To quote legendary philosopher Keanu Reeves, “woah”.

Roger Federer, two time defending champion, is out of the 2019 Australian Open. Sent on his way by 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

A match that through two sets looked Federer’s lose, by the end Tsitsipas had left no doubt he was the more deserving player, as the Swiss simply had no answer for the young upstart’s mix of relentless all-court aggression and ice-cold, clutch serving.

Simply put, Tsitsipas played superhumanly well, and opposition Federer was left looking more human than he has at Melbourne Park in a long time. In their wake there’s already talk of a “changing of the guard” is being bandied about, and while that may be a tad premature (how many times has Federer been written off before?), it is patently clear Tsitsipas is here to stay.

Also with Roberto Bautista Agut taking out Marin Cilic (I guess the tennis gods really didn’t want a repeat finalist this year, huh?), he’ll enter his quarterfinal a decent favourite to go even further. Dare I utter the word “contender”? Oops, I think I just did.

Here’s your three to see on Monday in Melbourne:

Alexander Zverev (GER) [4] v Milos Raonic (CAN) [16] – Second on Rod Laver Arena

If Sascha Zverev wants to prove he’s a legitimate contender at the slams, he couldn’t ask for a much better fourth-round opponent than Milos Raonic. The 2016 Wimbledon finalist is always a tough out when healthy, and this tournament has been the healthiest he’s looked in quite some time. Splitting the head-to-head one apiece – including a five-set classic won by Raonic at Wimbledon 2017 – each is a tough puzzle for the other one to solve, as while the Canadian can rely on his serve and forehand to win quick points, Zverev takes the upper hand as soon as rallies go past “first strike” status. If Raonic can race through his service games and risk keep pressure on Zverev he’ll take it, but if the German stays resolute and can find the time to attack his opponent’s backhand, it’ll be a very different story. That said, it’s unlikely either man has it all his own way, and this should be at minimum a rollicking four sets.

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [18] v Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [7] – Third on Margaret Court Arena (Not before 4:00pm)

If you like tall women who belt their groundies and are currently underachieving in the rankings, boy do I have the match for you. Both former number ones, both over six feet, and both belt the stuffing out of the ball, Garbine Muguruza v Karolina Pliskova should hopefully provide us with a real clash of the titans. Leading the head-to-head 7-2, Pliskova comes into this one the favourite, but surprisingly this is only their second match at a major (the first coming at RG 2013), and considering Muguruza’s far superior track record at this level, this is likely to be much closer than that record suggests. Who wins this one will largely come down to execution, but either way, you’re getting a fantastic display of baseline power tennis.

Simona Halep (ROU) [1] v Serena Williams (USA) [16] – First Match, Night Session on Rod Laver (7:00pm start)

Three rounds before we find a winner in Melbourne, we could at least dethrone the current queen of women’s tennis, if not crown a new one when Simona Halep and Serena Williams square off. Despite the seedings, Serena comes into this one a clear favourite given her 8-1 head-to-head advantage, Halep’s only win coming in the round robin at the 2014 tour finals – a loss the American avenged in the final a few days later. If Halep is to have any chance, she’ll need to take a page out of Naomi Osaka’s book, and try and hit through the court even as she cedes baseline positioning, giving her chances to both create winners and draw errors. Considering the progress Halep has made in the past 18 months, I don’t believe that’s impossible, but whether she can keep it up for the three sets she’ll likely need… well, that remains to be seen.


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