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Australian Open – Round of 16

Well by far the best 3rd round match was Uzbekistan’s Evgeny Korolev vs. 2007 finalist Fernando Gonzalez from Chile.  It was probably the best match of the tournament in terms of drama and quality of play.  Both players were crushing the ball as two of the best forehands in the game were on display.  Korolev took a tight first set in a tiebreak, but was broken quickly in the 2nd set, eventually losing 6-3.  He dominated the 3rd set 6-1, crushing forehands and backhands, displaying power that only the top players in the game possess. 

But Gonzo still remains one of the game’s best, a solid top 15 talent who has vastly improved his defense and conditioning since his early years when he just relied on a crushing forehand.  He took the 4th set, then got up an early break in the 5th, and finally took the match 6-4 in the 5th.  The major difference in the match was Gonzo’s variety.  Korolev doesn’t really have any variety to his shots, and is average at best at the net.  Gonzo though, showed great touch with drop shots and slices, and played a very smart tactical match to advance to the 4th round here for the 3rd time in his career.  But definitely watchout for Korolev, who turns 22 on Valentine’s Day next month.  I’d be shocked if Korolev (currently ranked 53) is not seeded at the US Open later this year.  He can beat the big boys now.

So this brings us to the round of 16…let’s look at the matchups:

Federer – Hewitt —- Baghdatis didn’t show up at all in his highly anticipated battle with Hewitt, leaving Hewitt well-rested and confident going into this showdown with the game’s most dominant player.  I do think Fed is vulnerable in this tourney, and would be surprised to see him take his 4th Aussie title, but I don’t htink Hewitt will be the guy to take him out.  Fed in 4 sets.

Verdasco – Davydenko —- Davydenko is a cold-blooded assassin on the court, scrambling down every shot, and then hitting unreturnable, pin-point precise lasers.  He’s also the hottest player on tour right now, undefeated in 2010 and closing 2009 with a win at the Masters Series Champions event.  Verdasco raised his game huge in 2009, losing to Nadal in an epic 5 setter in the semis here – maybe the best match of 2009.  I think Davy takes him out in 5 sets.

Djokovic – Kubot —- Kubot is ranked 86th in the world, and is 27 yrs old – a journeyman.  Djokovic in 3 easy sets.

Tsonga – Almagro —- Almagro is a talented Spaniard, but doesn’t have enough speed or firepower to take out the 2008 finalist from France.  Tsonga in 4 sets.

Roddick – Gonzalez —- This should be interesting.  This is their 12th meeting, with Roddick winning 8 of their first 11.  They last met at the 2008 US Open where Roddick destroyed Gonzo 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in the round of 16.  I have a hunch Gonzo pulls the upset here in 5 sets.  Either way, should be a fun one to watch.

Cilic – Del Potro —- Great matchup, as these guys are destined to be big time rivals for many years.  The both turn 22 in September this year, they are both 6′ 6″, and both very talented, top 10 players.  They have met twice before, both times at Slams, and both times Cilic won the first set but then lost the next three.  Del Potro doesn’t look 100%, and I think this will be Cilic’s first win vs. his rival – in 5 sets.

Murray – Isner —- The tall (6′ 9″) American has really arrived, winning his first ATP event in a warmup tournament and is seeded 28th here.  Murray is Murray, a supremely talented, quick athlete who many are waiting upon to finally win a Slam.  Isner takes one set here, but that’s all – Murray in 4.

Karlovic – Nadal —- The other giant on the tour, Ivo Karlovic (6′ 10″), has made it to the 4th round of a slam for only the third time in 27 Grand Slam tournaments.  Nadal will end his run 3 sets.

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