Aussie Open: Day Nine Preview

Rob YorkSenior Writer IJanuary 26, 2009

Day Session

Vera Zvonareva (RUS) [7] vs. Marion Bartoli (FRA) [16]

Bartoli, she of the two-handed forehand and backhand, has developed something of a knack for knocking out top-seeded players in majors. About a year and a half after stunning Justine Henin at the 2007 Wimbledon, Bartoli returned to the spotlight Sunday by taking down Jelena Jankovic in straight sets.

In her quarterfinal match, the Frenchwoman will face seventh-ranked Zvonareva, one of seven Russian women in the WTA top 20. Zvonareva has yet to drop a set in this year’s Australian Open, including a straight-set win over her countrywoman, 10th-seeded Nadia Petrova.

Zvonareva’s emotional strength, or rather the absence of it, has been cited as the greatest flaw in her play. We’ll find out in the quarters how she responds to being the favorite, when she had likely been expecting a match with top-seeded Jankovic. Our guess is: not well enough.

Bartoli keeps her run alive, winning in three sets.


Novak Djokovic (SRB) [3] vs. Andy Roddick (USA) [7]

Here we have a rematch of the most-talked-about (for the wrong reasons) contest of the 2008 U.S. Open. Djokovic won that encounter, but most fans will remember the fact that the American had made light of the Serb’s injury timeouts before the match, prompting an angry postmatch interview from Djokovic.

Word has it that the two patched things up afterwards. So this time, their tennis should receive all the attention. Djokovic’s play has looked spotty at times leading up to this match, while Roddick has looked sharp in his first four matches.

That is, however, almost the exact position these two were in when they faced one another in New York, with the Serb raising his level of play to dispatch the American in four.

Roddick, who has been an afterthought in the majors in recent years, may be the sentimental favorite for this encounter, but he’s likely to get outplayed yet again. Don’t expect it to be easy, though.

Djokovic in five.


Night Session

Dinara Safina (RUS) [3] vs.  Jelena Dokic (AUS)

There’s no doubt that Dokic has been the story of the AO thus far. After several years of personal turmoil and professional disappointment, the adopted Australian has upset three seeded players to reach this point.

All four of her matches in her dream run have gone three sets, including an 8-6 in the third triumph over Alisa Kleybanova in the last round. Not every dream can come true, however.

Safina came very close to throwing this AO away in the last round against Alize Cornet, but she’s still probably got a lot more in the tank than her opponent. Dokic has shown a great amount of heart so far, but we’re betting her body won’t be able to do its part this time.

Safina in three.


Roger Federer (SUI) [2] vs. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) [8]

So far in this year’s tournament Federer has outclassed Marat Safin (6’4) and outlasted Tomas Berdych (6’5). In the 6’6 del Potro, Federer now faces his tallest task yet.

Despite his stature, the Argentine’s serve would never be confused with that of Todd Martin or Richard Krajicek, but he bludgeons the ball off both wings and moves remarkably well for someone two meters high.

The problem for del Potro is that Federer has two types of opponents: Those who bother him and those who don’t. Certain players, such as David Nalbandian, Gilles Simon, and Rafael Nadal are capable of throwing the Swiss off his game.

Others, as Berdych found out in round four, can play out of their heads against the Swiss and still come up short.

Del Potro is 0-for-3 against Federer, having never even won a set. The Argentine has made great progress in the last year, but his latest defeat at the Swiss’ hands took place in the fall in Madrid, indicating that his game still doesn’t trouble the world No. 2 (for now).

Federer in four.