The first men’s singles quarterfinal at the Australian Open this year sees the fourth seed and 2014 champion, Stan Wawrinka take on 12th seed and 2008 finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga face off for a place in the last four.
Wawrinka leads the head to head 4-3 and has won their last three meetings, the latest being a four-set win in the French Open semifinals two years ago, though Tsonga knows how to play well in Melbourne; furthermore, both have had difficult roads to this stage, and seem to be in the same kind of form.
This is the third match of the day in the Rod Laver Arena, following both the Women’s quarterfinals scheduled on Tuesday, and the winner faces the unseeded Mischa Zverev or 17th seed Roger Federer in the semifinals.
So far in Melbourne
Tsonga has had to work hard to reach his third successive Grand Slam quarterfinal. The Frenchman suffered a third-set wobble in his opening match, eventually seeing off Thiago Monteiro in four sets, before comfortably seeing off Dusan Lajovic in straight sets. He then survived a real battle in the third round, beating 23rd seed Jack Sock in four tight sets. Following that, he came from a set down to see off the unseeded Dan Evans; his matches have been tight, but also show that he will be tough to see off.
Meanwhile, the fourth seed suffered a huge scare in the first round, coming from a break down in the fifth set to edge past Martin Klizan in one of the matches of the tournament. He backed that up with a more comprehensive, straight-sets win over Steve Johnson, though was pushed again by Viktor Troicki, battling from a set down to defeat the Serbian in four sets. In the fourth round, Wawrinka edged past Andreas Seppi in three tight sets; he too is battle-hardened coming into this clash.
One key feature of this match could be consistency. There is no doubting that both Wawrinka and Tsonga are extremely talented, and have the power to blow anyone off court when they are playing well, though both are extremely erratic and it is often difficult to guess whether either will bring their best tennis ahead of a match. Considering both are like this, neither can probably afford to be slightly below-par here, as they will likely be punished.
Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand is arguably the best in the business, and if he can use that to attack Tsonga’s relatively weak backhand, he could have a huge advantage. However, the Frenchman makes up for his backhand with a huge forehand and should look to dictate play as much as possible with this shot. Serving will be key for both (this is one area where both are particularly inconsistent) and neither can afford to make too many errors. Also, the last time they played, Tsonga took none of his 17 break point chances; neither him or Wawrinka can afford to miss that many opportunities against another world class player.
This could be a fantastic last eight encounter, with plenty of brutal hitting and long rallies, and it could be extremely tight. Whilst a Tsonga victory shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, Wawrinka is the slight favorite, and his slightly more consistent game and level should help him take this.
Prediction: Stan Wawrinka in four sets