Late January means one thing for the tennis world, the Australian Open is well and truly underway.
As far as the men’s draw is concerned, there have been few upsets in the opening week, with the world’s top five still alive and kicking. This of course includes ‘The Big Three’, who as always have looked deadly early on.
World number one Rafael Nadal is one of just three men to have not dropped a single set s so far in Australia, cruising through his opening three rounds in impressive fashion, including his most recent thrashing of 27th seed and compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-2 6-4.
Reigning champion Novak Djokovic has also looked formidable so far. Carrying the momentum of Serbia’s ATP Cup triumph, the world number two is the bookies’ favourite to make it an eighth title in Melbourne. However he cannot boast the perfect record of Rafa this week, after he dropped the third set rather surprisingly to German Jan -Lennard Struff in the first round. All else has been straight forward for the Serb however who this morning beat 14th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 6-4 to make the quarter finals.
At the age of 38 Roger Federer this week became the first player to win 100 career matches at the competition. Although, the Swiss maestro has been pushed further than his other two main rivals, having to fight right until the death against home favourite John Millman. In a fifth set super tie-break to ten, Federer came from 8-4 down to clinch the match 10-8 and deny Millman a repeat of when he stunned Federer at the 2018 US Open. Today Federer fought back from a set down to beat Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and make the quarter finals.
So two of the quarter finals have already been setup and are scheduled for Tuesday morning GMT. Facing Djokovic will be Canadian Milos Raonic, whilst Federer will have the battle past American underdog Tennys Sandgren.
32nd seed Raonic has been incredible in the opening week of the slam. Like Rafa, Raonic is yet to drop a set, and has played one match more than the Spaniard. In arguably the biggest upset of the week, the former Wimbledon finalist defeated in form ATP World Tour Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5 6-4 7-6 in the third round. After this he comfortably dispatched 2018 runner up Marin Cilic to set up his first Grand Slam quarter final since this time last year when he lost to Lucas Pouille. The 29 year old’s hopes of a semi look meek however, as he has a 0-9 career record against Djokovic.
28 year old Tenny Sandgren has made the quarter finals of the Australian Open for the second time in his career. The man from Tennessee made the 2018 quarter finals after beating big names Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem. His wins this week included a shock result as he defeated world number eight Matteo Berrettini across five sets. This morning he beat 12th seed Fabio Fognini to set up the match with Federer. Sandgren is the only unseeded player left.
Victories for both Federer and Djokovic would see a staggering 50th professional match between them. Federer has only beaten the Serb once in Melbourne so will have to fight hard to make his eighth Aussie final.
As for the other half of the draw, four fourth round matches are set up for tonight. The pick of the quartet is Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios. In the best match of the week, Kyrgios battled across five entertaining sets to defeat 16th seed Karen Khachanov after a 10-8 super tiebreak decided the winner. Both men were sensational, and after losing two match points on the way to the fifth, Kyrgios was able to get over the line. Nadal and the often controversial Aussie have been known to criticise each other off the court, so tensions may be expected to run high in the morning. There is no doubt that many Australian eyes will be watching there man searching a fourth career win over Nadal and enter the quarter finals of his home slam for the first time since 2015.
World number four and US Open runner up Daniil Medvedev has progressed to the fourth round with little trouble. He did drop a set to last year’s quarter finalist Frances Tiafoe in the opening round, but has since been comfortable against Pedro Martinez and Aussie younger Alexei Popyrin. He will face 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka who progressed after leading John Isner by a set before the American retired due to injury. The 34 year old was forced to battle across four sets and five sets in his opening two rounds however.
The other two matchups are Andrey Rublev vs Alexander Zverev, and Gael Monfils vs Dominic Thiem. Zverev is the third man to progress through the draw with a perfect record. His straight sets victories included that over 2009 semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco in the third round. After a sensational end to 2018, winning the ATP World Tour Finals, Zverev struggled to find form on tour last year. But the German looks fierce so far in 2020 and he will hope that he can make his first Australian quarter-final tomorrow. His opponent Rublev has also been in stunning form though, after winning back to back titles in Doha and Adelaide in the two weeks building up the the Slam. He has continued his perfect 2020 run with victories including a four sets third round win over 11th seed David Goffin.
Gael Monfils is bidding for a second consecutive slam quarter final after made the last eight at Flushing Meadows last September. However he has only made the quarter final once in Melbourne which came in 2016 when he lost to Raonic. The 10th seed has played well this week but is yet to face another seeded player. His third round win was against qualifier Ernest Gulbis who was a French Open semi finalist six years ago. Fifth seed Dominic Thiem is next up for Monfils. The twice Roland Garros runner up has been tested early on this week, having to pull through a challenging five setter against wildcard Alex Bolt. He looked more comfortable Saturday though when he beat 29th seed Taylor Fritz in four. Monfils may struggle to get the better of the Austrian, seeming as Thiem boasts a 5-0 career lead over the Frenchman.
So the second week is poised. This time next week we will know who will be the champion. Can anyone stop favourite Djokovic from yet another Australian title?