In an Australian Open where very few shocks have happened through the first three rounds of play it is a surprise to see Tennys Sandgren in the fourth round. His prize for that achievement is a match against the evergreen Fabio Fognini.
Fognini, as is the case with many Italian players, has flattered to deceive over his 15-year career. This is very evident in his grand slam career, where Fabio has only ever reached one Quarter-Final. It seems that its generally around this stage where he comes unstuck. At this stage in his career he has a lot of miles on the clock and has already played two mammoth five-set matches at this year’s tournament.
Sandgren may not be a household name but he did put in a decent showing at last year Australian Open reaching the quarter-finals. He has put in some eye-catching performances already beating world number eight Matteo Berrettini in five sets and dispatching his compatriot Sam Querrey in under two hours. Sandgren has previous with Fognini at a grand slam. The pair met in Wimbledon last year with the American Sandgren winning comfortably. All I know is there will only be one winner in this match and that is Tennys.
Both players were part of some of the biggest upsets of round three. The unseeded Jabeur was at times mercurial as her ambitious shot making was too much for the Dane Wozniacki to cope with. Jabeur handed Wozniacki her final defeat as she hangs up her tennis shoes for the final time in a gruelling and hard fought three-setter.
To make up the other side of this tie Qiang Wang had to banish ghosts of grand slams past. In last year’s Us Open Serena Williams breezed to a lopsided 6-1, 6-0 win. Wang had to muster all her courage in order to take down to the pre-tournament favourite and recorded a famous victory.
Ons Jabeur may not have a lot of experience playing at this stage of a grand slam but I’m hoping that she can play with a freedom and willingness to take the risks needed for it to be the day of the underdog again.
Marin Cilic versus Milos Raonic seems like the kind of match that could turn into a titanic tussle between two of the game’s biggest servers. The pair have met three times before, albeit it was a number of years ago with Cilic holding the tiebreaker with a 2-1 head to head record. Only one these matches went to final set and I can see something similar happening here. Cilic showed his battling spirit in the previous match against Roberto Bautista after losing the first set and going on to win in five sets.
The Croatian seemed to get inspired in the middle of the match rattling off 11 straight games to take command of the tie. There were a few signs for concern in this game though. Marin needed a couple of medical timeouts to help him just get over the line. There were very different scenes in Raonic’s match. The Canadian extinguished the hopes of Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas rattling of a comfortable evidenced by the fact he never allowed Tsitsipas to have a single break point. In fact, Raonic has not faced a break point in two of his three matches this week and in the process has not lost serve. I can see this game taking a simple path, but I do feel that the grit and determination of Cilic will mean he can muster at least a set from Milos.