#AustralianOpen: When the Rod Laver Arena turns into a pressure cooker, even for Federer

Each player is now just three wins away from capturing the first Grand Slam of the year. Who will that player be?

Ali Bin Rizwan January 28, 2015
In the last couple of weeks, Pakistanis have been preoccupied by the petrol crisis and power shortages, and hence, only a few managed to notice the early exit of Roger Federer from the Australian Open.

Federer lost to Italy’s Andreas Seppi in a closely fought four-set match, out of which two sets were tie-breakers. Let’s not scrutinise Federer’s loss too much as even the mightiest fall at times. Staying in the top three at the age of 33 is an achievement in itself.

When Federer was broken to love in the first set, giving Seppi a 5-4 lead, it was clear something was amiss with his game. Photo: Reuters

The first week of this year’s Australian Open was full of drama and nail biting matches. Among many highlights of the first week were young Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis beating 11th seed Ernests Gulbis in five sets and Federer losing to Seppi. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for the top eight who have made it to the quarter final stage.

Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych have been in supreme form throughout and have made it to the quarters without losing a single set. Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have lost one set, while Milos RaonicKei Nishikori and Rafel Nadal lost three sets.

The surprise package, Nick Kyrgios, is yet again on another dream grand slam run after last year’s Wimbledon. The young Australian has lost five sets so far, but bear in mind that this 19-year-old has played against all opponents who were far more experienced than him. So that five sets deficit is quite justified.

Thanasi Kokkinakis (L), Andy Murray (C), Novak Djokovic (R)

We have entered the second week of the Australian Open and the number of players in the draw has shrunk from 128 to eight. This is where it all gets interesting. Seeded players come face to face, the margin for error starts to diminish, and Rod Laver Arena takes the shape of a pressure cooker. Each player is now just three wins away from capturing the first Grand Slam of the year.

Who will that player be?

Well, not Federer for sure.

As for my predictions, it looks pretty straight forward for Djokovic and Nadal, both of whom have good chances in appearing in the semi-final line up. The two matches that can be a ‘pressure cooker’ are Stan versus Nishikori and Kyrgios versus Murray.  The Australian crowd will ignite the atmosphere for their boy Kyrgios, but given Murray’s experience and Kyrgios inexperience at the big stage, Murray will be the likely winner – but don’t be surprised if that does not happen. Kyrgios is a big boy with a bigger game.

The big question is: Will Stan be able to defend his title?

I don’t think so.

There are good chances that he might lose to Nishikori, who although is quite under rated despite his run at the US Open final last year, but is one of those players who can surprise you anytime.

Those of you wondering where the reigning US Open champion, Marin Cilic is? Well, sadly, Cilic withdrew from the Australian Open due to an injury. Let’s hope he recovers and returns to action soon.

As for the ladies side, well, it is unpredictable as always. The only predictable outcome is that as long as Serena Williams is playing well, no one can beat her. The big quarter-final match here is the Maria Sharapova versus Eugenie Bouchard one. Bouchard, the rising youngster who did incredibly well at all the Grand Slams last year, is doing the same this year too. It won’t be a surprise if Bouchard wins a Grand Slam in 2015, and it won’t be a surprise if she beats Sharapova either. Contrary to what all critics are saying, I think Bouchard is definitely winning tomorrow.

Maria Sharapova (L), Serena Williams (C), Eugenie Bouchard (R)

Sania Mirza, our “bhabi” (sister-in-law), and her Brazilian partner have made it to the quarters of the mixed doubles. We wish her good luck and perhaps it won’t be wrong to say that the whole of Pakistan supports her.

Sadly, Aisamul Haq Qureshi and Nenad Zimonjic lost in the third round of the Australian Open, which was their first Grand Slam as a team. Both are big players and I am sure they will have great results as we progress into the later stages of 2015.

Sania Mirza (L), Aisamul Haq Qureshi (R)

On a side note, it is a bit surprising how none of the sports channels in Pakistan are broadcasting the Australian Open. It is a Grand Slam after all. Let’s hope they broadcast the second week so I do not have to rely on live streaming.

What are your predictions? Who do you think will take home the title?
Ali Bin Rizwan The author is a student at LUMS and is general sports fan and tennis enthusiast. He tweets @CounterPunccher (https://twitter.com/CounterPunccher)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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