We’ve reached the final sixteen for this first major championship of 2019.
From the top:
Djokovic v Medvedev
This quarter had a load of pretenders (Novak snacks), and you know I’ve been “requesting” this Medvedev match because this guy can play. Should be good, perhaps a whiff of resistance from the Russian before Novak carries-on. Novak’s dip in the third set yesterday v Shapo was bad news for the field. He got distracted (bored), let that set slip, and then bageled the very over-matched Canadian. This is only a reminder that Novak is in nearly every match toying with his competition and that the five-setter is a deadly venue to play the Serb. He has all day, if needed, to find his center and obliterate his opponent. Having said all of that, Medvedev fits (a bit) that pattern for the kind of player who can beat the Serb (big, young and confident baseliner).
PCB v Nishikori
PCB has become a regular at this point though you might not even notice. He’s solid, more like the RBA type of Spanish tennis than the Nadal/Ferrer type. He’s solid, period. Kei probably has enough form to win this match, but this, either way, is most likely a very routine QF for Novak should he take care of the Russian in that quarter’s true decider.
Zverev v Raonic
Nice bounce-back from the German against the local yokel, Bolt. Now a very important test for the Lendl apprentice. Beating Raonic here would be a big-time elevation gain for Sascha. Raonic is a formidable opponent in a match like this: R16 at a major, playing well, big game, etc. Despite the presence of Lendl, the WTF title, etc., I have to lean Raonic here. But if Zverev can pull-this-off, huge win for the aspiring major champion that is Zverev. But he HAS to win these kinds of matches.
Coric v Pouille
This could be one of the best matches on the slate, if the Frenchman has his wits about him. Despite the two-handed monkeying-around that goes-on with these blokes, the tennis is athletic and, admittedly, I want to see this. Pouille had some real promise, especially after that brilliant match (and the call I made — for the old-school Mcshow readers) between Pouille and Nadal at the 2016 USO: a five-setter, R16, Pouille wasn’t much to speak of but I said beware. The tennis was sharp, high energy and Lucas’ win came finally in that fifth set TB 8-6. Coric, along with Medvedev, is a big part of the cream of this next crop of players. Coric probably gets through this and it could be routine. Hoping for a fight.
Cilic v RBA
Yeah! RBA continues his recent run of brilliant tennis. I wrote earlier about his win v Djokovic in Doha. He is a premier ball striker, an inspired brand of tennis. I have always enjoyed his matches. Khachanov losing there to RBA is similar to what Zverev has with Raonic next. Karen needs to win that match to elevate, to certify his move to that next level. Zverev has made that move, but given his difficulty in Bo5, Raonic tomorrow is a huge test. I regress.
Cilic should win this given his authority in this format, on these big stages. We’ll see if RBA can continue to complicate the narrative, however. The win over Novak, the Doha title, the R16 at the AO: love the run from such a class act. Cilic, nonetheless, should be quite confident and a very difficult out.
Federer v Tsitsipas
Here we are. This should be a very interesting match between a couple of one-handed warriors (Tsitsipas has that old-school ferocity that most of us recognize). Federer appears to have some solid form (I have been especially weary since he, despite some form, will have a drop here and there). He did beat Tsitsipas at the Hopman Cup exhibition, but that was quite close. This will be must-watch. In Fed’s current form, over five-sets, I like him here, but a drop in focus and execution against this kind of fighter (and winner) would not be a huge surprise. Tsitsipas is for real.
Tiafoe v Dimitrov
Bravo to Tiafoe for continuing his run after the Anderson win. We’ve been here with Frances; he’s been the strongest of the young American contingent for a few years. No question. But he’ll have mental lapses and certainly has a very spin heavy game that keeps him in matches, but can render him a bit one-dimensional. If the fluent all-court play of Dimitrov is on, we should get a Dimitrov v Nadal QF, perhaps a nice encore to their 2017 AO SF epic.
Frances is one of the most athletic players on tour. If he’s focused, composed, Dimitrov has his hands full. This could be a very entertaining match.
Nadal v Berdych