With two of the men's quarterfinal matches set, the 2012 Australian Open has been surprisingly unsurprising. Tomas Berdych is set to play Rafael Nadal, while Juan Martin del Potro will take on Roger Federer. Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray are still yet to complete their fourth-round matches, but they are all heavy favorites against their opponents.
Before the 2012 ATP season began, it seemed that a different champion could reign supreme at each Grand Slam. The Australian Open ordinarily facilitates the emergence of a new star, as all the players recover from fatigue and injuries from the previous season. Tsonga and Marcos Baghdatis are two examples of excellent players who capitalized on favorable draws and had magnificent runs to Australian Open finals. This year, however, the final script will be all too familiar.
Nadal has no past issues with Berdych, who is coming off a difficult victory against Nicolas Almagro. Nadal is 10-3 against Berdych and has won the last nine matches that they have played. Despite Nadal's consistent debilitating injuries, he will have no issues with the big man from the Czech Republic, most likely beating him pretty handily in three sets.
The other quarterfinal matches will likely be Djokovic against scrappy Spaniard David Ferrer and Murray against Tsonga. Then the draw becomes unbelievably interesting, with the two most important and fascinating matches being the Tsonga-Murray quarterfinal and the del Potro-Federer quarterfinal.
Everything points to these two matches being upsets. Federer has crumbled mentally in quarterfinals of Grand Slams of late, blowing two-set leads against Tsonga and Djokovic.
Del Potro has been absolutely unstoppable in the tournament so far. He is also one of the few players who can really get to Federer, having beaten him on a big stage at the 2009 US Open final. Even though Federer has a 7-2 record against the Argentine, the Swiss savant should be very worried. Federer needs to come to the net a lot during this match to wear del Potro down, eliminating his ability to end points with monstrous forehands.
Besides the fact that Murray moves better than Tsonga, the weight of the Frenchman's shots will likely make him the favorite on this slower hard court. In terms of the last quarterfinal, the presumed Djokovic-Ferrer matchup, the Serb will emerge victorious. Ferrer is the type of player who has amazing athleticism, but he lacks a shot variety that would bother Djokovic.
Del Potro has played remarkably well against Nadal, particularly at the 2009 US Open, where he embarrassed the Spaniard in three sets. But Nadal still has a 7-3 advantage and has the upper hand on a slower-moving court. Del Potro thrives off the speed of his serve and forehand, which will both be returnable for Nadal. Even if del Potro were to grab a set in this match, Nadal would still simply outlast him.
Once again, the top two players in the world will vie for the first Grand Slam of the year. But this time, Nadal will reclaim the Australian Open title. Their record is almost even, with Nadal having a slight 16-13 lead over Djokovic. Despite the fact that Nadal lost all six times these two played each other in 2011, he will be able to take Djokovic down in this final.They have never played each other in this tournament, which is a lot more conducive to Nadal's game than the US Open, primarily because of the climate and the court.
Nadal, along with the rest of the world, was surprised to witness Djokovic go on his unbelievable 2011 run, but now that the awe factor has worn off, Nadal is hungrier, more determined and more consistent, which will get him his 11th Grand Slam.
These two players challenge each other with gruelingly long points, testing sheer fortitude and endurance. Nadal used to be unequivocally the finest athlete in men's tennis, but with Djokovic's commitment to fitness and an improved diet, he can keep up with Nadal's tenacity and push him in long rallies. Neither of these men has a particular edge in terms of ending points early, but Nadal will exploit the height of the ball's bounce to his advantage.
Djokovic will need to rely on his serve to grab easy points from the Spaniard. Nadal also has the short-court advantage, playing better at the net than Djokovic. It'll be an absolutely stunning match with first-rate firepower whipping off both rackets—another entry in a rivalry that will supersede the Federer-Nadal competitions of years past.