Australian Open 2014: Breaking Down Keys to Title Run for Remaining Men

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IJanuary 21, 2014

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Just when it appeared the biggest upsets were out of the way at the Australian Open, the men's quarterfinals happened.

The first two matches of the men's quarterfinals brought two more equally surprising defeats with both the No. 2 and 3 seeds now out of the tournament. While the temperatures in Melbourne are much cooler Down Under, the play on the court has been on fire from a few surprising candidates.

Whether it was Stanislas Wawrinka downing Novak Djokovic or Tomas Berdych mostly cruising to a victory over David Ferrer, the men's bracket has certainly made a seismic shift. After seven of the eight top seeds made the quarters, there can only be one player from the top five potentially to play in the final.

Before the quarters continue when Rafael Nadal faces off with Grigor Dimitrov, here is a breakdown for the remaining men to make a run at the title.


No. 1 Rafael Nadal

Aaron Favila/Associated Press/Associated Press

Though he's been tested in Melbourne thus far, Nadal has trudged through to the quarterfinals and faces the only player outside of the top 10 in the world to try to make the semifinals.

After being upset with the speed of the plexicushion courts at the beginning of the tournament, Nadal has been voicing his disappointment yet again with chair umpire Eva Asderaki after receiving multiple time violations during his fourth-round victory, as ESPN staff report:

I accept that sometimes I was slow and I respect that. I don't want to change any rule. The negative thing in my opinion is not the warning. The negative thing is the moment: 4-4, deuce. You can choose another moment to do it, not that one.

We need referees who understand the game. The rules cannot go against the good show. If you are playing with 40 degrees, you cannot expect to have 20 or 25 seconds recovery.

If you are playing crazy rallies, you cannot have 25 seconds [to] recover because then you will not have more rallies because the players cannot have it. So that goes against the fans, against the show.

But despite the adversity that he has faced thus far, Nadal appears to still have a winnable path to make the finals against either Berdych or Wawrinka. The world No. 1 coming in has Djokovic out of the way thanks to Wawrinka but has a 13-5 record when facing Andy Murray and has been even better in his career against Roger Federer.

His 22-10 record against Federer looks only better when considering that he's 8-2 against him in Grand Slams. But in order to get to the final and face either Berdych or Wawrinka, Nadal needs to defeat one of the sport's youngest stars in Grigor Dimitrov.


No. 4 Andy Murray

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press/Associated Press

The British superstar once again squares off with an old nemesis in Federer for a shot to make the semis against either Nadal or Dimitrov. With that shot on the line, getting to the tennis equivalent of the final four is not exactly as simple as it may have appeared with the struggles Federer went through last season.

But with a good record against Federer, there's still reason for optimism as Murray looks to make his fifth straight semifinals appearance. In their 18 meetings on hard courts, Murray holds a 10-8 advantage over Fed.

If Murray can get past the legend, he will have to square off with either Nadal, who has owned him in Grand Slams in the past, or Dimitrov, his ice-bath buddy:

Defeating one of those two could give him a good shot to pull out his first Australian Open against either Wawrinka or Berdych. But with both players already reeling off huge upsets, Murray could have his hands full with either competitor.


No. 6 Roger Federer

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Federer might be in the twilight of his illustrious career, but he is certainly still one of the top players in the game.

After a disappointing 2013 season, Federer has made it to the quarters without dropping a set and looks like a dominant force again. But going against Murray might humble the 17-time Grand Slam winner as he holds a losing record against the Briton.

If Federer can pull off an upset against Murray—not a huge upset, but still considered one by their rankings—and somehow out-duel either Nadal or Dimitrov, he could end up facing off with the same man he was rooting for in the quarters, according to his Twitter account:

Federer certainly appears to have enough still in the tank to get to this point, but at 32 years old, he could end up running out of steam against top competition at the end. Still, without having to face either Ferrer or Djokovic in the final, it does appear his chances have improved after the early matches in the quarters.


No. 7 Tomas Berdych

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Berdych pulled off the first upset of the quarters, but making a finals appearance in the Australian Open wouldn't be his first in a Grand Slam.

After making the 2010 Wimbledon finals, he was also a semifinalist in the 2010 French Open and 2012 U.S. Open. But despite making the finals in one Grand Slam and semis in three others, Berdych has always wilted down the stretch and has never been able to hoist a trophy in one of the biggest tournaments.

Luckily for Berdych, the pressure of facing off with Djokovic in the semis was taken away by his next opponent in Wawrinka. Unfortunately, Wawrinka is riding the momentum into the next round and could be capable or riding it into the final.

But if Berdych has any hope of making his second Grand Slam final, he will need to take advantage early of a likely worn-out Wawrinka and hope for the best against whomever he faces coming out of the other side of the bracket.


No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka

The biggest story in the tennis world after his defeat of the Djoker, Wawrinka has never made a Grand Slam finals appearance in his professional career. In fact, this is only his second semifinal in a Grand Slam.

But if a six-second video tells us anything, Wawrinka appeared to be relieved after the upset, as the Australian Open posts on its official Vine account:

With "The Stanimal" playing the best tennis of his career coming into a matchup against an opponent who is on the same level as him, his first appearance in the finals looks like a distinct possibility.

If Wawrinka makes the final and somehow pulls off an upset over one of the biggest names in the sport yet again—Nadal, Murray or Federer—the story might be one of the most memorable in recent memory for the tennis world.


No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

One of the emerging stars in the tennis world, Dimitrov is finally making his first quarterfinals appearance of his career. But at 22 years old, is Dimitrov ready to take the next step and down two of the biggest names in the sport to make the final?

The young star certainly has his time coming, but it's a little early to predict that he'll somehow knock off both Nadal and Murray or Federer to make the finals. But if he somehow does pull that off, facing an equally surprising story in either Wawrinka and Berdych could take some of the tension off Dimitrov.

Though his odds don't look good, Dimitrov is certainly capable of pulling off the upset. But he will likely be considered a potential finalist in future tournaments this year rather than being seen as a winner in the first big tournament of the year.