Australian Open 2013: Previewing Top Contenders' Round of 16 Matchups
Those who came into the 2013 Australian Open fearful that Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray would see an early-round demise Down Under have had their fears assuaged for the most part. Each of the world's top three players have advanced on to the Round of 16 in Melbourne and have done so in relatively relaxing fashion.
However, once the field gets dragged down to 16 men, the dregs of the field are out, and the competition rises. Djokovic, Federer and Murray will all face off against seeded opponents for the first time at this year's Australian Open, leaving the upset possibilities higher than ever.
Do any of their opponents have a chance at pulling off the unthinkable? Here is a complete preview of the three favorites' Round of 16 matches.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Stanislas Wawrinka
The world's top-ranked player doesn't look like has missed a beat from his torrid end of the 2012 season. Through his first three matches, Djokovic is yet to drop a set and hasn't even reached a tiebreaker against any of his opponents. Other than a few blips on the radar, it's been pure domination from start to finish thus far.
Wawrinka's road has been slightly rockier, but the same can also be said for him. The 27-year-old Swede has hasn't seen a fourth set, thus far, in Melbourne and looked strong against Sam Querry, who was in fine form during a their highly competitive match.
Nevertheless, this should be the end of the line for Wawrinka. Djokovic has won his last 10 matches against his counterpart, dating back the whole way to 2006. Recent Round of 16 history also points in Djokovic's favor.
The two men faced off at the 2012 U.S. Open in the fourth round, where Djokovic dispatched of Wawrinka in straight sets en route to making the final at Flushing Meadows. Considering the Serbian star hasn't lost in Melbourne since 2010, it seems highly unlikely that Wawrinka will have much of a chance.
(2) Roger Federer vs. (13) Milos Raonic
Over on the other half of the bracket, Federer hasn't shown any signs that age 31 will be any different than 30. He's needed just nine overall sets and only one tiebreaker to plow his way into the Round of 16, where he'll face arguably his toughest non-Andy Murray test on his side.
Raonic is one of the sport's up-and-comers and could ascend into the ATP's elite this season. After beginning his Australian Open with a first-set loss, Raonic reeled off his next nine and looked dominant in the third round against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Federer also doesn't have much experience against Raonic. Though he's defeated the youngster every time the two have squared off, Federer has just three head-to-head matches against Raonic.
Their most recent match was a down-to-the wire thriller at the Gerry Weber Open last June. Raonic stormed out to an early lead, taking the first set 7-6 after a tiebreak, before falling in the second set and losing the match's second breaker in the third.
In fact, Federer has never beaten Raonic in straight sets in any of their three meetings. That doesn't necessarily mean that Federer won't dominate and dispatch of the 22-year-old Canadian. But the two players' history certainly points more toward a hard-fought, close match than anything resembling a blow out.
Federer should win, but don't be shocked if you catch a whiff of upset in the Melbourne air.
(3) Andy Murray vs. (14) Gilles Simon
Much like his top-ranked brethren, Murray's first three rounds at the Australian Open have been a relative cakewalk. He's won each of his matches in straight sets, doing so in a quick, efficient manner that bodes well for his long-term health in the tournament.
Simon, meanwhile, has had to battle his way through every single match in Melbourne. The Frenchman fell in the first set in each of his first two matches and was part of an absolute thriller on Saturday against Gael Monfils. Simon needed five sets, including a 14-game fifth, to dispatch of Monfils, who had already pulled off relatively big upsets in the first two rounds.
Unfortunately for Simon, his reward for defeating Monfils is a matchup against a man who has made the Australian Open final in two of the past three years. Couple that with Murray's U.S. Open win and it's arguable that he's the best hard-court player in the world.
What's more, Murray hasn't lost to Simon since 2007 and has won every set the two men have played on hard surfaces. With Simon undoubtedly a little spent after a five-set battle, this has all the makings of a steamrolling victory for Murray.
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