Jan 22, 2023

2023 Australian Open ATP & WTA Round Four

Say what you will about the balls, but this is the best tournament tennis has had in a long time. The balls are terrible, yes. They’re too slow, yes. Yet every single match is of absurd quality and everyone in the draw is playing at their peak. Ladies first today.

WTA Singles :
Swiatek vs Rybakina :

Nice try Iga, but nobody zips Cristina Bucsa. I had some reservations about Swiatek’s title chances here, but after yesterday they’re gone. It wasn’t a deliberate vengeful “I’m going to zip you”, it was closing the window on hope. Bucsa had to have been feeling confident after the Andreescu win, and since she’s a 2nd set offense it meant Swiatek up a set still couldn’t afford a lapse. She didn’t have one. Iga was focused for the duration of the match, and it wasn’t a redline performance either. Her footwork was relentless and she played as if the opponent was not there. It can sound a bit odd to say that it’s good not to see your opponent as a person, but there is some value to regarding them as an obstacle rather than paying attention to their state. There’s a ton of peering across the net to see if the opponent has cracked, a lot of willful (fake) fist-pumping to try to show confidence and grit, and it’s nice to see someone just get motivated and play their best without making it adversarial.

Rybakina and Collins was really close, unless Rybakina was hitting a forehand. She’s literally hitting them all cross-court, but 2 swings and her opponent is already completely off the court and also somehow can’t cover the corner they’re in. Collins did well to hang in in the second set, and her serving was very clutch in that period. In the end though, the power differential was something she wasn’t able to overcome when her first serve stopped landing. Elena and Iga should be really entertaining. I do think Swiatek is going to win, but Bucsa started off their match nervous and never really found any stability from the baseline. Rybakina can be forced into errors (it took two sets for Collins to get this done though) but she is one of the biggest and most technically sound hitters on the tour so Swiatek has a different equation here. Bucsa was just about not giving the young player any time; this match is about keeping Elena moving. Rybakina’s forehand is one of the few that I think can trade even with Swiatek’s, simply because there is a lot of weight to the shot. Iga has a more whippy production (super technical term) and it can be tough to maintain depth when your opponent is hitting the ball hard.

I think one set can be close here, but Collins was nursing a knee injury and not moving her best and she still was in the mix against Rybakina. Swiatek’s mobility and ability to change direction off both wings should eventually yield errors from Rybakina. Swiatek in 2

Ostapenko vs Gauff :

Can’t is a weird word in tennis. It feels like Ostapenko can’t win this match. She’s winning around 90% of her first serve points, she only faced 1 break point in the last round, and she’s crushing the ball and keeping the winners column ahead of the unforced errors. Still, it feels like we’re tasking her to break a boulder with a stick. Gauff has ascended from pusher to wall and it’s pretty interesting to see. We knew she’d beat Pera, but she did it. The reliability in these matches has not been there in the past, but she’s hitting new levels this year and having that defensive ability in her pocket means any offense she plays applies immediate pressure to her opponents.

In this match, Gauff’s main simple path to victory will be keeping her first serve percentage high. Ostapenko is not looking to play a marathon from the baseline, she moves in and returns as aggressively as possible. In the rallies, she’s looking to plant her feet and really rotate her hips as much as she can to drive the ball through the court. It’s the type of power that Gauff hasn’t really played against this week, and Jelena goes for clean winners and spreads the ball down the line well off both wings. As a result, I think there will be a stretch where Ostapenko wins a few games in a row. I just don’t think she can do it for a full match, and Gauff’s own hitting is pretty powerful. If Gauff is serving well, it’ll really send Ostapenko’s attitude south quickly, and I don’t like her chances of having her legs under her in a third if Gauff is able to put balls back in play which she pretty much always is. Can’t win isn’t right, but Ostapenko would come out of this match looking like a threat for the title if she came up with enough offense to beat Gauff. Gauff in 2-3.

Pegula vs Krejcikova :

So you say you’re fitter than ever, crushing the ball, experienced, and playing in favorable conditions? Ok, let’s see. This feels like a semifinal match for Pegula. If she can beat Krejcikova, I think she’ll be favored against Azarenka also. Krejcikova came into this tournament as mostly a dark-horse candidate for the title, but she has improved every round. Kalinina is probably one of the tougher offenses on tour right now, and Krejcikova made it seem like she was going for her first win on tour. The match just looked uphill for Kalinina from the start and she never got momentum.

