Australian Open Day 6 Marquee Matches
Bernard Tomic (16) vs John Millman
Tomic is now the standard-bearer for Australia after Lleyton Hewitt’s retirement earlier this week. Like Hewitt, Tomic struggled with some controversy in the beginning of his career, including an arrest in Miami and an instance in which he had to ask his father to leave the player’s box. Over the past couple seasons, Tomic has put the drama behind him, breaking into the top-20 and winning his third title. He should cruise against Millman, a journeyman with a career-high ranking of 71.
Prediction: Tomic in three
Andy Murray (2) vs Joao Sousa (32)
Murray is looking to claim his first Australian Open after four appearances in the finals. He looked sharp in his first two matches against Sam Groth and rising star Alex Zverev. Sousa has been in the top-100 for only the past few seasons, and has matched his best showing Down Under by reaching the third round. However, Sousa has a solid all-court game and has won a title on tour. Even so, this match will serve more as a window into how Murray is playing than as a legitimate challenge.
Prediction: Murray in straight sets
David Ferrer (8) vs Steve Johnson (31)
Ferrer and Johnson last met in 2015 in Vienna. Johnson’s first tour-level final, Ferrer took the match in three sets. Ferrer has long been a fixture at the top of the men’s game, while Johnson is a relative newcomer due to spending four years playing college tennis at the University of Southern California. While neither player is physically imposing, Johnson is the more powerful of the two and could use his big serve and forehand to dictate play. Ferrer will need to do more than his usual counter-punch if he hopes to get through this round.
Prediction: Johnson in five, it’s time for Stevie J to break through
Madison Keys (15) vs Ana Ivanovic (20)
Eight years ago, Ana Ivanovic seemed to have a bright career ahead of her. She made the final of the 2008 Australian Open and won the 2008 French Open. Now 28, she has never returned to win a Grand Slam tournament. Contrast this with Keys, 20, who finds herself at a similar place in her career as the 2008 Ivanovic: all her potential is ahead of her. 2015 was Keys’ breakout season, which started with her reaching the semifinals in Melbourne. She is primed for another big run. Watch for her to use her big serve and groundstrokes to dominate play. Ivanovic is a solid player, but will likely be unable to keep up.
Prediction: Keys in straight sets
Ekaterina Makarova (21) vs Karolina Pliskova (9)
Although Pliskova is the higher-ranked player, Makarova has the edge in experience: she reached the semifinals a year ago at the Australian Open and at the U.S. Open in 2014. Tellingly, Makarova leads the head to head 2-0, which includes a win at the 2015 Australian Open. However, Pliskova had a strong 2015 season, winning the Prague Open, reaching five other finals, and breaking into the top 10. Makarova’s lefty serve and clever angles could frustrate Pliskova, a powerful baseliner.
Prediction: Experience trumps ranking; Makarova in three sets