Saturday, January 18, 2014

Previewing The Men's Singles Sweet Sixteen

The fourth round of the Australian Open gets underway today, meaning only 16 players remain in the tournament field. That number will soon be trimmed to eight quarterfinalists, but not before The Outer Courts previews the next two days of men's singles action.

Below you'll find eight stories for the eight fourth round matches...

Congratulations, Kei Nishikori! Now go play Nadal.

After trailing 2-5 in his first set against Donald Young, Japan No. 1 Kei Nishikori won 17 of the last 18 games to defeat the American, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0.

His reward for not quitting in the first set and finishing strong? (And capitalizing on Young's collapse?)

Rafael Nadal.

Nishikori is 0-5 against Nadal lifetime and he'll get a sixth shot at the world No. 1 in the Australian Open's fourth round.

You know what the say in Japan: "六回目は魅力だ" or "6th time's a charm."

Stephane who?

Robert. His name is Stephane Robert.

Robert, the lowest ranked player still in the field, got here the hard way, by losing in the last round of the qualifying tournament and benefiting from Philipp Kohlschreiber's injury at the last minute. Like, literally, the last minute. Robert got the call 10 minutes before the start of play on Tuesday. He took that opportunity to defeat Aljaz Bedene in straights set to advance to the second round, where he eventually lost... right?

Wrong. Robert took down Michal Przysiezny and followed that up with a win over Martin Klizan, who also wasn't supposed to be there, in the third round. That luck Robert needed to enter the tournament carried over to his draw and that is why he's still around. Top-seeded Rafael Nadal had a tougher road to get here.

His luck may be running on E, though, as he gets ready to face fourth-seeded Andy Murray in the fourth round. Win or lose, Stephane Robert will be going home with a six-figure paycheck.

Del Potro and Paire down, Dimitrov to go...

Roberto Bautista Agut upset fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and then 27th seed Benoit Paire to reach the fourth round, where he'll look to ride his hot hand against Grigor Dimitrov. Bautista Agut is playing as well as anyone in Melbourne and Dimitrov, though very good, is not unbeatable. In fact, Bautista Agut won the only previous head-to-head meeting between the two, in Beijing last season.

The match marks the first fourth round appearance by Bautista Agut or Dimitrov in a Grand Slam, so they're both in new territory. It's anyone's match to win.

Tomas Berdych owns Kevin Anderson in Australia and, well, everywhere else too.

Nine times they've met, and nine times Tomas Berdych walked away victorious against Kevin Anderson. He'll look to make it a double-digit win total on Sunday in Melbourne. If he does, it'll be the third time in three years Anderson left Australia at the hands of Berdych. They met in this same spot last year and in the third round in 2012.

If I'm Kevin Anderson and I lose this time, I do whatever it takes to avoid Berdych in the future.

David Ferrer is in his 15th consecutive Grand Slam fourth round.

The Spaniard has reached the field of 16 in every Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon in 2010. Last year he made it all the way to the Australian Open semifinals, losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.

Ferrer's opponent, Florian Mayer, was upset by qualifier Ričardas Berankis in the second round one year ago. He has won three of his seven meetings with Ferrer dating all the way back to 2004, most recently in the fourth round at Shanghai last season.

Wawrinka and his backhand get "Disco Jack."

Never mind Stanislas Wawrinka's undeniable talent and crushing backhand, let's talk about how I'm just now finding out Tommy Robredo is sometimes called "Disco Jack."

From his Wikipedia page:

Some fans refer to Robredo as "Disco Tommy" for the long, wavy hairstyle he began cultivating during the 2006 tennis season; after Robredo mentioned that he calls his coach "President Palmer" while his coach calls him "Jack Bauer" (from 24), fans also began referring to him as "Disco Jack."

That's an awesome nickname.

And awesome nicknames call for photoshop.

Federer set to run the gauntlet.

Federer coasted through the first three rounds on cruise control, but as Matt mentioned in his Federer love piece below, the competition is about to get real for Fed. He'll see a top ten player in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round, followed by probable opponents Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic if he reaches the finals, an unlikely task. That's a brutal stretch for anyone, about as bad as it can get.

But never count the game's greatest out.