Novak Djokovic Vs Kei Nishikori Australian Open Quarter Final Preview

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Australian Open men’s quarter-final, Novak Djokovic Vs Kei Nishikori

Novak Djokovic has looked anything but the 2019 men’s singles champion in waiting on his way to his quarter final meeting with Kei Nishikori.

But, here he is again, in his 10th Australian Open quarter final, beating Kreuger, Tsonga, Shapovalov and Medvedev to get there.

This is his first appearance in the last eight since 2016. In that match he faced Kei Nishikori and defeated him in straight sets, the Japanese in form and promising a real contest. Djokovic saw that coming and played accordingly, reducing Nishikori to an error strewn mess.

In their 17 meetings, Djokovic has won 15 of them, 9 of them in straights.

Nishikori’s two wins have been pretty big ones, though. The Japanese caught the Serbian at the tail end of his all time great 2011 season and defeated him in Basel in three sets and beat him in the US Open quarters ’14 when the Serbian had just started finding his Grand slam form again, coming off a Wimbledon win.

Nishikori at his hard court heights is quite the sight, and too much to take for the majority of the tour. The aggression, the deep and penetrating ground strokes, the changes of direction and shot-making, those strengths and his returning compensating for his service.

That weak service game and his tendency to over hit in big matches against more wily base-liners with the patients of saints hellbent like devils on driving you out of your mind have got in the way of the Japanese winning a Grand slam. If two glaring flaws were not enough, there’s also his fragile body and his tendency to get involved in long grueling matches which often leave him spent by the time he gets to a match in which he needs all the energy he can muster.

And this match versus Djokovic will be one of those matches.

Those weaknesses will once again hurt him versus Novak Djokovic this Australian Open. After all, who better to undo them than Novak Djokovic? That’s what Djokovic does, and this time he won’t have to think too hard about which weakness to pick on.

Give Djokovic a man coming off the back of a five hour five minute match so emotional it reduced Nishikori’s opponent, the usually placid Pablo Carreno Busta, to an outburst of pure fury and left his own coach Michael Chang, one of the tour’s greatest ever competitors, in tears of appreciation, and Djokovic will give that man plenty of running to do, making him play one long drawn out game after the other until the leg and mind can do no more.

Once his opponent is mentally and physically done, Novak will do as he pleases: keep rallying and get some good rhythm going; be aggressive and finish the points early to leave him fresh for the semis; experiment with some shot-making and woo the crowd. Whatever he likes because Djokovic doesn’t just have plan B or C; he’s got plan A-Z.

He won’t peak, though, unless of course that’s what Nishiori ends up doing.

That’s for the final and the in-form Nadal.

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Rafa Nadal Vs Frances Tiafoe Australian Open Quarter Final Preview

Nadal Australian Open
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Rafa Nadal had not played since the US Open entering this year’s Australian Open. The Spaniard was busy healing knee a injury, a task that has kept him occupied for long stretches of his career.

Usually, though, when Nadal is not recovering from one injury or another, he’s busy competing for slams, and he’s made quick work of that at this year’s Australian Open. James Duckworth, Matthew Ebden, Alex di Minaur and Tomas Berdych have all been dismissed, all in straights, and going into the business end of the slam Nadal has won the least (1 title in ’09), Nadal is as fresh as it gets, a fact his knees will be grateful for; his upcoming opponent not so.

Frances Tiafoe is up next. The American turned 21 on Sunday, but that milestone was a little overshadowed by a professional one, the American’s first fourth round Grand slam win earning his first quarter-final. The American upset Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov to get there.

Tiafoe won’t be keen to get on the Nadal unmerry go round of victims, but it’s hard, considering his inexperience, to not see him taking a seat on that less than, for Nadal’s recent rivals, ride.

For even if Tiafoe comes out playing great shot-making aggressive tennis, he still has two problems- breaking the Nadal serve and winning the mental battle should the match come down to the wire.

