by: Ben Stevens

One of the great things about tennis is it is truly representative of all corners of the globe. The sport crosses boundaries of culture, language and geography like few others – and yet, if Tuesday showed us anything, it’s that you probably want to be Swiss or American.

With Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka winning in the men’s, and Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe triumphing in the women’s, Tuesday gave us two sets of compatriots for the semis. So much for variety. Chalk it up as just another quirk in the quirkiest of tournaments.

With the second day of quarterfinal action comes a slate with big names and surprise packages in equal measure. There’s something for everyone – including the ardent anti Swiss-American in your life – so read on for a look at day 10 of the 2017 Australian Open.

(All matches in order of play)

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [5] v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

Put on some Britney Spears and start prepping for Y2K, because it’s 1999 all over again – at least where Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is concerned, as that was the last time the Croat made a major quarterfinal. A great human-interest story, Lucic-Baroni made the US Open semis as a 17-year-old before personal difficulties took away much of her prime, but now at 34 she’s back, and Karolina Pliskova has to be nervous. Lucic-Baroni doesn’t hit the heaviest ball on tour, but she’s got superb feel that allows her to hit close to the lines and get tremendous depth on returns, from which she can go on the attack and quickly finish points. Pliskova will have to make frequent use of her cross-court backhand to keep Lucic-Baroni pinned behind the baseline and fire her own winners, but all signs point to this being a nail-biting contest.

Serena Williams (USA) [2] v Johanna Konta (GBR) [9]

As has been the case at many a major over the past 15 years, the question is once again: who can stop Serena Williams? Up to the plate steps Jo Konta, who despite being on a nine-match winning streak, might simply be outmatched. The Aussie-turned-Brit plays a very grinding style, and against Williams her contentedness to rally will inevitably be punished before long. If Konta is to cause the upset, she’ll have to get Williams running early and often, seizing any opening presented, otherwise she’ll be ruthlessly dealt with. Expect Serena to roll, and the AO staff forced to mop-up the blood afterwards.

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [15] v David Goffin (BEL) [11]

A match between a guy who needs a razor and one who looks too young to use one, a maiden major semifinal berth is on the line for whoever takes this encounter. Having only played each other once before at tour level, both players will be tested by what their opponent brings to the table. Each favouring a different groundstroke – Goffin backhand, Dimitrov forehand – both players will be continually trying to displace the other’s court positioning and create mistakes off their weaker wing, meaning plenty of medium-length rallies that end with a rapid transition onto the attack. The two are so evenly matched it’s hard to see any outcome that isn’t a tightrope walk, so expect a long one.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [9] v Milos Raonic (CAN) [3] (Night session)

There’s an old adage in boxing that “styles make fights”, and that certainly applies here. Possessing playstyles that are about as diametrically opposed as it gets on tour, this really is a 50-50 proposition. What makes this so tough to call is that both players will be allowed to play their style – Raonic his line-seeking first-strike offense, Nadal his high-energy, bait-and-switch defense – it’s just a question of who executes theirs better. Raonic could come out hot from the get go, never give Nadal a look-in on serve and tee-off on anything remotely appealing, or the Spaniard could quickly find his range on the return, make a few outrageous passing shots and break the Canadian’s will to live. It’s a match where any outcome really isn’t out of the question, which makes it possibly the most exciting one in prospect of the tournament so far. Whoever wins will undoubtedly be the favourite to make the final, and possibly to win the tournament altogether.


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