Monday, January 25, 2010

Men's Quarterfinal Quick Picks: Muray-Nadal Set To Renew Hostilities

Tennis Obsessed,

Well, well, well. Here we are at day 8, and we've got 8 women and 8 men remaining. My, how the time flies.

Before we could even get used to the hustle and bustle of the early rounds, we look around the grounds and find that the men's and women 's singles has been replaced by juniors, doubles, and mixed doubles on the outer courts.

Suddenly our singles draws are all thinned out - so much in fact that it isn't even challenging to keep track off them any more. No longer do we have to write all itty bitty small on those tiny little brackets that we've printed out for ourselves. We know who plays, and we don't need six channels to watch them play - though it would be nice to keep track of the doubles and mixed doubles.

We are finally past the hors d'ouevres and into the main course of the tournament. It's on, people!

So without any further ado, here are my quarterfinal quick picks for the bottom half of the draws:
Men: Andy Roddick - Marin Cilic, 3rd match on Rod Laver Arena

Cilic came through with flying colors against del Potro - it was definitely the biggest and most impressive win of his career (though the win over Murray at the last U.S. Open has to rank as well). In getting past del Potro Cilic avenged two previous 4th-round losses to the Argentine, and also proved that he is worthy of mention as more than a "dark horse" these days.

He's a real and legitimate threat to win this title, and I wouldn't be too surprised if he was making his first-ever Barclays Global World Tour Finals appeareance come late November.

Roddick, meanwhile, has been benefiting from having a long off-season, and may not be suffering physically as much as Cilic, even though he was pushed by Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Gonzalez in the 3rd and 4th rounds.

I have a feeling that this will be an even match, with stretches of domination from each player. And I have a feeling that tiebreakers will again be very crucial.

Cilic has played two 5-setters in the last 3 matches, so get your popcorn ready - and expect the Nadal-Murray match to begin later than expected.

Pick: Roddick in 5

Nadal-Murray, 1st match, night session (19:30 start), Rod Laver Arena

Murray has beaten Nadal in 2 of their last 3 hard-court encounters (including the 2008 U.S. Open semifinal) so I don't recommend taking too much stock in the fact that Rafa is 7-2 v. Murray over the course of his illustrious career.

Nadal has won their only previous meeting in Melbourne (a 5-setter in 2007, 4th round).

Many have said that Murray has looked better than any other player at the 2010 Australian Open. Indeed, it is the first time he's ever made the quarterfinals of a Slam without losing a single set. But if you look at his 2009 results it is plain to see that he is a strong starter in all slams. The fact of the matter is that there will always be doubters who believe that his lack (or lack of desire to employ) an offensive arsenal will ultimately lead to his failure in the business end of a Slam.

Nadal, meanwhile, seems to be coming into high form. He really wasn't challenged much in his first three matches, but the fact that they each relatively easy on his body puts him in position to mount a titanic struggle against Murray - even if Murray plays his best tennis.

Without a title since May of last year, Nadal's voracious appetite for destruction could be even greater than it usually is - and because of that this match has the potential for being a classic in many ways.

Long, artfully constructed shots should be in the majority.

What is perhaps the most heavily anticipated men's quarterfinal seems destined not to disappoint.

Pick (gulp): Nadal in 4

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