Nadal’s new service is working out well- he has faced 13 break points all tournament, and been broken twice, in his opening match versus Duckworth. That serve, shortened to spare his ankle, will give him some confidence he won’t aggravate his injury, and that lack of fear makes him even more dangerous.

As for the mental battle, this is Nadal in a slam quarter-final, his 37th, and so far he’s 29/36. With fresh legs, in-form, and facing a slam quarter final beau, Nadal is going to be feeling very confident if sets get tight, and will give Tiafoe his first real insight into what pressure at the top of men’s tennis feels like.

Tiafoe won’t be blamed if he can’t stand up to it. His performances so far suggest he’ll give it his best shot, and if he can do so on the big points, we could be in for an upset. And if he can’t, well there will be plenty more shots at the semis for Tiafoe in the future. For Nadal, that’s not quite the case, and with the draw opening up the way it has, it’s hard to see him letting this one pass.

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Australian Open Men’s preview Top Half Fourth Round

Australian Open
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Australian Open top half fourth round preview

Novak Djokovic (1) Vs Daniil Medvedev (15)

Medvedev believes he has a chance versus Djokovic, a confidence he’s taken on the back of his fellow #NextGenATP player’s victories over the world no.1 (Tsitsipas Canada; Khachanov Paris-Bercy; A.Zverev WTF) and another force, one not even Novak Djokovic can fight- the ageing process.

While time may have meant Djokovic is not the player he once was, time has been a great help to the 22 year old Medvedev, giving the Russian the experience he needs to compete with the likes of Djokovic.

It’s time also that Medvedev feels will help him beat Djokovic, the Serbian, according to the Russian, giving you more time to hit the ball than other top players, a factor that would work in Medvedev’s favor, increasing his chances of hitting the powerful flat strokes that could potentially overwhelm the Serb.

Against the 31 year old Djokovic, Medvedev will need all the belief he can dig deep for. Djokovic may have looked less than impressive vs Shapovalov, but not much should be read into that performance other than it being another example of Djokovic’s advanced match management. Djokovic, like Murray, susses out the level of his opponent and adjusts his own accordingly, denying them the high level of tennis that can pick a struggling opponent’s level up, especially a sparky shot-maker like Shapavolov.

If Medvedev comes out playing as well as he has been of late, Djokovic will raise his own level a notch or two, be aggressive and consistent himself and when the lull comes, he’ll make sure it lasts.

Pablo Carreno Busta (23) Vs Kei Nishikori (8)

Carreno Busta is about as solid as a tennis player gets and if Nishikori is even a little bit compromised physically, and he is on a 9 match winning run, Busta has the game to take advantage.

If Nishikori’s body does hold up, Busta will be, in the Japanese’s words “tough” anyway, and the Brisbane champ expects extended rallies versus the 23rd seed playing in his second consecutive Australian Open fourth round, the furthest he has reached at that event.

This is the first match between the two and Nishikori, a three time Melbourne quarter-finalist, is the favorite.

Busta does have all the bases covered- he can serve well, move well, play from the back, build points and finish them at the net- but he doesn’t have any one shot which can really hurt the Japanese while Nishikori is the more aggressive and the more explosive of the two and if the rallies do get extended, Nishikori will look to win them with some of his shot-making skills and some inspired changes of direction.

Alexander Zverev (4) Vs Milos Raonic (16)

Sascha Zverev has made another slam fourth round, his third in all. In his first one, at Wimbledon in 2017, a five setter in which Zverev led by two sets to one, he was beaten by the Canadian, against whom he is 1-1, the German’s win a straight setter in Rome ’17.

At Wimbledon ’17, Raonic was on his way up, but now it’s Zverev in the ascendancy while Raonic tries to climb back to where he belongs, at the business end of medium fast slams.

This match will tell us a lot about how far Zverev really has come since hiring Lendl, if he can back up his fine play on the regular tour and meet his seeded position of four.

