Mal's QF Picks: Federer might not beat Nalbandian (and other previews)

01-26-2004, 01:37 PM
Federer might not beat Nalbandian

By MaliVai Washington
Special to

MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's been a while since the top four seeds reached the quarterfinals of a major. Making it more exciting is that you can make a huge argument that each of the top four seeds is playing well enough to win the title.

Andy Roddick (1), United States, vs. Marat Safin, Russia
Just by taking the court with Andy Roddick, Marat Safin is taking a huge step toward telling the world that he's back and he's a player to be reckoned with again. He says he's rededicated his life to tennis. He's shown that he still can compete at a top-10 level.

The stats to watch in this match are first-serve percentage and second-serve returning points won. Since you can expect each guy is going to serve well, it's going to come down to the player who can get the most returns back in the court and who converts the most break points. Both rely on huge serves to get free points, so the player who can make the other play more balls on their own serve will be the player who will get that rare break of serve.

Brad Gilbert should have Roddick so ready to play and so pumped up that he might play his best match of the tournament so far -- and that's saying something considering he hasn't lost a set yet.
Pick: Roddick

Andre Agassi (4), United States, vs. Sebastien Grosjean (9), France
Andre Agassi has a winning record against Sebastien Grosjean, but just barely. It's hard to imagine that Grosjean will be able to beat him from the baseline the way Agassi can control a match. But it's happened before.

This match also will come down to a couple of key stats. Here, first-serve percentage will be big because neither of these players are known for having huge serves. The player who can consistently get free points on his serve will be the player who will be most effective. Returning serve will be a big factor, but the player who protects his serve the most will win this match.

Don't expect Grosjean to beat Agassi.
Pick: Agassi

Hicham Arazi, Morocco, vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3), Spain
Hicham Arazi never ceases to amaze. He seems to be one of those players who has more than one life in him. Arazi unexpectedly and unbelievably destroyed tenth-seeded Mark Philippoussis on Monday.

Arazi's match with Juan Carlos Ferrero will be his biggest challenge because Ferrero can show him more pace off the ground than Arazi's seen in this tournament. If somehow Arazi does manage to win, he'll be the first Moroccan to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. But it's Ferrero's year to show he can win a major on something other than clay.
Pick: Ferrero

David Nalbandian (8), Argentina, vs. Roger Federer (2), Switzerland
David Nalbandian has yet to lose a set in the championship and holds a 5-1 record over Roger Federer. Of all of the great quarterfinal matchups, this one will be the best.

They both place balls tremendously well from the back of the court. That means Federer will need to be even more patient than he was against Hewitt. But Federer won't win this match from the baseline; he has to get in and finish off points. Nalbandian has the mental edge because he owns the record over Federer, including beating Federer last year in this championship.

The quality we saw from Federer against Hewitt is some of the best tennis that will be played in 2004 by anyone. Even so, this match is too close to call. The winner of this match will most likely get through to the final, and it really wouldn't be surprising if the winner of this match wins this championship.
Pick: Too close to call

01-26-2004, 03:21 PM
here's from the AO site:
Men's quarter-final preview
by Bren O'Brien
Monday, January 26, 2004

Six of the eight quarter-finalists at Australian Open 2004 are seeded players. Of the remaining two, one is a former US Open champion. The cream has truly risen to the top at Melbourne Park and the remaining six days offers a feast of magical tennis.

Andy Roddick (1) v Marat Safin

No.1 seed Andy Roddick has progressed to the quarter-finals without dropping a set, and while that is no great shock, the ease of those victories has been somewhat surprising. His toughest test came in the opening round where Chilean Fernando Gonzalez pushed him to a tie-breaker in the third set. Since then he has only dropped his serve once, defeating Czech Bohdan Ulihrach, compatriot Taylor Dent and Dutchman Sjeng Schalken.

