Day Four Picks
Originally published on 17/01/18 00:00
Novak Djokovic (14) v Gael Monfils
On paper, this looks the most enticing match-up of the tournament so far – but Monfils has always struggled against the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic has won all 14 previous encounters with his French counterpart, and it’s the 11th most dominant head to head record in the Open era. The matches are often competitive, but Monfils has generally failed to maximise his opportunities.
The Serbian’s troubles in 2017 have been well documented, but Monfils also endured an injury-hit campaign. The 31-year-old, keen to banish the memories of a difficult season, started 2018 on the right note by netting the Qatar Open.
Djokovic was outstanding in his demolition of Donald Young on Tuesday and showed little sign of rust. The six-time winner faces a higher calibre opponent later today though, and he will hope to build on a promising opening.
Prediction: Djokovic in four
Hyeon Chung v Daniil Medvedev
Chung and Medvedev met at the semi-final stage of the inaugural ATP NextGen Finals in Milan last year – and it is likely to be a match-up that is seen frequently throughout the next decade.
The Russian was beaten by the Korean on that occasion, but his early season form would suggest that he is the favourite to advance to the last 32 at Melbourne Park.
Both Chung and Medvedev are attempting to break new ground at the first Grand Slam of the year. Neither player has made it beyond the second round before.
Medvedev does not receive the same fanfare as his compatriots Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, but he does quietly, and effectively, go about his business.
His maiden ATP title success in Sydney last week highlighted his progress, and he has the firepower to achieve much, much more in future.
Prediction: Medvedev in four
Simona Halep (1) v Eugenie Bouchard
In the summer of 2014, Halep and Bouchard faced off in the semi-finals of Wimbledon. It was the Canadian who edged it on that occasion, but her career has been a downward spiral ever since.
The now world No.112, often goes lengthy periods without victories – and her opening round win over Oceane Dodin was her first success since August.
Bouchard’s career has stalled, but occasionally she does post a reminder as to why she was once tipped to become a major champion.
The Canadian tends to save her best for Grand Slams, and she will relish the chance to tackle the world No.1 on Margaret Court Arena.
Halep failed to impress in her scratchy first round win over Australian wildcard entry, Destanee Aiava, and a twisted ankle did little to brighten her mood. The top seed will expect Bouchard to provide a stiff challenge, and she will need to perform much better than she did on Tuesday.
Prediction: Halep in three
Angelique Kerber (21) v Donna Vekic
Angelique Kerber, refreshed and rejuvenated after an instantly forgettable 2017, entered the winner’s circle for an 11th time at the Sydney International last week. She is unbeaten in six matches and is back competing with fearsome intent.
Vekic appeared to be heading nowhere fast after an initial early burst, however she has resurrected her floundering career. The 21-year-old, who came so close to eliminating Johanna Konta at Wimbledon last year, is now a dangerous proposition for any player.
Vekic completed her Australian Open preparations by reaching the last eight of the Hobart International, and she will be encouraged by her start to the year.
Kerber won her only previous encounter with Vekic at the Western & Southern Open last summer in two tight sets.
Prediction: Kerber in three