Zverev cannot be accused of not putting the work in. Like Raonic did to make the strides in his game, developing a solid less penetrable back court game, Zverev has worked on his weaknesses- his net play and mental toughness.

But those weaknesses are where Raonic is strong and what make the Canadian such a force on hard courts when in form, which he is.

Zverev is about to be asked some serious questions about just how mature and confident in moving forward he really is, and nothing but acing the test versus Raonic will do.

Borna Coric (11) Vs Lucas Pouille (28)

Coric is the sleeper in his quarter of the draw. Overlooked because of Fucsovic’s presence in his section, the Croatian has reached his second consecutive Grand slam fourth round under the radar, defeating Fucsovics in the process, in the second round, and in straights.

Pouille’s best results have come on faster courts and the former top tenner has reached his first slam fourth round since the US Open ’17, each match he has played to get there getting harder and harder, and this will be his toughest encounter yet.

Coric is the favorite in this match up, leading Pouille 2-0, both wins on hard (indoor and outdoor). With conditions suiting both men’s games in different ways- Pouille’s explosive shot-making and flat strokes; Coric’s movement, depth of shot and point construction-this match could go either way, but if it comes down to mental toughness, there’s no contest and it will be a first quarter-final at a slam for Coric.

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Australian Open Bottom Half 4th round Preview

Australian Open Men Final
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Australian Open fourth round, Bottom half, preview,

Roger Federer (3) Vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (14)

Tennis fans and pundits are slow to annoint Stefanos Tsitsipas as Baby Fed after the name seemingly cursed Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet.

Federer has rarely been given any sleepless nights by his tennis heirs, but Tsitsipas is catching Federer at a better time than his elder brothers did.

Federer is a little more prone to having random bad days now and such days were really piling up after Indian Wells last season.

The Swiss has been having some fine days this Australian Open, though, making the last sixteen without dropping a set.

It’s still not quite safe to anoint him the favorite yet- Denis Istomin, Dan Evans and Taylor Fritz are all good match ups for the 6 time champ and we won’t really know if he is in slam winning form until he comes up against someone who can out-power him or test him at the back of the court.

Tsitsipas is a good match up for Federer, too, and if Federer is in tune, this match should be straightforward.

The two will trade sharp service game filled with shot-making and flair, so even if routine, this match won’t be short on entertainment.

This match does have some potential, however, to be anything but a cruise for Federer into the last eight.

Tsitsipas will make the 3rd seed work for his win, good match up or not, and will give 110% until the very end.

The Greek also has the potential to ask deeper questions about Federer’s overall form than the Swiss’ previous opponents with Tsitsipas capable of exploiting Federer’s at times vulnerable backcourt game, the Greek’s own baseline skills as explosive as Federer’s in his early days.

The 14th seed is primed for a fight, too- he defeated the in form 19th seed Nicolas Basilashvili in four brutal sets in round 3.

He’s also had a taste of what it’s like to play his idol when they met in the Hopman cup so he won’t be too unnerved by their first professional meeting.

This match is the first night match on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night. Prime time slot for the prime cut of the bottom half last sixteen contests.

Cilic (6) Vs Bautista Agut (22)

Bautista is in as good form as anyone in the draw having won the title in Doha and making his way to the Australian Open fourth round for the fourth time in his career.

The 22nd seed has been involved in some almighty contests, too, having won the first two sets in both his first and second round matches, versus Andy Murray and John Millman, before dropping sets three and four and winning in five.

Round three saw Bautista get something of a rest after he beat Karen Khachanov in straights so he should still have plenty of running left in his legs.

Cilic will be ready for a fight himself after beating Fernando Verdasco in the third round, coming from two sets to love down and match point down in the fourth set tiebreaker.

Bautista Agut has made ten slam fourth rounds now and is looking to break through and make the last eight of a slam for the first time.

Although Bautista Agur trails 1-4 in the head to head, he has beaten Cilic at the Australian Open before, in the 3r in ’16, and if he can capitalize on Cilic’s lapses in a match and not let his own level drop, he could put in his personal best slam performance.

