It was a huge fourth-round win by both Grigor Dimitrov and qualifier Aslan Karatsev for different reasons, but the Russian’s fairytale is about to come to an end when he faces the in-form Bulgarian.
Here are The Wolf’s Australian Open tips for Day 9.
There have never been any questions around the level of talent that Grigor Dimitrov has and when he pieces it together it’s simply sublime. The Bulgarian smashed third seed Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-4 6-0, and he now faces surprise Quarter Finalist Aslan Karatsev.
The Russian has been a revelation this Australian Open, with the 27-year-old being the first man in 25 years to reach the Quarter Final in his Grand Slam debut. He’s also the lowest-ranked man to reach the Quarter Finals at the Australian Open since Patrick McEnroe in 1991.
But this is where the fairytale ends. It was a huge upset by Karatsev coming from two sets down against FAA, with the 20-year-old Canadian completely losing his way when the momentum shifted in the third set.
Although the Russian is playing well enough to challenge Dimitrov, the Bulgarian’s experience should mean he is able to strangle back momentum when it does shift across the match.
We saw Dimitrov reach the Semi Final in 2017 playing at an extremely high level, taking Nadal to five sets – he’s appears in similar form this year, and The Wolf’s expecting him to reach another Semi Final whilst clearing the 3.5 game handicap.
Was very tempted taking Serena Williams to beat Aryna Sabalenka as the underdog last round, but Sabalenka’s recent form deterred The Wolf with the Belarussian winning 18 of her last 19 matches – so he watched carefully from the sidelines.
The one big thing to come out of the match was how well Serena Williams is playing. Sabalenka is a tough opponent to face for the first time, and the form the Belarusian was in emphasised how well Serena played.
The American now faces Simona Halep, who came up big in the second and third sets against Iga Swiatek. Taking nothing away from Halep who barely made a mistake after dropping the first set, but the inexperience of the teenager really showed when the momentum shifted straight after taking out the first set.
But the Romanian will need a lot to go her way against Serena. Halep clearly hasn’t been at full strength this tournament and the American looks desperate to add another major to her ever-expanding trophy cabinet. Halep won their last match – the 2019 Wimbledon Final, but Serena has a career head-to-head record of 9-2 over the Romanian including 7-1 on the hard courts.
The last time they met on the hard court was the 2019 Australian Open Round of 16 which Williams won in three sets, with Halep’s only hard court win coming in 2014 at the WTA Finals.
Halep has been brave to get to this point with a few early tournament scares, but Serena should be too good.
While a supposedly injured Novak looks like the boy who cried wolf, it was The Wolf on Day 7 that backed him in to win in three or four sets against Milos Raonic and it’s exactly what eventuated.
Now Novak Djokovic faces Alexander Zverev – a much trickier opponent for the Serbian than Raonic who had never beaten the world number one before. The German has beaten Novak twice from seven meetings between the pair, with the most recent in the Final of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2018.
Their last two meetings have occurred over the last three months – Djokovic beating Zverev in the 2020 ATP Finals 6-3 7-6, and then going down to the wire in the ATP Cup a few weeks back with a 6-7 6-2 7-5 come from behind win.
But with an injury concern against someone of Zverev’s calibre, this is a danger match for the Serbian. The German has won his last three matches in straight sets (very un-Zverev like), and when on-song he’s capable of beating a fully fit Novak.
The big query with Zverev though is his ability and temperament under pressure. His serve has fallen in a heap on a number of occasions in high-pressure moments and in a Quarter Final of a major against the world number one – The Wolf cannot trust the German to get past Djokovic.
Novak gets it done but expect Zverev to win at least a set.