Day 8 Preview: Djokovic Eyes QF Berth
The day after shockwaves were sent through the tennis world with #NextGenATP Stefanos Tsitsipas’ impressive win against six-time champion Roger Federer at the Australian Open, top seed Novak Djokovic and reigning Nitto ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev will look to avoid the upset bug on Monday as they continue on a semi-final collision course in Melbourne.
Djokovic, who is tied with Federer and Roy Emerson for the most Australian Open titles (6), plays 15th seed Daniil Medvedev for a spot in his 10th quarter-final at the year’s first Grand Slam. While Djokovic won their two previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, those were both two years ago, and the Russian has quietly become a force to be reckoned with on the ATP Tour in the past five months.
“It’s a good challenge. I think he is in great form right now. He’s won the past two Grand Slams. He knows how to manage the five-set matches. He knows how to manage the momentum and everything,” Medvedev said. “It’s going to be a tough match and I’m going to try to show what I have and I think if I manage to do it, he won’t like me.”
Medvedev, who has won his first three tour-level titles since the start of last season (2018 Sydney, Winston-Salem & Tokyo), has climbed from No. 68 in the ATP Rankings last August to as high as No. 16. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier strikes one of the flattest balls in the sport off both baseline wings, and he moves well for a player who is 6’5”.
“I think what is good about Novak is he gives you time. It’s not Roger, who takes the ball so early. It’s not let’s say [Milos] Raonic, where you know you’re going to run like crazy all match,” Medvedev said. “He gives you time, he lets you play. After this he never misses and he plays deep [in the court]. Of course he’s a great player, but at least you can build your game. This gives you some chances.”
If Medvedev wins, he would become the first Russian to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne since Nikolay Davydenko in 2010. If Djokovic makes the last eight, he will equal Stefan Edberg for the most quarter-final showings at the event (10).
Fourth seed Zverev, whom Djokovic could possibly meet in the semi-finals if they both make it that far, faces former World No. 3 Milos Raonic for a spot in the last eight. The German is trying to reach his second major quarter-final, after also doing so last year at Roland Garros.
The pair has split two previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, neither of which came on a hard court. Perhaps surprisingly, in the seven sets Zverev and Raonic have played, there have been 14 breaks of serve.
“He's playing very well. Only lost a set to Stan [Wawrinka] in the tournament so far,” Zverev said. “It's going to be a fun match. Obviously not a lot of rallies, not a lot of long points. We'll see how it goes.”
People may wonder how Zverev will handle the pressure of the moment, as he is one of the favourites in the tournament, with a chance to climb as high as No. 2 in the ATP Rankings pending results the rest of the fortnight. But Raonic is focused solely on himself.
“I’ve got to use my game to put pressure on him,” Raonic said. “I don't know if the situation will get to him or not.”
“There is going to be many rallies. He's very solid from baseline. He can move well, [he has a] good serve,” Nishikori said. “I'm sure it's going to be a tough match.”
Eleventh seed Borna Coric and 28th seed Lucas Pouille both arrived in Melbourne this year without a win at the Australian Open to their name, but they will battle for a spot in the quarter-finals. Coric has won both of the duo’s previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, including a three-set victory on the hard courts of Vienna last year.