Cilic, one of the top players most prone to Grand Slam upsets, will be on his game in this one, only too aware of the dangers ahead. If he does make it through what is sure to be a tough match, it will bode well for the rest of his tournament for once Cilic clears a couple of tough hurdles in a slam, he becomes the man to to beat for the title.

Frances Tiafoe Vs Grigor Dimtrov (20)

Tiafoe is having his breakthrough slam; Dimitrov is putting his career back together again.

This match puts two talented shot-makers up against one another with a slam quarter-final to play for- Tiafoe’s first; Dimitrov’s first since he made the quarters last year in Melbourne, his best slam.

Their one match was in Canada last season which Dimitrov won on a third set tiebreaker, which bodes well for this last sixteen match up.

Dimitrov has Agassi in his corner, who knows a thing or too about young American shotmakers, and he’ll be offering some sound advice to Dimitrov how to take this match on, and the Bulgarian has shown us before how he is not afraid to go to plan B to get the win, and it’s that experience and dynamic style and approach which could make the difference here.

Tomas Berdych Vs Rafa Nadal (2)

With Berdych reinvigorated and Nadal going untested this slam, the outcome of this match really is hard to predict.

Berdych has beaten Nadal before in Melbourne, in the ’15 quarters, but that was a rare win, the Czech 4-19 in that head to head.

Sped up conditions in Melbourne play into Berdych’s hands, the Czech’s game naturally suited to faster courts and balls. Nadal, nevertheless, is still the more accomplished on hard courts, able to tinker his serve and game style to complement his already aggressive baseline game.

Toss a coin for this one and have a great time waiting to see which side it lands.

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Australian Open Mens 3r Preview Daniil Medvedev Vs David Goffin

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Australian Open 3rd round, Daniil Medvedev (15) Vs David Goffin (21), Day 6, Melbourne arena, not before 12:30 pm.

In 2018, Daniil Medvedev (15) won the most matches on hard courts on the tour (won 37, lost 14), only his third season playing in ATP main draws, picking up titles in Sydney, Winston-Salom and Tokyo, the latter title won as a qualifier.

That run of form has flown over in the new year with Medvedev reaching the Brisbane final (lost to Nishikori) and reaching the third round in Melbourne.

His opponent David Goffin (21) is pretty skilled on hard courts, too. He’s been to the quarters in Melbourne (’17), made the semis in Cincy, Miami and Indian Wells, and 3 of his 4 career titles have come on hard (Moselle, Shenzen, Tokyo).

Like Medvedev has now, Goffin also had a buzz about him at various stages of his career, that buzz first generating when he reached the Roland Garros last 16 in ’12 as a qualifier and reaching its loudest point when he beat Nadal and Federer on his way to the ATP Finals ’17 (lost to Dimitrov).

Goffin has never really been able to take advantage of his momentum, being hit by unfortunate accidents (falling on the tarpaulin at the back of the court at Roland Garros ’17, hitting his eye with his racket at Rotterdam ’18) and injuries ( a right elbow injury forcing him to end his ’18 season after Shenzen).

Goffin is part of the cursed Nishikori-Dimitrov- Raonic generation who have not, for a host of reasons, broken through and replaced the generation above them in terms of grand slam wins and top rankings.

A decade ago, most people would have thought that the current top 3, Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, aged 31, 32 and 37 respectively, would have been on their way out of the game, if not already retired, and Nishikori and co would have been at the top of the game.

That Nishikori generation is now in danger of being rammed off the side of the road by the one below of Medvedev, Zverev, Khachanov, Coric, Chung and Shapovalov, one of the deepest generations we’ve had in a while and all developing at steep, and perhaps alarming, for the likes of Goffin and Thiem, another member of an under-achieving generation, rates.