This matchup is really hard to predict, but I think Pegula wins. In a normal event, I would expect her to be about even with Krej. Here, she’s hitting the ball a bit more aggressively than usual and her opponents are showing visible frustration. Kostyuk shows visible frustration anytime there’s adversity, but it wasn’t the usual “wtf” but a “how is this not working?” about her own solid play that was on display. Pegula is in a great rhythm, and her main concern here I think will be staying on the baseline in the backhand exchanges. If you give Krejcikova time, she can play perfect tennis. Her swings are smooth and beautiful, and she hits to big targets so she’s not going to hit herself out of a match. This is on Pegula has to earn with both tempered offense and focus. I think she can, but this is the big test for Pegula which will elevate her from “sharp start to 2023” to “completely new base tier achieved”. Pegula in 3.

Azarenka vs Zhu :

Madison Keys opened up her clash with Azarenka with an early break. She gave it back, but her aggression paid off in the first set. Azarenka is a bit behind the tour in terms of power, so redlining can yield results against her. Even Paolini last year saw great success at the USO by opening up her hitting in a match where effectively, her game being so similar but with a tinier frame should make her a huge dog. Keys couldn’t keep it up, and once Azarenka got her moving she was sunk. Errors flowed, and Madison doesn’t go to plan B to regroup in these spots, so Vika ran away with the win. She’s been solid here, and the further she gets in the rounds the more the pressure mounts. Big crowds and stadiums mean longer between points which benefits strategy and accuracy. It’s easy to scramble and grind when things are going quickly but when you have 15-40 on Azarenka’s serve here and you miss a forehand or she serve and volleys you, there’s a full 30-40 seconds of thinking and regretting before the next point. Azarenka isn’t unaware of playing at specific paces either. The veteran will almost always benefit from going slower since they’re just thinking less. Basically, at some point you’ve experienced every situation and have so many reps that you’re settled into your approach and are fine with the results. Azarenka is training and working, but she’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. Some of this is evident in her ball-toss catch. On big points, you’ll often see her catch her ball-toss and reset. This scrambles the opponent’s gameplan a bit, since they have to re-decide whether to move in or back off or what their read is, and it also buys Azarenka more time to reset physically, since the serve clock is turned off if you catch your toss. It’s slick, it’s legal, and since there’s always some wind/nerves, it’s impossible for an opponent/umpire to really say she’s not just being careful on a big point. Even if she is, that’s also a great move.

But what about Lin Zhu, you say. Good question. Maria Sakkari showed that at times, her opponent does not particularly matter. She reminds me a bit of Lebron James shooting a 3. It’s clear she has all the physical tools, and knowledge of the game, and she can put the ball exactly where she wants it, but she can also decide on the shot because it’s the textbook shot for the moment and overcook something trying to end the rally in 1 shot when she had plenty of time and control to get there in a different way. It’s the same as when Lebron’s opponent just hit a 3. James dribbles down sometimes and you just know 200% he’s going to a certain spot to shoot a 3 of his own. It isn’t automatic, so the miss doesn’t matter, but the pre-meditated plan doesn’t lend itself to the proper execution physically. The same happens to Sakkari. She gets a slow ball and decides, this is going to be a big forehand. She takes a few steps to really gear up to swing, and then rips the ball a foot wide. She gets in a long rally where she realizes a backhand down the line would be a spectacular shot (the big shot is a classic source of errors when on the run), and instead of guiding her body to guide the ball to the location she wants, she takes a big rip at it and finds the net. I’m not saying the shots are wrong, but I find that a lot of the time (when she’s losing) Sakkari is demonstrating a technique/shot selection rather than hitting to the target. So basically, my views on Lin Zhu are a paragraph about Sakkari.

Sakkari has the game to play like Novak. She can run down anything, and she has so much torque on her shots that she doesn’t need to fully exert. I’d really like to see her play more smooth on her forehand and backhand wing. People don’t want to take something off the ball because they sometimes give up control or get embarrassed or wind up on defense, but I don’t think Sakkari realized how much pressure she automatically applies when she plays at 2/3 speed. Zhu at one point was being shown how to rotate her arm to serve because she was decelerating due to nerves. This is good coaching, and she showed great humility by accepting the advice, but when your opponent is under so much pressure that their serve disappears, Maria Sakkari should be beating them. It’s disappointing, but these losses are going to start being about her team more than her at some point. Getting to the tour is about physical work. Winning titles is about mental development.

