not a surprise name in a Grand Slam quarterfinal with 17 titles to his name, but the Australian Open title has eluded the current World number 2 for a decade. Playing on a surface which is not his favorite, Nadal has won all 4 of his matches at this year’s edition in straight sets, including serving Tomas Berdych a first set bagel in the third round. His pestilent pace and power, having the ability to blast any player off the court will pose a huge problem for Tiafoe.

In this match up, Rafael Nadal is clearly favorite, facing little stress compared to Tiafoe who has had to play three consecutive intense matches. The young gun is brimming with confidence but Nadal will be his biggest test yet. A straight sets victory for the 2nd seed is on the cards.

Stefanos Tsitsipas v Roberto Bautista Agut

This is probably the most interesting of the Quarterfinal matches as both players would be making their Grand Slam quarterfinal debuts. Late bloomer, Roberto Bautista Agut has powered his way into the last 8 by going the distance against Andy Murray in the first round, playing another 5-setter against John Millman, upsetting 10th seed, Karen Khachanov in straight sets before overcoming 6th seeded Marin Cilic in a marathon. The 30-year-old’s mental strength and strong forehand have surged him forward even with physical exhaustion.

All eyes will be on 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas after his incredible four-set victory over defending champion and tournament favorite, Roger Federer in the round of 16. The young Greek, coming from a break out 2018 season, had beaten Matteo Berrettini, Viktor Troicki and Nikoloz Basilashvili in previous rounds before upsetting the 20-time Grand Slam Champion in impressive fashion, saving all of Federer’s 12 break points. Probably the most exciting player at the moment, Tsitsipas’ admirable and ability to win many points at the next have been very crucial in his route to the final 8.

The rising Tsitsipas can get the job done in four sets, just as he did against Roger Federer.

Milos Raonic v Lucas Pouille

Fully healthy again, Canadian, Milos Raonic is looking the part – again. His path to the final 8 has not been an easy one, facing Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka on the way to a dominant straight sets win over 4th seed, Alexander Zverev. The 2016 Wimbledon finalist has been convincing, with his strong serves looking stronger than they have in a long time and his confidence has been given a major boost with his victory over Zverev.

Lucas Pouille, an unlikely quarter finalist, had never won an Australian Open main draw match before 2019. With a new coach – 2006 Australian Open Champion, Amelie Mauresmo, the 24-year-old is looking to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time. Mikhail Kukushkin, Maximilian Marterer and Australian wildcard, Alexei Popyrin were his opponents before his impressive win over 11th seed, Borna Coric in four sets.

Pouille might have an impressive forehand but it will not be enough to get him past Milos Raonic. Milos Raonic will advance in straight sets.

Women’s Singles Quarterfinals Preview

Serena Williams v Karolina Pliskova

Coming off a hard-fought 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over World number one, Simona Halep, 23-time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams has been…well, Serena Williams all tournament; intimidating presence, power, resilience, one of the greatest of all time. The 37-year-old faced Tatjana Maria, Eugenie Bouchard and Dayana Yastremska before her round of 16 match and facing Halep was her biggest hurdle, a hurdle which might be the bigger than any other she will face.

Ace queen, Karolina Pliskova who is not serving so many aces in this tournament is looking to reach just her second ever Grand Slam semifinal. With victories over Karolina Muchova, Madison Brengle, Camila Giorgi and Garbine Muguruza under her belt, the 7th seed is a contender to knock Simona Halep off the world number one spot and she would need to get to the final to do so. She has gotten stronger match after match, winning 81 percent of her total service points and converting five of her seven break points against Garbine Muguruza. She is also unbeaten in 2019 after winning the Brisbane International before the Australian Open.

Serena Williams has won two of their three previous meetings and she will make it a third victory over the Czech to reach the semifinals, a step closer to a 24th Grand Slam title.

Petra Kvitova v Ashleigh Barty

2014 Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova who is yet to drop a set in this tournament has had a very good start to the season. Her lethal left hand has brought her deservedly into the final 8 with wins over Magdalena Rybarikova, Irina Camelia Begu, Belinda Bencic and young giant killer Amanda Anisimova. Coming from winning an early title in 2019 in Sydney, she faces Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinals – the same woman she beat to win her title in Sydney.

Local favorite, Ashleigh Barty has had the crowd on her side from her first round match against Luksika Kumkhum to her round of 16 victory over Maria Sharapova in straight sets. The 22-year-old will be aiming for revenge to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

With Kvitova winning all three of their previous meetings and showing great form, it is difficult to see Ash Barty going past her. The Australian will be no pushover, Kvitova will however win in three sets.

Naomi Osaka v Elina Svitolina

The adorable Naomi Osaka, seeded 4th, has had to literally battle her way into the final 8. The 2018 US Open Champion had to come from a set down to win both her third round and round of 16 matches against Su-Wei Hsieh and Anastasija Sevastova respectively. She has fought through her own emotions to get here, her mental strength better than ever.

2018 WTA Finals winner, Elina Svitolina recently made her relationship with fellow tennis player, Gael Monfils public and she looks happier than ever. The 6th seed is in tremendous form, downing Madison Keys in the round of 16.

There is so much to play for in this clash as both players are contenders for the world number one spot. Osaka’s chances would be increased with a semifinal place and Svitolina would need to reach the final. Another tough one to call but Elina Svitolina will most likely get the job done in three sets.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Danielle Collins

Two of the most surprising quarter-finalists.

Unseeded Pavlyuchenkova has had her inconsistencies over the last few years but she seems to be finding form again. With wins over Monica Puig, 9th seeded Kiki Bertens, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and 5th seed, Sloane Stephens, the Russian has had quite an impressive run to get to her fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Also unseeded, American Danielle Collins had never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament. A fairytale run has seen her beat three tob 20 seeds – 14th seed, Julia Goerges, 19th seed, Caroline Garcia and incredibly, 2nd seed Angelique Kerber in a very clinical 6-0, 6-2 win.

Pavlyuchenkova’s experience and desperation to finally reach a Grand Slam semifinal and prove herself will be key. Collins will also be motivated after her fairy tale run but Pavlyuchenkova will advance.

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