1. Kei Nishikori v David Ferrer (AO, R4)
The pick of the fourth round matches from the top half of the men’s draw will be a tenth career match between Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer. Nishikori defeated Steve Johnson, 6-7(7) 6-1 6-2 6-3 in the third round. Nishikori finished the match in excellent form, raising his intensity much like you would expect of a top five player. Nishikori has dropped two sets this tournament, but none of his matches have passed the three hour mark yet. He had great support on Hisense Arena, which was full of Japanese fans. I must admit I have a soft spot for Kei and he seems like a really decent guy. I like watching him hit a tennis ball too!
Ferrer remains unbeaten in 2015 after coming through a rollercoaster four setter against Gilles Simon, 6-2 7-5 5-7 7-6(4). Ferrer failed to serve out the match on three separate occasions. The Spaniard began the year with a title in Doha, benefitting from the early exits of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, but still had to beat top ten opposition in the final in Tomas Berdych.
Nishikori – Ferrer matches always deliver; they played four times in 2014 and all four matches went the distance with an average duration of two hours and 41 minutes. In fact, Nishikori won all four matches, but each one was highly competitive. I love how committed both players are in this particular match-up and their semi-final encounter from Madrid last year (see match recap HERE) was one of my personal favourite matches of 2014. In a best of five set match, this could be exhausting for everyone. I’d definitely take Nishikori to maintain his recent winning record over Ferrer, but the amount of time he spends trying to put away the Spaniard could be crucial to his chances later on in the week.
Prediction: Nishikori d. Ferrer in 5 sets
2. Stan Wawrinka v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (AO, R4)
Three matches in and Stan Wawrinka has yet to be tested with three straight set wins under his belt. In the fourth round, he plays his first top 50 opponent in Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The pair have history after Garcia-Lopez knocked Wawrinka out in the first round of the 2014 French Open. Garcia-Lopez has the ability to peak, but is also a very inconsistent player and can lose to pretty much anyone. He ended the 2014 season on a six match losing streak. 2015 has started well though for the Spaniard with a quarter-final appearance in Chennai and a fourth round showing here at the Australian Open. In fact, this is the FIRST time that Garcia-Lopez has ever reached the second week of a Grand Slam. Garcia-Lopez has three wins over Wawrinka although the Swiss man is just in the lead in their head-to-head at 4-3. Garcia-Lopez is at his best on the clay and although the same counts for Wawrinka, the defending champion is much more versatile and obviously has proven his worth in Melbourne after last year’s festivities.
Prediction: Wawrinka d. Garcia-Lopez in 4 sets
3. Feliciano Lopez v Milos Raonic (AO, R4)
Milos Raonic continued to impress at the start of this 2015 season after another routine victory at the Australian Open. Raonic spent just 101 minutes on court in his third round win over Benjamin Becker, 6-4 6-3 6-3. Raonic hit 46 winners (including 22 aces) to 19 unforced errors as he broke Becker’s serve on five occasions. Raonic plays Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round. This has been an eventful tournament for Lopez, who was on the brink of defeat his first two matches against Denis Kudla and Adrian Mannarino. Against Kudla, Lopez saved three match points and won 10-8 in the fifth set. Lopez was also in trouble against Mannarino, who won the first two sets and even had a match point in the third set before retiring in the fourth. In the third round, Lopez had a surprisingly efficient win over Jerzy Janowicz, 7-6(6) 6-4 7-6(3). However, I can’t see Feliciano’s winning form continuing. Raonic is rock solid right now and zoning in on a first Australian Open quarter-final.
Prediction: Raonic d. Lopez in 3 sets
4. Novak Djokovic v Gilles Muller (AO, R4)
Novak Djokovic defeated Fernando Verdasco, 7-6(8) 6-3 6-4 to reach the second week of the Australian Open for the ninth consecutive year. This match saw Djokovic stretched to a tiebreak for the first time this tournament. Verdasco pushed it deep, saving a second set point with a perfect backhand arrowed down in the line, but Djokovic was too good in the end. In the fourth round, Gilles Muller awaits. Muller won five Challenger titles in 2014 and has begun to translate that success back onto the ATP tour. He will reach a new career high ranking after this tournament, which is an awesome achievement. In the third round, Muller beat John Isner for the first time in his career after three previous losses. The match featured an almighty racquet break from Isner, who lost it somewhat after a net cord helped Muller to win the second set.
Djokovic and Muller will play each other for the first time on the ATP tour. I fancy a couple of tiebreakers, but I think Djokovic will keep up his straight set winning ways.
Prediction: Djokovic d. Muller in 3 sets (at least one tiebreak)