Zhu is hitting well and playing steady, so her and Azarenka should be fun. I don’t think Azarenka gives up control of the rallies very often, and I don’t think she’ll have a lot of trouble dealing with Zhu’s pace since the ball is generally hit to very safe/predictable targets. Should take a while, but Azarenka in 2.

Pliskova vs Zhang :

Scary time to play Pliskova. Gracheva played fairly well offensively, but it always felt like she was getting further away. Pliskova is landing 72% of her first serves, and that just makes her fairly unplayable at times. In general, she plays very aggressively in return games and on serve. It’s a bit like Isner’s approach with the big inside out forehand being the main focus, but imagine if Isner was skillful and also had a backhand. Basically, her ahead in the scoreline is a really tough situation, and she was in both sets here. Gracheva just seemed a bit similar in approach here, but with smaller weapons. Her backhand looks smooth when she’s not being outhit, but the contact can get a bit unreliable (sails wide cross-court) when she doesn’t have time. Good start to the year for the 22 year old, but Pliskova just played great and didn’t blink.

Next match for Pliskova is a tougher test. Zhang doesn’t have the creativity that Gracheva does, but she hits the ball really solid and can defend admirably. She got past Volynets in what was probably her best match so far this tournament. Zhang and Pliskova have played 7 times going back to 2012 (nothing in the past 4 years) and she has never won. That actually makes the +170 line somewhat respectful of her chances here. 7-0 is big, and Pliskova is in good form. Their last 3 hardcourt matches were 3-setters though, and Pliskova has shown a difficulty in beating consistent defensive players quickly in the past few seasons. It would be a great win for Zhang, but she’ll need some luck honestly. Pliskova has fast courts to help her and slower balls to allow her to get in position. She’s serving lights-out at times and Zhang is the type like PCB to have a lot of duece service games. I expect 3 sets and this to come down to whom plays the biggest points better. Is it whom? I DECREE WHOMEST POINTETH THE BEST BE GIVETH THE GOLLLLLLD. I’m a big Zhang fan so my analysis here is tricky. Zhang in 3.

Linette vs Garcia :

PHEW. Caroline Garcia has to be feeling really happy about all the training and battling she did last year. This match was in rough shape at times, and in the third Siegemund was threatening very much to break back and sway the crowd. At 4-3, up a break, Garcia was facing her second break point, and she hit an ace. This is huge. Call it luck, or fortune, but the best players are able to come up with big serves when they need them. This was a 2 hour war that Caroline could easily have gotten discouraged in, so I think she’ll shrug off the early jitters going forwards. Great playing to Siegemund too; her fight and resilience were a great lesson for other underdogs and tour newcomers, and she dressed like a power ranger.

Garcia’s next opponent is Magda Linette, who has just beaten two of the biggest hitters on tour. The Kontaveit win was great, and she maintained the high level she did in the 3rd set of that match against Alexandrova. Townsend had chances due to Alexandrova’s errors the round before, and here Linette was just too consistent to really let the chances slip. This match could be interesting if Garcia struggles to find form, but Linette’s first serve can sometimes go and she’s not the hugest hitter on tour. I like her offense when she’s on, but she seems to fare better against baseliners/pure offensive talents than power players. Linette has won 12 of her last 15 matches though, and she doesn’t play off tour so you know these are some big names she’s consistently beating. This has potential to wind up in a third, but Garcia’s serving is something I think will carry her through. Garcia in Garthreea.

Sabalenka vs Bencic :

How is anyone supposed to know who’s going to win this? Sabalenka got broken in the second set against Mertens. When she did, she had held 59/66 service games this year. What? This is a player who was losing entire sets/matches due to double faulting woes and still finished easily in the top 10 in the rankings. Her serving well is scary. Bencic had a simple win against Giorgi. Camila basically had chances in the second to win the set, but she just isn’t able to win multiple points in a row. The rally-ball errors are poison for a tour player’s result, because they give the other player incentive to keep the ball in play and it’s harder to play against someone who isn’t forced to try to create. I think Sabalenka should win here, but Bencic has won 13 of her last 14 and the loss was to Swiatek. If Bencic gets Sabalenka wide, she can win. Mertens was able to earn a handful of errors when she forced Aryna to slide or stretch, and Bencic has a lot more offensive variety in her game. Two matches already though have seen Bencic sort of struggle to close out an opponent she was slated to roll, while Sabalenka beat players who were playing well (Rogers and Mertens) in straight sets. New Sabalenka new me. Sabalenka in 3.

