Australian Open Day 9 Headlines:
— Men’s top seeds Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both advanced in straight sets. Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Federer overcame Tomas Berdych in a slightly closer contest and by a scoreline of 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4.
— Women’s defending champion Serena Williams charged toward a 22nd major title with a resounding 6-4, 6-1 win over Maria Sharapova. In the other women’s singles match, fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat the Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.
Milos Raonic (13) vs Gael Monfils (23)
Raonic has displayed devastating form in 2016, already having defeated Roger Federer at the Brisbane International and Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open fourth round. This quarterfinal will be a power match—the showman Monfils has a big serve and forehand, as does Raonic. Monfils is known for acrobatic displays, but can also display a seeming lack of interest, playing a trick shot when a normal groundstroke will do. The player who uses his serve most effectively likely will be the player to win—there won’t be many opportunities to break in this match. Raonic consistently has been putting his whole game together, and Monfils sometimes can be a headcase.
Prediction: Raonic in four
Andy Murray (2) vs David Ferrer (8)
Murray has moved through the men’s draw decisively, having only lost one set en route to this quarterfinal appearance. He leads the head-to-head with Ferrer 12-6. Ferrer has been at the top of the men’s game for some time, but lacks a weapon that will allow him to challenge the top five players. Ferrer can be counted on to make a lot of balls, but Murray has the edge off the ground and with his serve. Murray has added power to his second serve—the media has speculated that he improved it to challenge Djokovic. He will need all the improvement he can muster to win his first Australian Open. For now, though, he should cruise.
Prediction: Murray in straight sets
Angelique Kerber (7) vs Victoria Azarenka (14)
Although Kerber is the higher-seeded player, it does not point to the likelihood of her winning the match. Azarenka was injured for key stretches of the 2015 season, and is just now returning to form. As a two-time former Australian Open champion, it is difficult to count her out unless she is playing Serena—Vika seems to be back healthy and playing well. She will try to use her strong groundstrokes to dictate play against the lefty Kerber. Kerber has been an upstart in the last five years, and, at 28, developed her game later than most of the top players. She is consistent of the ground and can use smart angles and changes of pace, but she will need more than that to contend with Azarenka’s power.
Prediction: Azarenka in three
Johanna Konta vs Shuai Zhang
This match is the surprise of the quarterfinals. Konta is the first British woman to play in a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 32 years. To get there, she took down seeded players Ekaterina Makarova and Venus Williams. Shuai Zhang, 27, was virtually unknown before this year—she is ranked 133rd, and defeated second seed Simona Halep and fifteenth seed Madison Keys to reach the quarterfinals. She has not reached the second round in any other major. Shuai takes the ball on the rise and has solid groundstrokes, but Konta displayed a doggedness and strength off the ground against Makarova that will challenge Shuai. Konta’s Grand Slam experience will win out in the end.
Prediction: Konta in three