If Medvedev wins this Goffin match and makes the fourth round, that would be the 22 year old’s furthest stage in a slam reached and a further step in his generation’s progress above their elders and towards the top of the game.

Medvedev is a likely winner, too. In this match-up, Medvedev has the bigger serve, the flatter shots, and the more aggressive game which means his service games will be on his terms. He’ll have to serve incredibly well against Goffin, too- the Belgian was 2nd for return stats on the ATP tour in 2018.

That Goffin return gives him a good chance in this match, especially if he can put pressure on Medvedev, which his greater experience should allow him to do. Goffin also has just the game to exploit Medvedev’s height- the Belgian likes moving his opponent’s side to side and then either hitting the backhand down the line for a winner or moving forward to take the ball out the air.

Both these player’s hard court prowess and the fact their strengths negate each other’s weaknesses makes this match my pick of the day for this top half last 32 Australian Open meeting.

There’s a lot at stake- for Medvedev, his first round of 16 at a slam and keeping that momentum going; for Goffin getting his career back on track and some confidence.

There’s also something else to motivate these two, as if they needed it- a potential last 16 match versus Novak Djokovic where they could really test how far they have to go to move ahead of that generation and make the top of the game their own. In recent months, that shift, with Khachanov’s win over Djokovic in Paris and Zverev’s in London, has looked, for Medvedev’s generation, like it could get seismic, while for Goffin’s, it’s been dead in the water for some time. Just how close to an earthquake we are or whether there is life beneath the surface are two questions many of us would like answered, and finding out whether it will be Medvedev or Goffin asking the question will be very intriguing indeed.

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Australian Open Preview 3r Rafael Nadal vs Alex de Minaur

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Australian Open 3rd round Preview- Rafa Nadal (2) Vs Alex de Minaur, Rod Laver Arena, from 7pm.

Rafa Nadal will have to defeat his third Australian hope in a row to progress to the fourth round, and the draw has saved the best of the Aussies for last in the shape of Alex de Minaur.

de Minuar, aged 19 and ranked 29, is the No.1 Australian and one of those rare species in the pro game right now – a highly ranked and title winning teen.

Nadal was one of the last of the teen phenoms to roam the upper echelons of pro tennis, his gallivanting resulting in his first Roland Garros at de Minaur’s age.

Such an achievement might not be written in de Minaur’s stars (he’d have to win this Australian Open to make it happen), but the young Australian is touted to match Nadal as a future slam winner and a probable No.1.

de Minaur’s coach, Llyeton Hewitt, knows all about those hall of fame feats, and he can also regale his charge with tales of what it was like to play a teenage Nadal in Melbourne on Rod Laver, Hewitt defeating Nadal in 2004 and again in 2005 in a classic five setter.

This Nadal-de Minaur clash has the potential to emulate that ’05 epic and deliver the first tightly contested night match to the Rod Laver crowd this tournament.

de Minaur has been competing as well as any player on the tour this early in the season, winning his first ever title in Sydney and beating Pedro Sousa in straights and qualifier Henri Laaksonen in five in his first couple of rounds this week.

Versus Laaksonen, de Minaur did not capitulate to the lethal combo of in-form qualifier and the letdown that could have befallen him after his emotional Sydney win.

de Minaur piled up a winners to unforced errors deficit of -30 (26-56) and will need to clean up his game, but with a day of recovery and a night match versus Rafa Nadal on Rod Laver on the horizon, and all the adrenaline that comes with that, a second wind is sure to blow de Minaur’s way.

Nadal will be ready for de Minaur and the crowd having shown some positive form and playing two home hopes previously. The Spaniard, playing his first tournament since the US Open, dropped two service games in his first round, but went unbroken in his second rounder, winning 81% of the 65% of first serves he made, and averaging 187 kmh service speeds. Nadal also approached the net 18 times in his second rounder, winning 12 of the points, and hit 33 winners to 15 unforced errors.

A serving performance in the high percentages as well as an aggressive game with a positive winner to error ratio are just what Nadal needs if he is going to win this year’s Australian Open.