Fruhvirtova vs Vekic :

Huge win and battle for Fruhvirtova. Early on it was pretty clear that Vondrousova’s normal lefty patterns weren’t going to work. Fruhvirtova leans into her backhand really well and the extension gets the ball travelling through the court well enough that Marketa was shaping the ball back to Fruhvirtova’s backhand on the next shot rather than going over the top and driving it. Both players had some injury issues here and took MTOs, and Vondrousova’s seemed to end her chances in the third (where she was up a break). Fatigue will start to be an issue for Fruhvirtova at some point, but this should be another great match. After beating Vondrousova, you’d almost expect her to best Vekic, but Donna played basically perfect tennis in the third round. Parrizas-Diaz didn’t even play poorly, but she was soundly hit off the court. Not only was Vekic able to hit cleanly past her, but whenever NPD covered the open court, Vekic executed dropshots or backhands down the line which were basically ungettable. I don’t know if Linda can combat this type of pace without errors creeping in, and most of her losses on tour thus far have been to bigger hitters and more physically dominant athletes. Vekic looks really strong, and if she wins here then I’d give her a decent shot against her next round opponent as well. Vekic in 2-3.

ATP Singles :
Nishioka vs Khachanov :

Roars and complaints are back on the menu at Aussiebee’s. Karen Khachanov played tremendous in round 3. Tiafoe was a bit error prone early but he had an unreal level in set 3/4. He basically looked unstoppable and it seemed like this was heading to a fifth. He had the crowd, he was serving great, his skill at net was paying off, and his forehand was firing like a cannon. Through all of this, Khachanov’s level never dipped. He just kept serving well and hitting huge (especially on his backhand on big points). It was a different brand of Khachanov, and his run last year is looking like more of a recurring theme at this point. He defends well for a big guy, he has a huge serve, his backhand is extremely solid, and more importantly he’s starting to really be an effective offensive talent. While this was going on, Nishioka was getting a nice gift. McDonald hurt his abdominal muscles early in the Nishioka match, and just kinda folded. He stayed out there and kept playing, but he was going through the motions for the most part. Nishioka eased up and managed to gift back a break in the second, but it was too easy and he won in straights.

Nishioka won their previous meeting, and he’s off to his best start ever on tour. Him being lefty and so solid defensively is a really big boost in any matchup. I just don’t see how he elevates to the level that Khachanov brought in round 3. Nishioka isn’t the server than Tiafoe is, nor does he have his power. The plan will be to wear down and outlast Karen, but I don’t think that option is available anymore. Khachaov in 4-5.

Hurkacz vs Korda :

This one is going to surprise people no matter what happens. Hurkacz had a really exciting 5 setter with Shapovalov, who probably should have won all 4 of the early sets. It’s pretty impressive how easily he gets broken when serving for a set, and it’s equally impressive how he manages to get full swings on a serve like Hurkacz’s. Hurkacz was hitting harder in this match than he did in the early rounds (where he looked pretty bad) and he ended it on a pretty high note. As a rule, you never want to be playing a big server in a 5th set, because for some reason, the cumulative fatigue tends to make their delivery really solid. Tell me you haven’t watched soggy Isner or Anderson hold nonstop in 5th sets even though they can’t even elevate off the ground anymore in their delivery. It was a good win for Hurkacz, and he’ll need to maintain a more consistent level here if he wants to pull off the upset.

The upset has only just become one though. Korda scored the biggest win of his career with a 3-0 drubbing of the best defensive test on tour outside the big 3. Seb started out the match and it was pretty clear that the plan was to take it to Medvedev. He pushed the pace, he went after his forehands and backhands, and he looked to be the better played up two breaks. When Medvedev got things back to even, it had the look of a 4-set loss for Korda. He never stopped playing though, and Korda’s offense in this match did not falter once. Tactically, Daniil opened up as this went late. He started going for more offense, but it just didn’t matter. From a stylistic view, Medvedev was at a big disadvantage. He was putting the ball in play with not much pace, and Korda was getting to hammer away. It doesn’t usually happen though. People just aren’t able to hit through Medvedev. Given his 3-setter with Novak a short time ago, Korda has to be one of the biggest threats to come through here with a maiden title. So why does this feel like a trap?

