Roger Federer has cruised through his first three matches at the 2013 Australian Open, winning all nine of his sets and recording more winners than unforced errors. But things are about to get bumpy for the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
After disposing of three unseeded players in the early-rounds, Fed is set to begin Day 8's Round of 16 singles action with a matchup against No. 13-seeded Milos Raonic—a 22-year-old Canadian known for his monster serve.
But even though Raonic will present Federer with some challenges on Monday, I and many others still like the four-time Aussie Open winner to advance to the quarterfinals with relative ease.
In the quarters, Fed will be pitted against either No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No. 9 Richard Gasquet. Most people, including myself, expect Tsonga to survive Gasquet, however, setting up a Federer-Tsonga quarterfinal at Melbourne Park.
The quarterfinal stage is where things would begin to get tricky for the 31-year-old Swiss legend.
He's been beaten at a Slam before by Tsonga (2011 Wimbledon quarterfinal, despite being up two sets to love) and would certainly be vulnerable, having gone out at this stage in four of the last 11 majors. Still, Fed is playing at an elite level, one that Tsonga is still aspiring to. Therefore, I like Fed to steamroll his way into the semis for the third straight year in Melbourne.
Federer is unlikely to sweep through the Round of 16 and the quarters, but he shouldn't need more than four sets in either match, even if Gasquet squeaks through instead of Tsonga.
Federer's likeliest opponent at the semifinal stage would be 25-year-old Andy Murray, the most recent Slam winner on the men's side and one of the best players on the planet. Murray is one of only three (along with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal) capable of upending the greatest of all time in Fed at this stage of a major, and that's an important point.
While age can show itself in the form of experience against lesser-caliber players, it rears its ugly head as an obstacle that must be overcome against top-notch competition.
Therefore, Fed's run at the 2013 Australian Open will come to an end on Day 12, when he loses in four sets to third-seeded Andy Murray in the men's semis.
Murray and Djokovic are poised for a Slam final rematch, and are both best suited at this point, in the prime of their careers, to play for the title on the hard surface of Melbourne.
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