Australian Open 2017: Three to see on Day 8: Nadal, Pliskova and Thiem on deck

published: Jan, 22, 2017

by: Ben Stevens

by: Ben Stevens

The hits just keep on coming.

Just like that, both world number ones are out of the tournament. First, the Frank Stallone of tennis, Mischa Zverev serve-and-volleyed his way past a downtrodden Andy Murray 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, and then Coco Vandeweghe steamrolled Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3 to cement this tournament’s spot as one of the craziest in tennis history. Really, how else could you possibly describe it?

Even outside the upsets there have been a host of instant classics – with Roger Federer’s win over Kei Nishikori just the latest to add to the list. Can we hope for more on day 8? There’s certainly a chance, so read on for a look at three matches you don’t want to miss on day 8 of the 2017 Australian Open.

Dominic Thiem (AUT) [8] v David Goffin (BEL) [11] – 2nd match on Rod Laver Arena

It might not have the big-name appeal of other matches at this stage in the draw, but ignore it at your own peril, as the potential excitement on offer is immense. Goffin leads the head-to-head 5-3, but they split their two matches in 2016 – the first in Melbourne for Goffin, the second at Roland Garros for Thiem – with each being a nail-biting four-setter, and a continuation of that trend looks on the cards. They’re very evenly matched, as neither man is a particularly big server and will instead look to outmanoeuvre the other from the baseline, leading to plenty of drawn out rallies, trying to work opportunities to close with their strong backhands. As the weaker shot for both players, the forehand could prove the difference should either find their offensive range with it, otherwise the match will be an absolute slugfest – either way, one worth keeping an eye on.

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [5] v Daria Gavrilova (AUS) [22] – 1st match, night session on RLA

Brisbane champ Pliskova came into the tournament a popular dark-horse pick, but after rolling through her first two matches was nearly bounced in her third by Jelena Ostapenko, prevailing only after a 10-8 third set. The only remaining local hope, Gavrilova is a noticeably different player in front of her home fans, and will have to be once again going against an opponent with whom she’s only won 9 games in two matches. If Gavrilova wants to keep the good times rolling, she’s going to have to follow the blueprint established by Ostapenko and continually stretch her cross-court, not allowing the Czech to step into her groundstrokes and use her superior power. Can the Australian do it? It’s undoubtedly a big ask, but she’s shown so far this tournament a willingness to rise to the challenge, so it’s impossible to count her out.

Gael Monfils (FRA) [6] v Rafael Nadal (ESP) [9] – 2nd match, night session on RLA

Pushed to five in his third round match against Alex Zverev, Nadal now has to deal with Gael Monfils and his never-ending bag of tricks. Historically Nadal has owned the head-to-head, 12-2, but Monfils remains one of the few players on tour who has the tools to out-muscle Nadal from the baseline, should he be able to find some rhythm. The key for the Frenchman will be to maintain touch with the baseline and not allow Nadal to start dictating rallies, but that’s easier said than done, and will require him to paint lines from the offset. As it stands Nadal is poised for a deep run into the second week, and yet, you can never count out the mercurial Monfils – it could be a demolition job from the former, or it could be an exhibition in first-strike tennis from the latter. Considering the tournament we’ve had so far, is it really that far-fetched that Monfils catches fire? There’s always a chance…

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Ben Stevens

Contributor to TennisConnected. Long time player, coach and fan. Still waiting on Mark Philippoussis to break through at a major.

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