While Roddick represents the new face of tennis, Marat Safin has been the comeback story of this tournament. The former world No.1 and 2002 Australian Open finalist, missed much of 2003 with injury, slipping to number 86 in the world. There is little doubt he possesses an incredibly powerful game and twice so far in this tournament he has shown he has the character to match that talent. After four-set victories over Brian Vahaly and Jarkko Nieminen, he looked under pressure when he trailed veteran Todd Martin two sets to one in the third round. He responded by taking the fourth set to love before prevailing 7-5 in the fifth.

He produced another memorable performance against American James Blake, responding when challenged to prevail in four sets with some brilliant and sometimes innovative tennis. He set up a crucial break-point in the fourth set with a freakish backhand lob, the racquet flying out of his hand as Blake was left stranded at the net.

Safin also has the advantage of having won the only encounter between the two, a straight-sets victory over Roddick in the first-round in Los Angeles in July 2001.

Andre Agassi (4) v Sebastien Grosjean (9)

Andre Agassi has extended his winning run at Melbourne Park to an incredible 25 matches, and the defending champion has shown no signs so far this tournament that the winning streak will end anytime soon. He, like Roddick, is yet to drop a set, with Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan the only player to push him. Even in that match, Srichaphan only threatened in the first set, taking it to a tie-breaker which Agassi won easily before motoring through the next two sets 6-3 6-4.

Sebastien Grosjean, a semi-finalist here in 2001, has slipped through to the final eight almost unnoticed, following up comfortable wins against Mikhail Youzhny and Jan Michael Gambill with four-set victories over Dominik Hrbaty and Robby Ginepri. He was beaten by Agassi in the quarter-finals here last year and before that, that the two men split their four encounters.

They first faced off in the opening round of the US Open in 1998, Agassi winning in straight sets before Grosjean prevailed in a French Open quarter-final in 2001. Their next two matches were in Masters Series events in Sydney in 2001, where the Frenchman won, and in Madrid in 2002, where the American was victorious.

Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) v Hicham Arazi

A run of seven-straight losses in tournament play isn't the ideal preparation for the year's first Grand Slam but Juan Carlos Ferrero has bounced back in superb style at Melbourne Park. After not dropping a set against either Albert Montanes or Filippo Volandri, he progressed in four against Swede Joachim Johansson and Romanian Andrei Pavel. His biggest battle so far has been with a groin injury which has threatened to derail his campaign. The injury, a torn adductor muscle, cost him the second set against Pavel, but he continues to receive treatment.

The athletic Arazi is exactly the sort of opponent Ferrero wouldn't want to be facing in a Grand Slam quarter final under an injury cloud. Before his straight-sets demolition of Mark Philippoussis, the left-hander had shown little to suggest that he would trouble the tournament's top seeds. He defeated Frenchman Olivier Mutis in four and then was the beneficiary as Cyril Saulnier retired injured in the second round. He dropped the first set of his third-round match with Albert Costa but recovered to win in four and set up his match with Philippoussis.

Ferrero holds the edge 3-2 in their five clashes so far but each of those wins have come on clay, the most recent in the 2002 Davis Cup tie in Spain. Arazi has won both matches played on hard courts, in Cincinnati and Paris in 2001.

David Nalbandian (8) v Roger Federer (2)

The pick of the quarter finals on paper, this match pitches the world's most improved player against what many regard of the most graceful.

David Nalbandian's Australian Open 2004 campaign has been almost faultless so far, with the Argentine dropping just one service game in his first two matches against Ricardo Mello and Florian Mayer. He dealt with 2003 semi-finalist Wayne Ferriera with ease before making the most of Guillermo Canas' fatigue to sweep past his compatriot and into the final eight.

Roger Federer has also looked every bit the potential champion, not dropping his serve until the third round clash with Todd Reid, which he won easily 6-3 6-0 6-1. He was on the back foot early in his clash against Lleyton Hewitt but lifted to win in four sets, atoning somewhat for his Davis Cup semi-final defeat on the same court four months earlier.

Nalbandian has imposing record against his higher seeded opponent winning the first five of the six matches they have played. Federer finally beat the Argentine at the Masters Cup in Houston last year. Prior to that Nalbandian had knocked Federer out of two Grand Slams at the fourth-round stage - the 2003 Australian and US opens. Nalbandian also won on the hard court of Cincinnati in 2003, the carpet in Basel in 2002 and the clay of Monte Carlo, also in 2002.

