Australian Open Quarterfinal Picks–Dimitrov/Nadal and Federer/Murray

baby and fed

There are two blockbuster quarterfinals tonight, with both Baby and Uncle Fed participating. In all seriousness, these have the potential to be great matches, and my roommate Jorge Merlos has joined me to break down the match-ups and make our picks.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Rafael Nadal

Joey: This match has the uncertainty factor. Nadal definitely goes in as the favorite, but there are a few things that could have a massive impact on the outcome of the match. For one, Rafa has grabbed his knee a few times throughout the tournament, and it’s unclear whether he is 100% healthy. The massive blister on his palm could bother him, but he should be able to fight through that. Another unknown is how Dimitov will perform at this level in the most pressure packed match of his life. He had not been past the third round of a Grand Slam before this tournament, and although he has performed exceptionally well thus far, you never know what might happen given the uncharted territory.

The matchup is always tough for a one-hander like Dimitrov against Nadal, but Grigor has taken a set off of Rafa in each of their previous three meetings. Interestingly enough, it has always been the second set, and I believe if Grigor wants a shot at this one he will need to win the first. Unlike most players, Baby Fed hits a very sharp slice that actually can give Nadal trouble. In Cincinnati last year he used the shot very effectively, keeping Rafa on the back foot. It will be interesting to see how much he decides to come over the ball, because his one-hander at shoulder level almost always lands short. We pretty much know what we are going to get from Rafa, who never gives anything away, and always makes the opponent earn the match. Dimitrov has served exceptionally well and he will need that to continue to have any shot. My head tells me Rafa, as does every expert analyst out there, but sometimes you gotta go with your heart right?

Dimitrov 7-6(4) 6-4 2-6 1-6 7-5

Jorge: La Rodilla! The blister! Stop it. After beating Kei Nishikori on Monday, Rafael Nadal is poised to stop the Fed of the future, Grigor Dimitrov. If Dimitrov wants to win this match, his serves have to be on point. Last year in the round of 16 against Nadal at Cincinnati, Dimitrov won 38 of 54 point of his first serve. However winning points off his second serve was not as efficient as he won 12 out of 29 points.

Dimitrov has been able to win at least a set on Nadal in each of their matches but Nadal has been able to close out every match. Grigor takes a lot of positive momentum into this match after taking out Raonic and Bautista Agut, but Nadal looks unstoppable after beating his last 3 opponents in 3 sets. Look for Nadal to use his forehand to break down Grigor’s backhand, and attack Dimitrov’s unstable return game. I see this match ending with a very tough 4th set tiebreaker with Nadal eventually pulling it out.

Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7).

Roger Federer vs Andy Murray

Joey: A little after Baby takes the court, Uncle Fed will take center stage against Andy Murray. The two played a great, but not necessarily high quality match one year ago in Melbourne. Murray is coming off of back surgery and has played three players outside the top 100 in route to the quarters, so to say he’s had a weak draw would be an understatement. He has looked sharp though, only dropping one set to Stephane Robert in the round of 16. Through his first four matches it appeared that Murray had a few lapses in concentration, but that is understandable given the competition. He does look fully healthy, but playing his 5th match in 10 days will be a big test for back. After playing somewhat scratchy against James Duckworth in the first round, Federer has looked awesome in last three matches, culminating with a dominant performance over Jo Willy Tsonga that gave all Fed-fans some serious hope and belief.

Murray leads the head to head 11-9, while Federer leads the Grand Slam record 3-1. Hard courts are definitely the Muzza’s best surface, with his movement giving his opponents fits. The surface on Rod Laver Arena in a little quicker this year, but it’s a night match so condition will slow down. With the new racket, Federer has been serving very effeciently, even adding a few m.p.h.’s. His wide serve in the deuce court has been especially potent, and he uses that serve on almost every first point of his service games. Murray has played Federer with more aggressiveness in their past few meetings, and it will be important he does so against, because Federer has been bossing his opponents around the court. I think we know what to expect from Murray, a good solid performance. Federer is much more of a questions. However, there is a certain fire in Fed’s eyes and you know how badly he wants to prove the doubters wrong. Again, I’ll admit it, I’m picking with my heart.

