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Ricky’s Picks For Day 4 Of 2019 Australian Open Tennis • Djokovic vs. Tsonga & Raonic vs. Wawrinka

Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Mitchell Krueger of the USA during their men's first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Mitchell Krueger of the USA during their men’s first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The field of 128 will be whittled down to 32 by the time play concludes on Thursday at the Australian Open. Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Stan Wawrinka are among those in second-round action. Ricky previews four of the best matchups and makes his picks.

 

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (WC) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

This is a rematch of the 2008 Australian Open final, which Djokovic won in four sets. Overall, the Serb leads the head-to-head series 16-6–including a dominant 12-1 in their last 13 meetings. They have faced each other twice in Melbourne, with Tsonga prevailing 7-6(8), 6-7(5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 the second time during 2010 quarterfinal action. Both players have endured their fair share of injuries since then, but it is Djokovic who has come all the way back. Looking for a third consecutive major title, the world No. 1 began his fortnight with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 destruction of qualifier Mitchell Krueger. Tsonga, who is struggling down at No. 177 in the rankings, is finally showing signs of life again. The Frenchman reached the Brisbane semifinals and he advanced through round one by disposing of Martin Klizan 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5). That is all well and good, but Djokovic is obviously a whole different beast and Tsonga has not encountered anything like him in his latest comeback from knee issues. Djokovic in 3.

 

Stan Wawrinka vs. (16) Milos Raonic

Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in action during his men's singles first round match against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019.  EPA-EFE/RITCHIE TONGO

Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in action during his men’s singles first round match against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE TONGO

This is perhaps the marquee matchup of the entire second round and both guys had to get through difficult first-rounders (well, on paper) just to get here. Neither opener lived up to the hype. Ernests Gulbis retired with a back injury against Wawrinka in the second set, while Raonic took care of Nick Kyrgios in straights. The Canadian may be in slightly superior form than Stan at the moment, but it is always tough to pick against the Swiss in Melbourne. He is quite simply a force Down Under. Wawrinka in 5.

 

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. Jeremy Chardy

Zverev finally delivered at least some modicum of slam success by making a run to the 2018 FO QFs, but that will do nothing to ease pressure at this AO. Ensuing first-week losses to Ernests Gulbis (Wimbledon) and Philipp Kohlschreiber (U.S. Open) only add to the question marks surrounding a player who excels at just about every other level. After all, Zverev is a three-time Masters 1000 champ and he wrapped up his 2018 campaign by winning the Nitto ATP Finals. Up next for the 21-year-old German is a fourth career contest with Chardy, who trails the head-to-head series 2-1. Chardy, just barely unseeded at 36th in the rankings, improved to 4-2 this season by outlasting compatriot Ugo Humbert in a fifth-set super-tiebreaker on Tuesday. That kind of energy-sapping match won’t help Chardy’s chances when he is already a big underdog even at 100 percent. Zverev in 3.

 

Ivo Karlovic vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

At 39 years old (40 in February), Karlovic is playing some of his best-ever tennis right now. The 6’11” Croat finished runner-up in Pune (and probably should have won the final against Kevin Anderson) and he played well in four-set defeat of Hubert Hurkacz in round one. Unfortunately for Karlovic, this just isn’t a favorable matchup. Nishikori’s passing shots are as solid as they come and it’s not like Karlovic can hang at the baseline, so he has to get to the net. The world No. 9 has won three straight in the head-to-head series. Nishikori in 3.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

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