Wimbledon Fourth-Round and Quarterfinal Previews: Tuesday, 7/1

Monday, June 30, 2014 /by

Call it Panic Monday: A backlog of third-round matches combined with an unexpectedly rainy day at Wimbledon left three of the women’s quarterfinalists undecided; on the men’s side, four fourth-round meetings had to be put off. So instead of a clean slate of four women’s quarterfinals, we’ll see a mixed bag on Tuesday. Here’s the rundown and my picks:

Centre Court

Angelique Kerber (9) vs. Maria Sharapova (5), Fourth Round

Without a single Grand Slam singles champion left in this decimated, top half of the draw, the greatest obstacle for Sharapova may be the pressure of expectations. Kerber has become inconsistent over the past 18 months (she’s been ranked as high as No. 5), and she trails Sharapova 1-4 in their head-to-head. But she’s a former semifinalist at Wimbledon and, as a lefty, can still present problems for the Russian. Kerber could use a big win to beef up her street cred, but the stars have lined up for Sharapova. Winner: Sharapova

Nick Kyrgios vs. Rafael Nadal (2), Fourth Round

Nadal probably celebrated when Ivo Karlovic was knocked out of his quarter early on, but heralded 19-year-old Australian prodigy Kyrgios is no bargain. He’s hit 76 aces in three matches, and showed composure far beyond his years in fending off nine match points in his second-rounder with Richard Gasquet. Nadal has struggled at times in this tournament, has seemed a little unsure of his own chances, and we’re familiar with the trepidation he feels when he’s drawn to play a piledriving server. But unless you’ve played Nadal before, you just don’t know what that forehand is like. This is their first meeting. Winner: Nadal

Petra Kvitova (6) vs. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Quarterfinal

There’s almost always at least one surprise guest in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event, and at this tournament Zahlavova Strycova is one of them. But as always, the surprise is not as surprising as some might assume. Zahlavova Strycova, who stands just 5’5”, may be ranked just No. 43, but she’s an explosive dynamo who has the Czech grass-court gene. Given that Kvitova gets the trembles and has never lived up to the reputation she established at Wimbledon when she won in 2011, she’ll have to fight the pressure in a match she’s expected to win. BZS has a win over Kvitova under her belt (1-3 overall) and that surely will help her—but that high-quality win over Venus Williams ought to have left Kvitova with enough emotional ballast to get through this one. Winner: Kvitova

No. 1 Court

Roger Federer (4) vs. Tommy Robredo (23), Fourth Round

This is a battle of the 32-year-olds, and while Federer has won 10 of their 11 meetings, the one Robredo claimed was their last encounter—at this same stage of the U.S. Open last fall. Federer is the greatest of all players on grass, though, and if he’s lost a step, it’s not having much of an impact on his results in recent days. He’s been slicing and dicing up opponents with glee, and has lost as many as five games in just one set in his three previous matches. The fact that Robredo knocked off menacing server Jerzy Janowicz in the previous round can be seen as a favor to Federer, but it’s unlikely he’ll be in a grateful mood. Winner: Federer

Ekaterina Makarova (22) vs. Lucie Safarova (23), Quarterfinal

Neither of these women has been beyond the third round at Wimbledon before, so they’re traveling hand-in-hand into uncharted territory. That’s something they should be comfortable with, given the similarities between these two. At 27, Safarova is barely six months older than Makarova. Both women are left-handed. They’re ranked just one tick apart, just outside the Top 20. Each of them had a big upset last week—Safarova bested Dominka Cibulkova, while Makarova punished Agnieszka Radwanska in a result no one saw coming. Did I mention that their head-to-head is 1-1, each woman winning in straight sets? Makarova has lost a set, Safarova has not. But Makarova has beaten tougher players (average ranking No. 54, compared to No. 87 for Safarova). I could go on, but I won’t. Winner: Pick ‘Em

No. 2 Court

Simona Halep (3) vs. Zarina Diyas, Fourth Round

Diyas, a 20-year-old from Kazakhstan, is playing in a Grand Slam main draw for just the third time, and here she is, vying to join Zahlavova Strycova as a disruptive guest in the quarters. But that’s a tall order, as Halep has been writing one of the great success stories of the WTA so far this year (in that, she’s rivaled only by Eugenie Bouchard). Halep had little trouble with Diyas in their only previous meeting, where the Romanian ruined Diyas’ Grand Slam main-draw debut in the third round of the Australian Open. Diyas may be a quick study, but this will be another learning experience. Winner: Halep

Stan Wawrinka (5) vs. Feliciano Lopez (19), Fourth Round

Leading up to the start of Wimbledon, Wawrinka hadn’t beaten anyone ranked higher than No. 60 since he won Monte Carlo. Lopez, meanwhile, has been on fire. He won at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon and lost in the final of Queen’s Club the week before that. His three wins at Wimbledon include a four-set conquest of acemaker John Isner in the third round, and brought his grass-court record this year 12-1. In the previous four years, Wawrinka has won just one match at Wimbledon, thanks partly to the way the quick grass isn’t particularly friendly to those big cuts he likes to take. He’s played reasonably well at Wimbledon this year (and has been as far as the fourth round back in the day), but Lopez, 32, is playing like a man on a mission, and his game is ideally suited to grass. Winner: Lopez

No. 3 Court

Sabine Lisicki (19) vs. Yaroslava Shvedova, Fourth Round

Never underestimate a player who has won a “golden set”—one without the loss of a point—although the only active pro who can claim that honor is Shvedova. This injury-plagued Kazakh, now ranked No. 65, has had tight matches at Wimbledon thus far, but she’s tough on grass. Lisicki, the losing finalist last year, gleefully puts all her eggs in the Wimbledon basket, and she did get the best of Shvedova in their only previous meeting on grass, winning 7-5 in the third at Wimbledon during the 2012 London Olympics. But the pressure really kicks in now for Lisicki, and as inspired as she is by Wimbledon, she still has a hit-or-miss game. Winner: Shvedova

Milos Raonic (8) vs. Kei Nishikori (10) Fourth Round

This is an intriguing match-up between a highly talented player who has a reputation for being a little soft—Raonic—and one of the premier grinders of the ATP tour, Nishikori. Neither of these gents has had a particularly demanding draw: The highest ranked among Raonic’s three previous opponents was No. 72 Lukasz Kubot; Nishikori hasn’t had to contend with anyone more intimidating than No. 73 Kenny DeSchepper. Nishikori has hit 28 aces in the tournament so far; Raonic hit 30—in his last match alone. His tournament total is 73 untouchables, and you know what they say, you can’t hit what you can’t see. Winner: Raonic.

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