Rafa "The Alien" Nadal knows the Aussie Open is starting to heat up
The first week of the Australian Open is over. As the tournament begins its second week, it's starting to heat up. It's down to the Final Eight. Here's my preview and predictions for the Quarterfinal men's matches.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Andy Murray
Dolgopolov has been sneaking up on everyone in this tournament and has been a lot of fun to watch so far. He's got one of the faster serves on the tour, and despite only getting 50 percent of his first serves in against Robin Soderling, he was still able to win the match. Soderling was having a hard time reading the Ukrainian's serve throughout the match, and he managed to convert almost half of his second serves against Soderling, a large percentage against a top five opponent. His forehand confused Soderling as well, and Dolgopolov exploited that, along with Soderling's average movement and court coverage to win the match.
Against Murray, that may not work. Murray covers the court better than Soderling, and should have an easier time with Dolgopolov's serve. He's spectacular at picking up serves early, and his ball striking is superb. Murray has come through to the quarters without dropping a set, and is looking good. He dropped Jurgen "The Jurgenator" Melzer easily, and should continue that trend here, although he will likely lose a set along the way.
Pick: Murray in four sets.
Tomas Berdych vs. Novak Djokovic
The Bird Man is playing well so far in the tournament, and hasn't been really pushed so far. He's a great ball striker who can paint the lines. His serve and forehand are potent, and he moves better than Soderling. He disappeared after Wimbledon last year, but seems to have rediscovered his form and consistency. If he can keep it up, he will challenge Novak.
The Djoker, however, is a great ball striker as well. He moves extremely well on the court and his deceptive forehand is a weapon to be feared. His confidence is way up, and he's looking to take the next step and make the season a three-way race. Give Djokovic the edge in the mental game as well. Berdych may win a set, but that is all.
Pick: Djokovic in four sets.
Roger Federer vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
The Federer has been running hot and cold this tournament. Having said that, he will tighten things up in the second week. When he's good, he's really good, and he knows that at almost 30 years old he can't squander any Grand Slam opportunities. This is what he plays for. Roger has lost three sets already in the tournament, and he can't have any lapses once he gets past Wawrinka.
Wawrinka has a potent serve and is playing the best tennis of his career lately, but that will not be good enough against Federer. Roger owns his fellow Swiss, and although the matches have been closer of late, that is as good as it's going to get for Wawrinka. Roger is just too good.
Pick: Federer in three sets.
Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer
Ferrer has beaten Nadal multiple times, the last time on the hard courts of the U.S. Open. Ferrer is on a roll the last year or so, and has been playing great tennis. Against fourth-round opponent Milos Raonic, Ferrer didn't wilt under Raonic's thunderbolt serves and powerful forehands; he waited him out. Raonic got his share of aces to go along with 57 winners to Ferrer's paltry 23, but Ferrer played virtually error-free tennis, committing only 10 unforced errors. He worked Raonic all over the court and the Canadian rung up a huge 68 error total.
Nadal's serve is not as powerful as Raonic's. However, Nadal last season was the hardest player to break serve against on the tour. Furthermore, Ferrer can't count on Nadal to make unforced errors like Raonic. Nadal can hit winners and paint the lines from all over the court. Ferrer's serve is not a weapon, either, and Nadal will punish it all day long. Nadal has gotten this far without dropping a set, and in defeating Marin Cilic he said he now feels healthy. That is bad news for Ferrer.
Pick: Nadal in three sets
Semifinals: Djokovic over Federer- four sets Nadal over Murray- four sets
Finals: Nadal over Djokovic- four sets