Armchair guide to the Australian Open: quarter-finals preview

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With only days left until the first Grand Slam final of the year, things are really heating up at the Australian Open. The armchair guide reviews the eight quarter-finals being played this week.

Li Na v Agnieszka Radwanska
Li Na
Nationality: Chinese
WTA ranking: 6
Age: 30

Agnieszka Radwanska
Nationality: Polish
WTA ranking: 4
Age: 24

With victories in Sydney and Auckland, Aga Radwanska is unbeaten so far in 2012. Her latest scalp was that of 13th seed ‘Aussie’ Ana Ivanovic.

Standing between Radwanska and a semi-final appearance is 2011 Roland Garros winner Li Na. The Chinese superstar is yet to drop a set, but is also yet to face at top five opponent.

I think Li Na will push Radwanska harder than Ivanovic did, but I fancy Aga will make the semi-finals where she will likely play Sharapova. Both Radwanska and Sharapova are in terrific form and both will be quality players to make Saturday’s final.

Prediction: Radwanska in three

David Ferrer v Nicolas Almagro
David Ferrer
Nationality: Spanish
ATP ranking: 5
Age: 30

Nicolas Almagro
Nationality: Spanish
ATP ranking: 11
Age: 27

If past performances at the Australian Open have anything to do with it, David Ferrer is favoured to win the battle of the Spaniards.

Almagro, however, enters the clash after less than two sets of tennis. His previous opponent, Janko Tipsarevic, retired during their fourth round clash (it’s a pity he couldn’t retire while playing against Lleyton Hewitt).

It remains to be seen if this will benefit Almagro, because he will be more rested than Ferrer, or if it will hinder him, because he has not had enough match time.

If my prediction is anything to go by, I don’t suppose the retirement will affect the match, and David Ferrer will win in three sets.

The fourth seed enters the quarter-finals in great form, comfortably defeating Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the fourth round, before which he only dropped the one set in three matches.

Prediction: Ferrer in three

Ekaterina Makarova v Maria Sharapova
Ekaterina Makarova
Nationality: Russian
WTA ranking: 19
Age: 24

Maria Sharapova
Nationality: Russian
WTA ranking: 2
Age: 25

Makarova enters the quarter-finals in good form, defeating Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber in the third and fourth rounds. It is a pity for her that she comes up against Sharapova, who happens to be in even better form.

The former world number one has only dropped five games in four matches at the Australian Open, brushing aside her toughest opponent, Venus Williams, in a comfortable two sets.

Sharapova may only have one year on her opponent, but she has a whole lot more experience. I would be surprised to see the second seed not make the semi-finals, at least.

Prediction: Sharapova in two

Tomas Berdych v Novak Djokovic
Tomas Berdych
Nationality: Czech
ATP ranking: 6
Age: 27

Novak Djokovic
Nationality: Serbian
ATP ranking: 1
Age: 25

It may have taken five sets to get there, but the world number one prevailed over Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic will need to assess his form if he is to get past Berdych too.

The Czech enters the quarter-finals in great form, without dropping a set in his previous four Australian Open matches. However, I do not feel Berdych has been fully tested this tournament, he is yet to face quality opponents in the top four.

Such is the quality of the top four in men’s tennis that Djokovic may be pushed to five sets again, but I cannot see him being knocked out by anyone but Roger Federer or Andy Murray. I would be very surprised if ‘Nole’ didn’t make the finals.

Prediction: Djokovic in four

Victoria Azarenka v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Victoria Azarenka
Nationality: Belarusian
WTA ranking: 1
Age: 24

Svetlana Kuznetsova
Nationality: Russian
WTA ranking: 75
Age: 27

Dropping only the one set to the USA’s Jamie Hampton, world number one Vika Azarenka is only one match away from the Australian Open semi-final.

Her opponent is hard-hitting Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in three sets in the fourth round.

Kuznetsova will be a tough opponent for Vika, who perhaps would have preferred versing the counter-punching Wozniacki. Kuznetsova’s aggressive game may prove challenging to the Belarusian, but after her fourth round domination over Elene Vesnina she looks set to cruise on through to the semi-finals.

Prediction: Azarenka in three

Jeremy Chardy v Andy Murray
Jeremy Chardy
Nationality: French
ATP ranking: 36
Age: 25

Andy Murray
Nationality: Scottish
ATP ranking: 3
Age: 25

He may not be English, but Murray will be starting to get sick of the French. After defeating Gilles Simon in the fourth round, Andy will have to get past another Frenchman if he is to make another semi-final at Melbourne Park.

Giant-destroying Jeremy Chardy should consider himself lucky to make the quarter-finals, with victories over Marcel Granollers, Andreas Seppi and Juan Martin del Potro. However, I cannot see him getting past the in-form Murray.

If Murray wins the match he will likely face Federer in the semi-final, who may be a tough opponent, but I think Murray can make the final.

Prediction: Murray in three

Serena Williams v Sloane Stephens
Serena Williams
Nationality: American
WTA ranking: 3
Age: 31

Sloane Stephens
Nationality: American
WTA ranking: 25
Age: 19

American teenager Stephens has been described as the next Serena Williams. She will need to prove herself in her quarter-final clash against the real Serena Williams.

Williams will also need to prove she is not succumbing to age as she attempts to teach her copycat who the real queen of tennis is.

Both players have been impressive in their victories this far into the tournament, but neither has been tested by quality opposition. I predict this test will be too much for the young American.

I would be very surprised if Serena does not make a semi-final clash with WTA number one Azarenka.

Prediction: Serena is two

Roger Federer v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Roger Federer
Nationality: Swiss
ATP ranking: 2
Age: 31

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Nationality: French
ATP ranking: 8
Age: 27

After defeating his fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Tsonga has made it through to a quarter-final match against Roger Federer. The Swiss dispatched his opponent, Milos Raonic, in three sets.

Roger is in great form, he hasn’t dropped a set yet this tournament despite playing some quality opposition in Nikolay Davydneko, Raonic and our very own Bernard Tomic.

Tsonga has only dropped one set in four matches at Melbourne Park, and could prove a difficult opponent for Roger. But I expect the Fed Express to roll on through to the semi-finals.

Prediction: Federer in three

Keep posted with all Australian Open opinions here at the Roar, and keep an eye out for the armchair guide to the semi-finals.