Marin Cilic and Fernando Verdasco face off in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday in what could be one of the more interesting matches on the men’s side. Both players have had a good run in Melbourne in the past. Cilic was last year’s losing finalist while Verdasco made the semi finals 10 years ago, losing to Rafael Nadal there in one of the top matches at the tournament in recent history.
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Verdasco has never got that far again with just three other quarter finals to his name. He bettered his second round of last year with a win over Radu Albot on Wednesday. It capped off the second consecutive straight sets win for the Spaniard, who has dealt with weak opposition in impressive style in the opening two rounds. He broke five times overall in the 6-1 7-6 6-3 victory.
Cilic had a tougher time than he might have liked against Mackenzie Mcdonald, needing 4 sets to get past the American in the previous round. If Cilic is to avoid a major ranking points hit, he is going to likely need to beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to make the final. While possible if either player is off their game, it is going to be a tough ask for him to do so back-to-back. He served 25 aces in his win over McDonald but was still somewhat vulnerable on serve, something that could catch him out against the better returners he will face from now on.
As two of the veterans on the tour, Cilic and Verdasco have played a whole host of times previously. The Croatian leads the head to head 9-5 although it has swung wildly in the last few years as Cilic established himself as one of the best players outside the big four. He won 7 of the last 8, including twice last year.
Prediction – Marin Cilic in four sets