The first week has wrapped-up and despite Tomic’s best efforts to derail Tennis Australia, they will have the last laugh with five Australians making it to the 3rd round, three of them being no older than 20. The early stages also managed to un-earth plenty of fresh talent in the women’s draw with both Amanda Anisimova and Dayana Yastremska showing plenty of potential for the future. In the men’s draw, despite already paving their way, the youth of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Frances Tiafoe and Daniil Medvedev all proved that they have big futures ahead of them.
When we previewed the Australian Open at the beginning of last week, we had expectations of deep runs from both Serena Williams and Karen Khachanov. Despite the draw opening up nicely for Khachanov, he was clearly out-classed in his 3rd round match going down to Roberto Bautista-Agut. Williams was a dominant force as always in her first few matches, losing no more than 2 games in any given set. She then suffered a minor hi-cup against the world’s top ranked player, Simona Halep, taking plenty of benefit from the match that she will call upon heading into the finals.
So how do the quarter finals shape-up and who will win it all from here?
Tiafoe v Nadal
Young Frances Tiafoe will come head to head with Spanish legend, Rafael Nadal in the first battle of youth v experience. This is the 11th Australian Open quarter-final for Nadal and expect to see him ramp it up here, knowing his chances of yet another grand slam title have been helped with the departure of Roger Federer from his side of the draw. Having never met before, this sets up as a perfect contest for Nadal who will look to work Tiafoe around the court, exploiting his already arduous campaign and cruise on to yet another grand slam semi-final.
Bautista-Agut v Tsitsipas
In the second contest of youth v experience, the legend conquering Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista-Agut. Despite not being at his best, Federer was beaten by a better man in Tsitsipas and although Bautista-Agut won’t offer the dominance that Federer can possess, the Spaniard will look to frustrate Tsitsipas with his consistency of getting balls into court. This is a match that could go either way for both players who have yet to ever reach a grand slam quarter final and will also be the first contest between the two of them.
Best Bet: Over 40.5 (Total Games)
Raonic v Pouille
The big serving Canadian Milos Raonic will take on Frenchman Lucas Pouille in what looks to be an interesting quarter final. Previously touted as the next big thing, Raonic appears to have resurrected his career with wins over Kyrgios and Wawrinka, before an emphatic victory over Alexander Zverev. In two previous meetings between the pair, Raonic has had a solid edge over Pouille, winning both times without dropping a set. Pouille looks to have improved since then and will prove difficult for Raonic to win points against the serve. Raonic should be too good in what looks a tight contest.
Nishikori v Djokovic
The might of Japan in Kei Nishikori will look to take down the tournament favourite in Novak Djokovic, both coming off gruelling 4th round victories. Un-defeated after winning the Brisbane International, Nishikori has struggled throughout the Open, coming from two sets down twice and playing a total of 18 sets in just 4 matches. Having won in every one of their last 15 contests, Djokovic will again look to get on the front foot early, pushing Nishikori from side to side ultimately suffocating Nishikori into submission. Expect this to be a comfortable win for the Serbian prince.
Best Bet: Novak Djokovic -6.5 (Game Handicap)
Australian Open Winner – Men’s Singles
From the outset we stated that Djokovic would be a formidable challenge and that hasn’t changed. His finish to 2018 was nothing short of outstanding and despite looking far from his best, Novak looks to have improvement to give. Nadal looks the obvious finals opponent for Djokovic in what would be the 53rd time both players have graced the court together. Despite a rather split record, Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on a hard court since 2013 and it would hard to see that changing here.
On route to the final, Novak looks to run into a likely contest with Raonic who has been in great form, but has yet to taste victory between the two yet. The Federer conquering Tsitsipas would make for an interesting final as the only time the pair met at the Canada Masters, Tsitsipas walked away victorious in a tight battle. Regardless, Djokovic looks to have the edge over this lot and looks set for another Australian Open title.
Pavlyuchenkova v Collins
In an un-expected quarter final match-up, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will take on Danielle Rose Collins after both un-seeded players were victorious in their match-ups against top 5 players. Despite being un-seeded, this is 5th occasion in which Pavlyuchenkova has appeared in a grand slam quarter final and she will feed off that experience when she meets Collins for the first time. Collins was dominant in her victory over former champion Kerber, but Pavlyuchenkova is a much more aggressive player and if she is able to limit the unforced errors, she will prove difficult to beat.
Kvitova v Barty
In a rematch of the Sydney International final just over a week ago, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty will take on Petra Kvitova. On that occasion Kvitova won in a tight one and has had the edge over Barty previously as well. This shapes up as a semi-final of sorts as the winner is guaranteed to face an un-seeded opponent on route to the final. Kvitova has been outstanding of late, including her last match where she had an unbelievable 85% first serve percentage. If she can maintain that sort of from, she has the game to really trouble Barty and it will her match to lose.
Osaka v Svitolina
In what shapes up as an excellent match-up, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina take on each other for 6th time with the latter having the slight advantage. Osaka has been far from convincing since winning last year’s US Open, but has shown glimpses of brilliance with her flat hard-hitting ball striking. Svitolina, will relish being able to play more on the front foot and will prove difficult for her Japanese opponent as she has a canniness to getting balls back into court. Although Osaka at her best would be hard to beat she is far from that and expect Svitolina to have the edge here.
Best Bet: Elina Svitolina (Match Result)
Williams v Pliskova
The ever impressive Serena Williams takes on Czech powerhouse, Karolina Pliskova in what looks an intriguing quarter final. Both are un-defeated in 2019 with Pliskova winning the Brisbane International, while Williams was dominant during the Hopman Cup. Williams has the slight edge between the pair, claiming a straight sets victory at last year’s US Open quarter finals. Despite Pliskova reminding us all of why she was world no.1, this is a much tougher Serena Williams who will look to force Pliskova onto the back foot. Expect Williams to dominate early for a comfortable win.
Best Bet: Serena Williams -3.5 (Game Handicap)
Australian Open Winner – Women’s Singles
When we pointed out Serena Williams at the beginning of last week, we never envisioned she would be as dominant as she has been. It hasn’t been easy for her either, coming up against impressive youngster, Yastremska, along with a tough victory over world no.1, Halep. Looking at the rest of the draw, there is the potential for it to get easier for Williams with her half of the draw the far more dominant.
In what shapes up as an interesting talking point, Williams may collide with Osaka in the semi-finals, her opponent from the infamous umpire blow-up at the US Open final. Osaka has been far from her best and I’d expect Williams to turn the tables on that contest. Kvitova shapes up as the obvious opponent in the final and should she keep up her form, the $5 on offer at publish looks great value, considering Williams has not beaten Kvitova since 2013.