The last eight are known and except for one huge surprise, we cannot say that they have really been unpredictable.
As I had decided to take a day off yesterday (it happens), today will be an overview of the quarter-finals, including round-of-16 match recap, starting with the bottom half, as they are the first ones to go to war. I will do the overview of the top half quarter-finals tomorrow.
Roger Federer vs Juan Martín del Potro
This is without a doubt the match to see on the men’s side tonight. The last time they faced in a Grand Slam was, of course, this incredible US Open final back in 2009, a hard-fought battle won by the Argentine in five sets. Hopefully, we will be treated to a similar match today, in the scorching Melbourne heat (they say it will be another hot one).
Both players were the logical choices to reach this stage of the tournament, although del Potro is ranked 11 (and will re-enter the top 10 at the end of the tournament). However, the Gentle Giant, if he is not yet at his 2009 level, is very close to it and has been gaining confidence and power with every match he’s played. As for Federer, he has been, in my mind, the steadiest player so far in the tournament and has yet to lose a set in this tournament.
Round 4 – del Potro d. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4 6-2 6-1
As I mentioned, Juan Martín del Potro has grown steadily stronger with each passing match. Very wobbly against Adrian Mannarino, a little less so against Blaz Kavcic, he then found his extra gear as he gained match time, destroying Yen-Hsun Lu before facing German Philipp Kohlschreiber, an opponent he had never lost to in four matches.
This fifth encounter was no different, as from the start, del Potro subjcted his opponent to a ferocious rythm, varying the play as only he knows how, with a flurry of nice angles and powerful forehands, opening the court nicely with his backhand in order to attack that of his opponent, his weaker side, constantly attacking Kohlschreiber’s serve in a brilliant manner.
In fact, had it not been for a very small inconsistency on serve (but very little), the match would have been even quicker than it already was.
It is the first time since the US Open of 2009 that the Argentine reaches the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam and his joy at the end of the match was really nice to see. Furthermore, with the defeats of both Nicolás Almagro and Richard Gasquet, he is now assured of being back in the top 10 next Monday.
Round 4 – Federer d. Bernard Tomic, 6-4 6-2 6-2
Roger Federer, I think, has been the steadiest player of the remaining ones so far in the tournament. From the serve to the groundstrokes, he really performed a lot of magic on court and in the round-of-16, he schooled Bernard Tomic to submission in a very short time.
The beginning of the match was really tight, both entering long and stunning rallies but instead of going into it with the same aggressive play that he had carried into his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov, Tomic went for a more defensive game, more often than not letting Federer dictate the rallies. Lesson no 1: never allow Federer to dictate the rallies, or he’ll eat you whole.
We know that Federer is Tomic’s idol and during the match, it really showed at times and the Swiss took advantage of every moment in which the young Aussie was subdued to attack. Lesson no 2: never let Federer know that you are subdued; for the fans, it’s nice because he then performs even more magic but for you, it just means he’ll show you even more how it’s done. Which he did.
Then again, we still saw flashes of Tomic’s brilliant shotmaking, but not enough for him to do himself justice. Instead, we were treated with a Master Class, courtesy of Mr. Tennis himself. Moments of magic very pleasant to the eye.
Federer vs del Potro – Preview
Today’s match will be very special for both players. If, for del Potro, it marks his return to the top 10 as well as his first quarter-final appearance since the 2009 US Open (which he won), for Roger Federer, there are three numbers that are involved: today’s will be his 1,000th match on the ATP Tour, at his 31st consecutive quarter-final, and the first set he wins, according to Spanish journalist Rafael Plaza, will be his 2,000th.
Both players have admitted looking forward to this match and both will assuredly leave everything they got on the court to get to the semi-finals. It will be the first time since Cincinnati last year that the two meet and that match was also tight despite the straight-set win by Federer. In fact, since the Swiss routed him in the Australian Open of 2009, the Argentine has been constantly improving.
Is an upset possible? Of course! The key there, for del Potro, will be both how he serves and how he enters the rallies. Nevertheless, contrary of many, I don’t think that the heat will be a factor for either player physically, as they are both used to train in scorching conditions (Federer in Dubaï and del Potro, in the hot Argentinean summer). However, the heat will have an incidence on the balls and surface, which could slightly advantage del Potro.
All things considered, all I’m hoping for is a good, hard-fought match. As far as predictions are concerned, I stick with my initial one: del Potro d. Federer.
Rafael Nadal vs Tomas Berdych
I expected Marcos Baghdatis, we have Tomas Berdych. The hard-hitting Czech will face the gritty Spaniard in the quarter-finals and to be completely honest, I don’t know what to expect, as neither player has been very convincing so far in the tournament, even though Nadal, of the two, comes with the more experience and has gained power as the tournament went on, whereas Berdych has really been blowing both hot and cold.
Round 4 – Nadal d. Feliciano López, 6-4 6-4 6-2
If there is anything to be said about Rafael Nadal‘s win over his countryman Feliciano López, it’s that it was a routine win. Not that López did not play a good match, but as (almost) usual when he faces a fellow Spaniard, Nadal emerged as the logical winner and this was no different.
Nadal is now more used to the new weight of his racquet (a little was added near the head prior to the beginning of the season) and even though he sometimes still has issues when serving, his groundstrokes are still as crushing as they were and if Feli played a good match, it is also true that his errors (particularly at the net) really were his downfall in the end.
In fact, Nadal’s win would likely have been more crushing had he had more success on break point conversion (he finished the match 5/18).
Round 4 – Berdych d. Nicolás Almagro, 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 7-6(2)
This fourth-round encounter between Tomas Berdych and Nicolás Almagro was really a tense and intense battle, played really in the key moments, in which the Czech was definitely the best player, especially in the tiebreaks. After the match, Almagro half joked that he should now work on his tiebreaks, which is obviously something that is missing, even though, so far, he has started the year pretty well.
However, more than the match itself, what everyone remembers of this match was the complete lack of class of Tomas Berdych at the end of it, when he refused to shake Almagro’s hand. The Spaniard accidentally hit him with a volley to the body in the fourth set and Berdych, always the grudge-holder, not only did not acknowledge the apologies (as there have been several) of his opponent, he also refused to shake his hand, thus making him look like an utter prick in the eyes of the Australian crowd, who always likes gentlemanly conduct. He was copiously booed out of the court.
Let me be clear here: Almagro’s shot selection was intentional and it is a play that we see regularly, especially in doubles matches. The volley to the body was also a speciality of Ivan Lendl. However, even though Almagro did have attitude issues in the past, I do not think that hitting Berdych’s arm was intentional. Consequently, I still firmly believe that Berdych reacted like a baby.
You can see videos about the incident (and the post-match interview) here.
Nadal vs Berdych – Preview
This match will be the evening match on Rod Laver Arena and I am obviously curious to see how the Aussie crowd will greet Berdych. This notwithstanding, the Spaniard starts as a heavy favourite for this match, both on account of his experience and of the fact that he will be, without a doubt, the stronger player on the court.
Furthermore, contrary of the two previous years, the Spaniard arrives in the quarter-finals in good shape and we know how good he is in the latter stages of a Major. He also comes with a booming 10-3 record against Berdych, having won their last nine meetings.
My prediction: Nadal d. Berdych in straights. My wish: a triple bagel inflicted by Nadal.