Aged 31 and his body struggling on hard courts, serving big, flattening out and going for his shots, and finishing points quickly are what Nadal’s Australian Open campaigns are built on nowadays. He’s done well, too, reaching the final in ’17 and last year’s quarters before an upper right leg injury forced him to retire.

But, that hard court friendly game is one which can be negated by de Minaur who will test Nadal’s execution with his counter-punching and consistency, forcing Nadal to hit one more ball, out-nadaling Nadal, and aggravate those once seemingly invincible but now only too vulnerable legs.

Should de Minaur be playing counter-punching hard court tennis at a high enough level to potentially upset a hard court modified Nadal, the Spaniard will not be short of a plan B. If his knees are holding up, he’ll go toe to toe from the back of the court, playing relentless baseline tennis to out-muscle and out-grind the youngster if he has to even if such a style might scupper his later chances.

Nadal, after all, will do whatever he has to, health permitting, to win.

That do-or-die attitude is an aspect of his game de Minaur himself aspires to, and with Nadal the master, and de Minaur the student, whether this match is a power struggle or a harsh lesson, it’ll be studied and enjoyed by all students of the game.

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Australian Open 2nd rd Preview Borna Coric (11) Vs Marton Fucsovics

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Borna Coric and Marton Fucsovics both play some of their best tennis on medium fast hard courts. What makes this Australian Open second round match so intriguing is that they do so from two very different approaches.

Coric is the modern baseliner with great movement and a keen sense of when to attack and when to stay back. Fucsovics, at the other end of the spectrum, is the classical aggressive power hitter.

If recent form is anything to go by, this match could be the highlight of round 2.

Coric took a big step forward last season, finishing just outside the top ten, turning his forehand into something of a weapon, and developing into a very mature player.

Fucsovics, meanwhile, keeps getting better and better, working hard on his fitness and execution of his style of play, rising from 85 in the world at the start of 2018 to his current ranking of 38 (his high is 35).

Fucsovics got his year off to a good start reaching the Doha last 16 where he took a set from Novak Djokovic and making the Sydney last 16.

Coric is playing his first tournament of the season at this Australian Open. He finished 2018 on a high, reaching the Shanghai final and winning the Davis Cup as part of the Croatian team. Davis Cup has often been a springboard to a positive start to the next season and Coric breaking his duck Down Under has started 2019 off with a real jump.

In the Australian Open first round, Coric defeated Steve Darcis in straight sets, the 11th seed’s first ever victory in Melbourne on his fifth attempt. Fucsovics, who reached the fourth round last year, losing to Roger Federer, had a tougher time against the tricky baseliner Alberto Ramos Vinolas who would have kept the ball bouncing a little higher than Fucsovics might have liked it, a tactic Coric will also likely employ.

Darcis and Ramos Vinolas were good preparation for both men for this match in fundamental ways- Coric facing an aggressive fast courter; Fucsovics a strong baseliner.

However, when it comes to the more nuanced aspects of each other’s individual games, this match is unchartered territory for both, it being the first meeting between the two.

With the two competitors two of the strongest and fittest players on tour, this match will be a physical contest of the toughest order. Fucsovics will be aiming to assert himself from the very beginning, Coric will be ready to hit as many balls as it takes and to keep Fucsovics at the back of the court reaching for balls shoulder height and on the stretch.

Over five sets, Coric should be a bit too versatile for Fucsovics. But, if the Hungarian gets off to a confident start, he’s got the ball striking ability to tear through this one.

Whoever wins is going to have to execute hard court tennis at a high level versus tough competition in a contest which, while a tough draw for the players, is a real treat for fans in the second round of a Grand Slam.

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Australian Open 2nd rd Preview Kevin Anderson Vs Frances Tiafoe

Kevin Anderson Vs Frances Tiafoe at the Australian Open 2019 second round preview.
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Kevin Anderson is a quiet favorite for this year’s Men’s singles Australian Open title. Few are explicitly championing him as the favorite, but even fewer would be shocked if he won the title.