01-26-2004, 03:58 PM
This is taken from BBC Sports!!

Big guns go head-to-head

With most of the big stars still in contention, the second week of the Australian Open men's tournament promises some mouth-watering contests, beginning with some tantalising quarter-finals.

1) Those who long for the days of grace and artistry on a tennis court should stay well away from Rod Laver Arena when Andy Roddick and Marat Safin meet on Tuesday.

Roddick has the world's best serve, with Safin not far behind, and both hit their groundstrokes with astonishing velocity and remarkable accuracy.

The American has been in devastating form so far in Melbourne: he is yet to drop a set and has lost only 17 games in his last three matches.

Safin, meanwhile, has been feeling his way back to form after spending most of 2003 on the sidelines with a wrist injury.

At his best, Safin has the ability to destroy the very best players in the world, as he showed in winning his only Grand Slam title at the 2000 US Open against Pete Sampras.

But the 23-year-old will need to keep his mind firmly on the job to upset a rampant Roddick, something that does not come easily to the temperamental Muscovite.

2) Andre Agassi has not lost a match at Melbourne Park since 1999, and there has been little danger of that winning run ending so far.

The four-times Australian Open champion has raced through his first four matches in straight sets, most impressively ending the challenge of Paradorn Srichaphan on Sunday.

However, Sebastien Grosjean will take on the defending champion full of confidence, not least because he has beaten the American in the past.

The Frenchman ended Agassi's French Open hopes in 2001, a match in which Agassi's game famously fell apart after Bill Clinton took his seat at court-side.

Grosjean's ability to vary the pace on the ball, and his spectacular forehand, could trouble Agassi if the American has an off day.

But Agassi has not had an off-day in Melbourne this century, and this time last year he defeated Grosjean in three one-sided sets at the same stage.

3) Third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero faces a vastly different opponent to the one he was expecting to meet in the quarter-finals.

Hicham Arazi took apart an out-of-sorts Mark Philippoussis on Monday, and if he can maintain that form he could trouble the French Open champion.

The Moroccan, making his second appearance in the last eight in Melbourne, is a brilliant shot-maker whose only weakness is the lack of consistency that has prevented him cementing a place in the world's top 20.

But Ferrero, unlike Philippoussis, is a patient baseliner who will not present Arazi with the same opportunities to hit outright winners.

Ferrero has been troubled by injury throughout the tournament and has not hit the same form he showed in becoming world number one for a brief period last year.

And though the Spaniard leads the head-to-heads, his wins have all come on clay while Arazi has triumphed in both their encounters on hard courts.

4) Roger Federer faced a stern fourth-round examination against a rejuvenated Lleyton Hewitt but passed the test with flying colours.

In doing so, he achieved a breakthrough victory that augurs well for his chances of a second Grand Slam title.

This is the first time the Swiss maestro has progressed beyond the fourth round in Melbourne, and he also overcame the psychological hurdle of his damaging Davis Cup final defeat to Hewitt on the same court last year.

After three routine straight-sets victories, it proved he is in form ahead of the business end of the tournament, but he will need to be against David Nalbandian.

The Argentine won the Kooyong Classic title earlier this month and has carried his superb form into Melbourne, destroying Tim Henman's conqueror Guillermo Canas.

Considered by many pundits as the dark horse for the title, that billing will certainly be justified if he can maintain his impressive record against Federer.

01-26-2004, 04:31 PM
thanks oxy!

01-26-2004, 04:33 PM
no problem bsb!! ;)

J. Corwin
01-26-2004, 05:03 PM
thanks for all of these previews :)

01-26-2004, 06:28 PM
Here's from - they only did these two interestingly enough:
Andre Agassi (USA) [1] vs. Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) [9] Ė The defending champ and four time winner Agassi has yet to drop a set (Andy Roddick is the only other player to accomplish that so far). Even more incredible is the fact that Andre hasnít lost a match here in 25 straight tries. His last loss was a fourth round upset to Vincent Spadea way back in 1999. Agassi has met Grosjean five time in his career, including once last year at the Open, when Agassi (obviously) defeated the Frenchman, winning in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Other than that they split the previous four matches. Grosjean is no pushover for Andre though, keep in mind that he too put himself in great shape in the off-season, and has played a strong tournament, breezing past the likes of Mikhail Youzhny, Jan Michael Gambill and Robby Ginepri.