Some things are different here. Hurkacz hits through the court more often than Medvedev, who basically gave Korda control for much of the match. They’re similar heights, but Medvedev in recent events has really stopped scoring as many free points on his serve. He also has somewhat gone away from the dropshot which did give his funky game a bit more utility since it’s hard to read his swings when he’s in the frontcourt or when you’re trying to cover a pass. Hurkacz also won their previous meeting 6-3, 6-3 so there will be some belief in his mind that he will be okay here. Being given the underdog moniker also frees up some pressure, and squeaking out of a match with Shapovalov that he probably should have lost will leave him feeling as if he’s freerolling here. The flipside is Korda. He played an unreal match and he’s serving great. He’s way more stable in baseline rallies than Hurkacz, and he’s holding serve at a pretty incredible clip. This is going to be incredible. Who wins? From what we’ve seen thus far, Korda in 4, but I’m expecting a 5 setter here because Hurkacz is a great big-match player.

Tsitsipas vs Sinner :

This is one that feels a bit more defined. Tsitsipas rolled Griekspoor in impressive fashion. He served excellent, made relatively few errors on his backhand, and his forehand was an instant point anytime he got it on the ball. He just played at a higher register throughout and Griekspoor hung on but Stef never blinked (perhaps he’s stolen this strategy from PCB, who famously entered a staring contest with his reflection in 2003 and has not blinked since). Tsitsipas is starting to spur chatter about him being a threat for this title, and his history of winning big physical contests at majors has to give him a shot going forwards against a lot of inexperienced players. I would normally expect Sinner to roll here, but he was really rough in a few matches already. He trailed the H2H against Fucsovics, and showed why without showing why. Fucsovics played his normal game, and Sinner hit the ball out. It just seemed like impatience, and the fact that he found his range and won in 5 was cool, but not inspiring. He needs to level up here, and find Tsitsipas’ backhand. Sinner is completely capable of beating Tsitsipas if he isolates his backhand, and poor play in round 3 doesn’t guarantee it’ll continue. The best players elevate their game to the moment, so I’d expect to see the good Sinner at some point. My worry here (for Jannik) is that Tsitsipas is likely to have a lead in the scoreline when Sinner finds his second gear, and that makes it a shootout at best. Tsitsipas’s energy is exactly what a somewhat neutral crowd will feed into, since the vaguely macho vibe is an Australian theme. I’d watch the unforced errors early. If Sinner doesn’t level up quickly, this is one-way traffic. Tsitsipas in 3-4.

Lehecka vs Auger-Alliassime :

Jiri just made the fourth round of a major at 21. It’s so impressive, and the way he dismantled Norrie was also. It’s rare that you see someone willing to battle Norrie at the baseline, and rarer still that they win. Cam struggled on his backhand here, and Lehecka’s forehand found a really solid rhythm. I don’t know if he will enjoy the same success here, since FAA hits a much heavier ball than Norrie. Cam Norrie is a top 10 competitor, but his hitting is not top 10 a lot of the time. He looked pedestrian against Lehecka, and him not scoring much on his serve hurt him. Felix shrugged off his early AO struggles and beat Cerundolo in 4, and he’ll know this is a match where he needs to keep the ball in play in order to win. I think he will because he’s able to serve a lot more effectively than Lehecka. Lehecka thus far on tour has basically won the matches where he’s the bigger hitter, and lost the ones where he’s outclassed. Reductive reasoning, but it’s how this will likely go. It’s taken a while for Felix to find his best tennis, but he has in every match so far. FAA in 4-5.

Rublev vs Rune :

I like Rune here, but some of that is the Rune futures I’m sitting on. He beat Rublev in Paris last year, but that was Rune’s best tennis ever. He won in straights against Humbert, but wow did Rublev play some impressive offense against Evans. The inside out forehand was a laser, and ever subsequent swing created a sharper angle with more power. I don’t think he’ll enjoy the same control against Rune, who has a solid two-hander, but Rublev is thriving with these slower balls since his lack of foot-speed is the one big hole in his game. The other small hole is his serving. His opponents tend to get a lot of looks at his second serves, and his first isn’t varied that much so those come back also. Rune’s ability to defend should give him a slight edge here, and his own serving is finding good purchase. Last match he had a MTO and had his ankle wrapped after a fall, so it’ll be interesting to see how that is packaged heading into this contest. He seemed fine in the moment, but ankle sprains generally tend to swell later on. Rublev has a good chance to even the score here, but his emotional state is precarious. Rune had a temper, but he seems to have worked his way through that. If Rublev blinks in the tough patches, he’ll lose in 4. If he hangs tough, I expect this to be a 5 set classic. Rune in 5.

