So we’ve reached the business end as the second week enters full swing [and other clichés]. So whilst Murray’s heroics, Nadal’s injury and the high profile exits of Jabeur and Sakkari told the story of the first week of 2023’s first slam, the last few days have turned up the intrigue further still.
The likes of Gauff, Krejcikova and Keys were sailing through each match with ease, so too Garcia and Bencic, but all gone now and some refreshing names in their stead. Iga Swiatek’s exit at the hand of the almost forgotten Wimbledon champ Rybakina is the biggest surprise so far, but one that AllThingsTennis had partly predicted on the eve of the tournament.
Things are just as exciting on the men’s side of things, even with Djokovic’s attendance in the final 8 [and not without the usual tiresome injury feigning en route]. We’ve seen a smattering of high quality, high energy modern Melbourne classics that paint a bright picture for a men’s game still seen by some as in grave danger once the last of the Big 3 call it a day. Not so, as Rune, Rublev, Bautista-Agut, Sinner, Auger-Aliassime, Tsitsipas, Korda and an injection of a couple more raw US talent have wowed the crowds with true entertainment – albeit with differing outcomes for some.
So it’s time for some hopeless predictions; buckle up.
Rybakina vs Ostapenko
Hmm a tricky one to begin with and a match which should deliver some jaw-dropping winners and potentially some fireworks. Two major champions having had less than stellar spells since and both eager to prove themselves further. Jelena on her day has too much power and accuracy for most, but that day rarely shows itself. This and the fact that the Kazakh’s list of victims includes Swiatek and the ever-dangerous Collins points to Rybakina in 3.
Pegula vs Azarenka
Vika’s pedigree continues to shine bright here in Melbourne, the two time champ ousting the aforementioned Keys and the still recovering fellow former victor in Oz Kenin in the first round. She will never give up and will never doubt herself. But Jess Pegula is looking oh-so-confident this past week or so. Some tricky encounters swatted aside without the loss of a set, a trend that continued against 2021 French Open winner Krejcikova, herself finding her form again. Pegula in 2.
Karolina Pliskova vs Linette
Is there a player more regularly met with an indifferent shrug than Karolina Pliskova? A former world number one and multiple slam finalist, but someone who very few ever talk about with any conviction. True the Czech has a horrible habit of going severely and suddenly off the boil, which can make her more than a little frustrating. Yet here she is contesting another quarter final. In Magda Linette we have a 30 year old first timer at this stage of a slam. There’s usually at least one or two ‘where did they come from’ names in Australia come the crunch, but Linette’s slam record over the years really didn’t indicate this result. And yet, Kontaveit, Alexandrova and Garcia is quite the roster. Could go either way but i’ll go with Pliskova in 3.
Vekic vs Sabalenka
On paper this one seems the easiest to call, Sabalenka is the bigger name to most and has beaten the bigger names here; the Belarussian has been tipped for slam glory for a while now and is the higher seed. But Donna Vekic has the game to frustrate the Sabalenka’s of the world and was something of a young prodigy when she first came on the scene a generation ago. Sabalenka looks unstoppable, but expect a proper match here. Sabalenka in 3.
Khachanov vs Korda
Both love a scrap, both have spent a considerable amount of time on court and both have emerged victorious over players of pedigree. Khachanov is of course the more experienced of the two but in the grand scheme hasn’t got too much to show for his longer career. Korda needs no introduction, can he rely on his undoubted special talent in the face of unfamiliar territory? Yes, yes he can. Korda in 4.
Tsitsipas vs Lehecka
The Czech dumped out Cam Norrie in round 3 and followed that up with a spectacular effort against Auger-Aliassime. One of the surprise packages of the tournament so far, you feel he will need a helping hand now. But he may just get one as 3rd seed Tsitsipas is always brittle and must be close to breaking after a couple of full length doubles matches and then that 5 set epic against Sinner last time out. An attractive match and one that should go the distance. Tsitsipas in 5.
Rublev vs Djokovic
Djokovic in 3
Paul vs Shelton
You have to fancy Tommy Paul here, the more experienced American will take confidence from his gutsy wins against two tough Spaniards en route to this moment. Young Shelton hasn’t had the same calibre of opponent, but you can’t get this far without having real talent. Should be a fascinating watch as both men look to take a fantastic opportunity. Paul in 4.