David Nalbandian (ARG) [8] vs. Roger Federer (SUI) [2] Ė In October at the Tennis Masters Houston, Federer defeated Nalbandian 6-3, 6-0 in the round robin and eventually went on to win the cup undefeated. But thatís not the way itís been for these two. Through the years Nalbandian has owned Federer, winning the previous five ATP matches, and three last year alone (including fourth rounders at both Melbourne and the US Open). The two men, separated by just five months (Federer is older), also have a history on the junior circuit. Back in 1998, Federer was the No. 1 junior in the ITF World Junior Rankings, while Nalbandian was ranked No. 3, and they wound up meeting in the US Open junior boys' final with Nalbandian winning in straight sets. Nalbandian is a very patient player, and like Federer, he likes to sit back and force his opponents into making errors. Until the Masters Cup it seemed like Federer couldnít figure it out. Now, weíll see if Nalbandian will make an adjustment or hope Federer just got lucky once.

01-26-2004, 06:35 PM
I am so excited that all these top players have made it to the quarterfinals!!! Maybe Arazi is a surprise, but he's so talented and fun to watch. So basically we have 8 phenomenal athletes going at it. It's a good moment for men's tennis after several years of massive upsets in the slams.

:banana: :cool:

01-26-2004, 06:37 PM
Yea, definitely!!

OMG watching the Hewitt/Fed match..... that point!!!!!! :eek:

01-26-2004, 06:39 PM
I'm taping it -- have to watch it later! What's the score for "that point," bunk, so I can look out for it?

01-26-2004, 06:42 PM
4th set. Hewitt serving, 2-2.

actually the whole game was :eek: Hewitt goes down 0-40 and brings it back to deuce then gets broken anyway. but that point in particular, I think Mary had an orgasm :p

01-26-2004, 07:04 PM
" Federer, he likes to sit back and force his opponent into making errors." Hmm... not sure that Federer's game is remotely based around sitting back and counterpunching, if it were he would probably have a few more wins against Nalbandian than he does. He'll have to do a bit of everything and do it well while staying mentally tough to get past the Argentine.

01-26-2004, 08:36 PM
sjengster-- thought that was a ridiculous comment as well... but sometimes in a rally, his backhand supports that little thesis of his... but hes more aggressive that quite a few guys.

also, what the fuck is up with malivai making predictions-- and then calling one "too close to call"??? that's his job! everyone who follows men's tennis knows that's a tough match to call, that's why we READ his opinion-- and he didn't give one... he's frikkin IN australia, has watched all their matches and can't even give us his gut instinct? who cares if he's wrong?!?!

01-26-2004, 08:49 PM
its MalVia, who cares about his predictions anyways:p

01-26-2004, 09:03 PM
lol... i agree with u faboo... atleast he should;'ve said who has a slight edge...

I wish they met in the final and not the quarters. Thy r both so good. I am hoping Federer wins. But I hope whoever wins winst the AO...

01-26-2004, 09:58 PM
its MalVia, who cares about his predictions anyways:p
true... lol
i actually like to know who the guy has picked since hes seen all their matches up close...