Anderson crept upon the tennis big time a couple of seasons ago, going from one of the game’s biggest servers and solid top 20 players to one of its greatest competitors established in the top ten. Having come back from ankle and shoulder injuries in 2016, Anderson reached the US Open ’17 final as the 28th seed, broke into the top 10 in early ’18 and made the Wimbledon final, playing that match versus John Isner, that same season.

There’s little chance of Frances Tiafoe creeping up on the big stage. The 20 year old’s been on the radar since he was a teen, a former No.2 in the juniors, the youngest winner of the Orange Bowl (aged 15 and 11 months) and made a much hyped pro debut at the 2014 Citi Open.

Tiafoe’s powerful serve and forehand, shot-making, and athleticism are touted to help take him to the top of the game. Ranked 39, he’s on the right track and it won’t be too long before he’s seeded and the likes of Anderson won’t have to worry about him until at least another round.

Anderson knows only too well how dangerous Tiafoe is. They have met three times, all on hard court, two of those matches going three sets and the straight setter featuring a tiebreak.

Tiafoe has not made a name for himself as a danger to the seeds at slams just yet, however. Tiafoe’s record in slams is unremarkable- he’s 5-11 with his best result coming at last year’s Wimbledon, the third round. But, he does have two top ten wins at ATP events on his resume, both on hard courts, and both in tough three setters, (Vs Sascha Zverev Cincy’17; del Potro Delray Beach ’18 on his run to his one and only title), and that seed slaying breakthrough can only be so far away.

It could come as soon as this Australian Open 2nd round contest. As Tiafoe’s close matches versus Anderson suggest, these two are a good match up. Both have great first serves, can control points from the baseline and have an aggressive mindset. The difference could be the second serve, of which Anderson has the greater of the two.

If both men serve out of their minds, then inspiration will decide this one. Tiafoe likes the big crowds and can produce the kind of tennis to get them going. Anderson’s inspiration tends to express itself in huge winners hit out of nowhere sure to draw a few gasps.

Neither player will have to listen hard for their muse with the crowd knowledgeable about both player’s stage in their careers, a crowd who will do their vocal best to help them realize their potential- Anderson’s shot at making another slam final and ending his days as bridesmaid; Tiafoe on the verge of getting his career really rolling and announcing himself as a contender.

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Australian Open Mens 1r Preview Milos Raonic (16) Vs Nick Kyrgios

Australian Open
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Milos Raonic was No.3 in the world when he made the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2017, had recently reached his first slam final at Wimbledon ’16, and had made the ATP WTF semis.

While hard work and talent can get you a step ahead in pro tennis, there’s nothing like an injury to set you two steps back, as Raonic unfortunately experienced when on the verge of reaching his potential, wrist and right leg injuries derailed his career, bringing his momentum to a halt and his ranking dropping to 40 in late February 2018.

Raonic has fought back, though, reaching in the last 12 months the Miami semis, the Wimbledon quarters, and the US Open last 16, and is seeded 16 at this year’s Australian Open.

The draw Gods have not been kind to him, though, putting him against home hope Nick Kyrgios in the first round.

Nick Kygrios is currently ranked 51 (he was still a top 20 player last August). Kyrgios has not always helped himself when it comes to reaching his potential, but he’s also been cursed with injuries, an elbow one the most recent.

Had the tennis fates been kinder, these two, aged 28 (Raonic) and 23 (Krygios) might have both been seeded in the top 8 right now and drawn to meet in the quarters.

It would not have been too far fetched to predict a few years back that Raonic and Kyrgios might even meet each other in either the Australian Open, Wimbledon or US Open finals.

But injuries derail plenty of potential Grand slam winning careers and it’s determination and luck which get them back on track.

