When the Australian Open draw was made, one potential match-up that stood out in the earlier rounds – Roger Federer vs Kei Nishikoriin the fourth round of a major. It is the first time that these two players will meet in a Grand Slam, but even at the regular ATP tour events across the calendar year, they have produced some memorable matches to savour.
Nishikori’s win over Federer in 2013 Mutua Madrid Open marked the first real moment that the Japanese star showed his capabilities against the greatest in the game and also started a positive trend of results on a surface that he had struggled on prior to that match.
The Japanese No.1 enjoyed a great year on tour winning 58 matches in total and reached the quarter-final or better at a total of 13 tournaments last season, but only managed to win the one title overall. That is an area he certainly can improve this season – beating the top players on a consistent basis.
Nishikori may have found a way to beat Federer in the past, but Federer dominates the most recent meetings in this duel. The returning Federer has won their last 3 matches including two wins on an indoor hard court at the World Tour Finals.
Nishikori’s game plan will be to try and penetrate the Federer one-handed backhand. Nishikori will feel confident that he can hold his own in backhand to backhand exchanges, but the key to victory will be capitalising on the short replies that he seeks out off the backhand of Federer.
Federer’s main route to glory will rest on whether he can exploit the frailties of the Nishikori second serve. Often Nishikori can deliver short and central serves in the service box, which would give Federer enough reason to severely attack the serve of the Japanese. I also expect Federer to chip and charge a lot of his returns to force Nishikori to pass him at the net and force Nishikori to try and win the match with his passing shots.
The match will favour Nishikori if it drags out into a deciding set. The World No.5 has the best deciding set record among active players on the ATP Tour. Federer’s aim will be to speed up the match between points and to ensure he gets the victory in quick fashion.
Prediction: Federer in four sets.
Stanislas Wawrinka  vs Andreas Seppi H2H: Wawrinka leads 10-5
On Margaret Court Arena, the three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinkawill face Andreas Seppi in the fourth round. Seppi has beaten Wawrinka in the past, but none of his victories over the Swiss have come on a hard court. The Italian has been triumphant over Wawrinka four times on a clay court and just the once on grass. That makes a huge difference in the lead up to this match-up. Seppi’s huge win over Nick Kyrgios would definitely have made him feel invincible on the court and he backed that win up with a solid victory over Steve Darcis, but can the wave of momentum he is riding guide him to victory over a Grand Slam champion? That is the big question.
Wawrinka has got better as the tournament has progressed. He took five sets to beat Martin Klizan in the first round and dropped a set to Viktor Troicki in the second round. The Swiss improved in his straight sets win over American Steve Johnson and now this is where he starts to get more threatening to the top players as he reaches the second week of a major. A situation where Wawrinka usually thrives in.
Wawrinka is the most explosive player off both wings and should give Seppi a headache. If Wawrinka plays with confidence and starts striking consistently heavy from the baseline then he should win this match comfortably.
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