01-26-2004, 10:27 PM
4th set. Hewitt serving, 2-2.

actually the whole game was :eek: Hewitt goes down 0-40 and brings it back to deuce then gets broken anyway. but that point in particular, I think Mary had an orgasm :p

Whoa! I think I did too! :eek: :lol: :clap2:

01-26-2004, 10:29 PM
Whoa! I think I did too! :eek: :lol: :clap2:

TMI, Q, TMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

but was good stuff :)

01-26-2004, 10:44 PM
4th set. Hewitt serving, 2-2.

actually the whole game was :eek: Hewitt goes down 0-40 and brings it back to deuce then gets broken anyway. but that point in particular, I think Mary had an orgasm :p

I think every point Federer won in that game was a winner........the 0-30 point.......WOW

01-26-2004, 11:15 PM
I think every point Federer won in that game was a winner........the 0-30 point.......WOW

Yes that's the one I was specifically referring to :)

He still bores me, but when he hits shots like that it's hard for the mouth to not drop!

01-26-2004, 11:43 PM
Andy Will Out-tough "Big Red"
Agassi Over Grosjean, Justine to Nip Lindsay Again
By Matthew Cronin

1- Andy Roddick (US) v. Marat Safin (RUS)
Should I go with my aching gut and angry head and pick Safin, or with telltale heart and my loosey-goosey serving arm and pick Roddick? Itís almost too tough to call.

Itís quite tempting to pick the Russian, whoís been battle tested in his first four matches, is motivated, healthy and striking the ball fiercely. Analyst Leif Shiras think Safin is the best player out there when heís both on and cares about the result (which isnít very often). "Big Red" serves almost as well as Andy does, is close on the forehand side, has a much accomplished backhand and returns and volleys a bit better. He arguably moves just as well as Roddick so this should be an easy call, right?

Not so. Over the past year, Roddick has proven himself to be better competitor and has become a smarter player. Heís been all but unbreakable Down Under and has been successful in taking risks on his return games.

While we were mightily impressed by Safin's win over James Blake, good old JB is not Roddick, who beat the crap out of Dent and Schalken and will give a Rocky-like performance in knocking out Marat Drago in five.

4- Andre Agassi (US) v. 9- Sebastien Grosjean (FRA)
In a rematch of their quarterfinal here last year, Andre "Last Gasp" Agassi is hoping to keep his game as finely tuned as it was in í03 when he beat Seb convincingly in straight sets. But Grosjean is playing at a higher level than he was in í03 and is sure to extend Agassi for at least two hours in a cross country race over worn down, rocky hills.

This is not clay, where Grosjean has the edge in the footing department and seems to recover quicker. Andre will receive higher bounces and will be able to dictate from the center of the court, rather than being forced to spend much of the match in the corners. Watch their crosscourt rallies closely to see who will have the guts to go for the down the line blasts first and see if that brave soulís foe is reading his tendencies. The gutsier, smarter player will get ahead in this match, but the man who is reading and retrieving better may end up winning after all.

Agassi must serve very well to keep Grosjean from creeping in, while Grosjean has to move Agassi at least three steps in most rallies to stay on top. In this Franco v. American classic (as widely as anticipated as Jospin v. Bush at the UN), old man Vegas will win his 26th match in a row Down Under in five sets.

01-27-2004, 01:34 AM
Mal -

David Nalbandian (8), Argentina, vs. Roger Federer (2), Switzerland
Pick: Too close to call

What a wimp! Isn't his job to actually call which one will win? He always goes for the more predictable matches.

01-27-2004, 01:38 AM
Wow, Matthew Cronin predicts that both Roddick/Safin and Agassi/Grosjean will be five setters.

Well, they both have "classic" potential.
But I could also see blow-outs happening.

01-27-2004, 01:43 AM
I don't know that I see them BOTH going 5 sets... but anything's possible!

01-27-2004, 01:53 AM
C'mon Rogi!!! Prove the predictions wrong!

01-27-2004, 02:05 AM
Bunk, I love when Mary Carillo orgasms over shots. I actually do the same "ooooohhhhhs" and "ahhhhhhhs" and "ahahahahaaaaas" as her. It's catchy. :) Sometimes a good laugh at the right time is better commentary than mindless blabbing point after point.

01-27-2004, 02:07 AM
PMac said at one point she actually jumped out her seat! :lol:

01-27-2004, 02:12 AM
LOL Q I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

01-27-2004, 02:19 AM
mary rocks!

01-27-2004, 11:14 AM
He got Roddick-Safin wrong.