With Raonic, there’s no question he’ll work his hardest to give himself that chance to reach his potential; with Kyrgios, what happens is anyone’s guess.

For now, though, the issue both men have to face is one of the toughest matches in the Australian Open first round.

The two have met 6 times and their head to head is split 3-3. Kyrgios won their sole hard encounter in the Miami 2016 quarters.

Going into this match, Kyrgios lost in the second round of Brisbane in three sets to Jeremy Chardy while Raonic reached the Brisbane quarters where he lost a close three setter to Daniil Medvedev making him the more match fit of the two.

The match is likely to be decided by the serve and the second ball. If either throw in a weak service game, their opponent has a great chance to take the set. Raonic arguably has the more solid backcourt game to put a few doubts in Kyrgios’ mind on break point; Kyrgios has the shotmaking ability should Raonic slip up and throw in any sitters or short balls.

This match is a real toss up. Raonic’s better focus and drive suggests when this match is up in the air, it’ll come down on his side, but he’s playing Nick Kyrgios so anything is possible, which, for a Grand Slam first rounder, is all you can really ask for.

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Australian Open 1st Rd Preview Andy Murray vs Roberto Bautista Agut

Murray Australian Open
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Andy Murray’s announcement that this Australian Open could be his final tournament and his first round match being against Robert Bautista Agut mean this contest will likely end up being the tournament’s most memorable first rounder if not match.

Murray coming up against Bautista Agut, seeded 22, means this Murray Melbourne match will, barring a miracle or Bautista Agut himself getting injured, be his last.

Murray leads Bautista Agut 3-0 in their head to head and has never dropped a set to him, but if ever head to heads meant little, it’s in this match with both men at very different stages of their career, Murray’s ending and Bautista Agut’s blossoming.

Bautista Agut is on a great run of form, beating Novak Djokivic in the Doha semis and Tomas Berdych in the final, arguably the greatest week of his career.

Like Murray, Bautista Agut is a counterpuncher at heart and very fast around the court, and his higher level of fitness and match play should mean the Spaniard will make Murray chase down one too many balls than he is physically capable of doing.

Murray’s hip may be pushing him out of the game, but he will give everything he has to stay in the tournament and make this potential final slam one to be proud of.

Win or lose, Murray will receive a heart-warming reception from the crowd on Melbourne Arena, where this match is scheduled not before 6 pm,and there will be plenty of hankies passed around.

Murray has earned the love of the locals. The Scot has the unenviable but impressive record of reaching the most finals in Melbourne (5) and not winning the title (’10, ’11, ’13, ’15, ’16)

The Scot’s counter-punching, tactical astuteness, superb physical conditioning, match winning backhand and fine touch have seen him beat the likes of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic, and contest the formidable 2011 semi-final versus Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park.

Bautista-Agut may never reach the status of the afore-mentioned Murray rivals, but he, like Murray did in his career, seems intent on reaching his potential, and this Australian Open could be his best chance to start doing so.

For now, the Spaniard is an underachiever slam wise, having never gone beyond the fourth round in 24 attempts, (though he has reached the fourth round 9 times) but the Australian Open is where the 22nd seed has had his most fourth round appearances- 3 in total.

Bautista has been held back by not having the weapons needed to beat the top players over five sets, but his flat and quick forehand can produce winners, and does so now on a more regular basis, and his fitness and solid all round game just keeps improving.

Beating Murray won’t be all straight-forward business for Bautista Agut despite his opponent’s compromised condition. There will be a lot of attention for a first rounder, a lot of emotion, and we all know what they say about wounded lions and all.

Few fiercer lions than Murray have prowled the Melbourne Park courts Down Under and Bautista Agut will need to be supremely focused and professional to put him out of his misery.

The Spaniard is up to the task mentally as well as physically and knows all about getting on with the job- he lost his mother before last year’s Roland Garros only to go on and play some of his career best matches the rest of the season.

That drive adds even more heart to a match rich in heartbreak and celebration of the sporting spirit. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

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