Federer 6-3 7-5 6-7(5) 6-4

Jorge: I readily admit that I did not expect this match to happen. I did not see Federer beating Tsonga, and certainly not with that kind of  conviction, crushing Jo Willy in straight sets. It was the perfect way for Fed to come into this matchup against Murray. Murray has looked solid in his first few matches coming back from surgery but has not faced a big challenge from any opponent.

What I have seen from Federer in the past week has been amazing after a dismal 2013.  If Federer can move like he has been for the past couple matches, he can win this match. Look for more of the serve and volley from Roger to neutralize the Murray backhand return. The serve and volley tactic won’t seal the deal, but it will be a key part in winning the match.

Federer 5-7 6-4 7-6 (4) 3-6 6-4.

Go ahead, blast our picks. But I want to hear from you guys. As Brad Gilbert and Ricky Dimon  would say, who ya got and scoreline?

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The Australian Open Court Speed Debate

Margaret-Court-Arena-1-700x450

 

If you’ve been watching the Australian Open for the past two days, then you have undoubtably heard commentators, analysts, and players discussing the speed of the court in Melbourne. Court speed is debated at just about every grand slam. Consensus opinion is that court speeds in this era are medium-slow to very slow at just about each major. For those of you who have watched enough tennis, you know the affect the speed of a surface can have on the game.

What I’ve noticed in watching the action is that yes, the courts look slightly faster. I mean slightly. This is not an event-altering adjustment. The outside courts look to be a bit quicker than the Stadium courts, as the players have reported. And as Brad Gilbert said, the new balls at this years Aussie Open aren’t fluffing up as much as years past, allowing them to get through the court a bit quicker. But even with these modifications, the tennis hasn’t been impacted too much. Part of the reason the courts are playing quick is because it’s so hot, over 100 degrees on Tuesday. When it’s hot outside(and especially dry heat like they have in Melbourne), the balls fly through the air much quicker. In contrast, if you’ve watched any of the night matches you’ll have noticed a significant drop in the court speed. Djokovic and Lacko, and even Nadal and Tomic’s matches looked to be playing much slower than the day.

So all that crap begs the question: Should the courts be faster?

As somebody who enjoys aggressive, attacking tennis, I always felt that quicker courts would lend themselves to more aggressive play, and they do. But you have to be careful, because at a point the tennis starts to get boring for the fans with razor quick courts. First serve unreturned. Second serve chipped back to the middle, forehand winner. First serve unreturned. The rallies are short, and therefore the matches are short. Tournament officials are stuck between giving fans a good show, and allowing players easier times on their bodies.

Everybody remembers the epic Djokovic vs Nadal Final in Melbourne ’12. All 6 hours of it. And because of how slow that court was playing, it seemed like every rally was going at least 20 strokes. This, obviously, made the players tired, and therefore they began to take very long time between points. With the new 25 second rule, those guys would have defaulted in the third set. So if we really want to enforce these new rules then the surface speed is kind of forced to be faster.

Is this good for fans? I don’t know yet. I always used to agree with the old-timers and say,”yeah, lets make these courts faster.” But I’m starting to rethink my position. The courts in Brisbane and Sydney were really fast, and there weren’t a lot of long rallies. I started to say to myself,”this is kinda boring…”

So I guess I’ve come up with a conclusion that is fair for everyone. How about we don’t go just one way or another, and instead make each Grand Slam have very different characteristics. Believe it or not, the French Open has been getting quicker over the years. Wimbledon has slowed down significantly and the US Open is…inconsistent. How about the Australian Open goes back to being really slow with a high bounce, Roland Garros goes back to its slower speed, while Wimbledon and the US Open get sped up?

What do you think? I might have just confused myself writing this article.