With Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka already through to their semi-final we preview the second set of quarter-final matches starting with the one to wake a nation – Andy Murray v Roger Federer.
Roger Federer to beat Andy Murray @ 4/5
Andy Murray has reached the quarter-finals of his first Grand Slam since recovering from back surgery but everything points to the dream return being cut short at the hands of a rejuvenated Roger Federer.
The Scot has passed this stage in his last four attempts, however, that record is made to look ordinary when inspecting his opponent’s.
Federer has reached at least the semi-finals of the season’s opening major for the last decade.
And although the four-time champion’s tilts have ended at that stage for the past three years, the man who is still the biggest draw in the game is playing his best tennis since winning his seventh Wimbledon title two years ago.
This was evident in the Swiss maestro’s last match where he turned what looked set to be another close contest with one of his fiercest adversaries of the recent past into a procession of vintage quality.
Although there are no shortage of memories of Federer at his Rolls-Royce best but it has been a while since he started a match so well, reaching a sublime level against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga almost immediately and maintaining it throughout.
Considering the Frenchman had won their previous encounter at last year’s French Open in straight sets it was a performance of significance as well as substance.
Under the guidance of new coach and one of the best volleyers the game has ever seen, Stefan Edberg, Federer dominated Tsonga in a way many on the tour suffered during his era of total domination before the emergence of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray.
With 88 per cent of first serve points won the 32-year-old only had to face one break point, completely dominating from all areas of the court with 34 of 41 net points won and more than double the amount of winning blows struck.
That form line is substantially better than anything Murray can boast since returning this year as the world number four couldn’t have plotted a safer passage if he had been asked to map the route himself.
Three of his four wins in Australia have come against players ranked outside of the world’s top-100 and a straight sets victory over world number 27 Feliciano Lopez in the third round looks far less impressive when you take into account Murray had beaten the second-rung Spaniard in all seven of their previous meetings.
Even the 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 scoreline against Vincent Millot, ranked 267 in the world for a reason, is slightly spurious. Murray trailed 5-1 in the third set before reeling off the second highest sequence of consecutive points in the history of tennis to take the set. If Murray lets a lead like that build against Federer he won’t win 23 points in a row and he won’t win the set.
The third also became an issue in his last match against surprise fourth round opponent Stephane Robert, a journeyman who should never be taking more than four games in a set from a player like Murray.
Losing that third set tie-break will have reminded Federer that despite Murray’s presence in the quarter-finals he has achieved nothing since returning and is simply not playing well enough to win.
Federer, on the other hand, is.
And not only for this match but for the tournament as a whole as he attempts to collect another big one to add to the 17 Grand Slam titles already banked.
With the reigning champion eliminated courtesy of Federer’s friend and Davis Cup team-mate Warwinka he will see a likely semi-final against Nadal as the last obstacle.
The world keeps waiting for Federer to drop away for good but anyone on planet tennis has always known that it wasn’t coming anytime soon.
Relatively poor results in the last 18 months have been seized upon by critics but Federer has made no secret of the reasons behind it. However, now the back injury that kept rearing its head is behind him and the bold move to finally change his racquet for the first time since winning his maiden Slam is paying the dividends that with enough time were always likely to come.
Federer is now finally in a position where he can play uninhibited once more and force those who doubted him to question their own careers.
While Murray, who will certainly win many more majors in his lifetime, has shown nothing to suggest he is back to the level that he needs to compete with the elite, of which his opponent has re-entered in trademark style.
With Djokovic out Rafael Nadal will believe a second Australian Open title is his for the taking and regardless of how valid that belief is he looks certain to make the last-four at the expense of Grigor Dimitrov.
The Bulgarian world number 22 has become more famous for his abilities off the court in the last two years and although he deserves plenty of credit for reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final he is way out of his depth against the Pearl of Manacor.
Expected victories over Bradley Klahn and Yen-hsun Lu in the first two rounds have been supplemented by an unexpected win over potential future major winner Milos Raonic in the third round before the 22-year-old took his chance against the increasingly dangerous Roberto Bautista-Agut to make his career landmark.
However, Nadal has been far more impressive, reaching his seventh consecutive quarter-final in Melbourne without the loss of a set.
A hard-fought success over Kei Nishikori is a useful form line with the Japanese number one having played Dimitrov twice and beaten him both times.
Nadal has also won all three previous encounters between the two, although understandably the underdog will be using these as a source of encouragement rather than the opposite having forced a decider in all three.
This is unlikely to make a difference, however, and the only advice can be to back Nadal to continue his march without dropping a set at a slightly prohibitive but correct price of 1/2.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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