De Minaur vs Djokovic :

Same old story in New Djokovic. His leg is impossible to put stop on, and he falls at times. Then he plays perfect tennis and wins anyway. Dimitrov really could have won this match, but he just refused to keep the ball in play. He swings over his backhand as if the spin is going to make the moon explode, but he rarely hits the shot with depth. He goes for big targets on serve, but he doesn’t seem able to hit them. I just think a more generic approach would help him, as Djokovic is too good at tennis to give him unforced errors in big rallies. We’re seeing Murray thrive by keeping the ball in tough spots in big moments, and he’s doing it without legs. Dimitrov is a top tier athlete who can’t quite play the gamestyle he’s trying to play. It’s always the same story, but this one particularly seemed like a nail in the coffin.

De Minaur was in a rush against Bonzi, and I hope he made it to wherever he had to be. He has the exact formula to beat Novak in a hampered state. He is constantly looking to hit to the open court. He constantly takes the ball early. He can change direction he needs to, and his own footspeed is good enough to defend. He’ll have the home crowd which can cross a line at times and Djokovic who can get upset about that (and upset at his box). To me, an opponent just needs to inspire doubt in Djokovic. Not doubt that he can win, but that he will win. If you show him that the match is going to require a physical investment that he probably can’t make, then he’ll change his game. He’ll miss, and his dialogue with his box will increase. This is what you want. As fans, we want great tennis. As Alex? You want to get a forfeit. The problem with all of this is that De Minaur has always lost to guys with more power than him. He looks tremendous in early rounds, and then Berdych or Zverev comes along and just looks dominant in rallies. Djokovic has some mean pop on the ball right now, and despite the injury he’s still playing really good tennis and covering the court. Again, this looks like Djokovic in 4 or ADM by forfeit.

Shelton vs Wolf :

I really like Shelton here, and I’m concerned I might be wrong. Shelton has been playing great, and his performance against Popyrin was comprehensive. He served great, his backhand was solid (barely saw an error), and his forehand was what Jack Draper’s is trying to be. He goes big when you don’t expect it, and he mixes in some dropshots and slices in points where you’d expect him to feel pressure. Overall, Popyrin made a number of errors but he was just soundly defeated. After all that, Shelton arrives at a pickem with Wolf. It’s scary, because I don’t regard Wolf as that big of a threat. He beat Mmoh, but Mmoh really never hits with any depth. The swings look very coached, and he focuses on form and footwork but lacks aggression. I’d like to see him back himself to win points and stay down on his shots a bit more. Lean into the pose and let the grunt out. Sure you’ll get counterpunched sometimes and look bad, but I rarely see Mmoh’s opponents having to slide or lunge because he just plays at a slower pace.

How does Wolf beat Shelton? It’s tricky because they’re both from the same collegiate system. Being compatriots will also split the crowd. Wolf did hurt Mmoh often with his cross-court forehand. He was getting great angles on it and Shelton is a lefty so it’ll be tougher. I can puzzle over it all day, but it would have to be the market not adjusting to Shelton’s arrival yet for Wolf to be even in this match. I don’t see it, but I suppose I’ll watch it. Shelton in 3-4.

Bautista-Agut vs Paul :

RBA and Murray put on a show. I was exhausted by the end but I couldn’t turn it off. Murray looked as exhausted as I’ve ever seen a tennis player, and was visibly hobbling around (both legs jelly), and he just kept fighting. His racquet-skill is world-class, and he just got a bit unlucky that he played a guy who will always beat a tired opponent. RBA is a robot. Can Tommy Paul beat a robot? Possibly, but then I will begin suspecting him of being a robot. Murray on his last legs just didn’t have the offense to force RBA into errors. He scored points, but he had to earn them all. That’s a bad way to play against RBA, but Tommy Paul has more weapons. He’s serving well and he has the arm to go 5 sets and still have pop on his delivery. His forehand has easy power and it’s hard to read. He’s quick to net, and his backhand is really solid (looks a bit like Murray’s but somehow drunker). RBA will probably be the slower player here, but his level won’t dip. This is basically a great test for Tommy to illustrate whether his offense is capable of carrying him to the finals or if he loses to his own percentages. I’d talk about the Brooksby match, but Jenson was just really flat physically for that one. It was pretty clear he left it all out there against Ruud. Expecting a close match and some sets exchanged, but Paul to be the better server and take the win. RBA has been on the bring for a few rounds here. Paul in 4.