It will be a showdown between two former Grand Slam finalists when Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battle for a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals on Sunday. Nishikori is leading the head-to-head series 4-2, including 1-0 in Melbourne. They faced each other in 2012, also in the fourth round, with the Japanese star getting the job done in five sets. With home-court advantage at last year’s French Open, Tsonga turned the tide to the tune of a five-set victory of his own.
“He’s gonna be tough,” Nishikori assured. “We [played] last year [at Roland Garros] and I almost came back, but he raised his level in the fifth. It was really tough loss for me, so I hope I can (get) revenge here.”
On paper as the No. 7 player in the world, Nishikori is favored to do so. He made a second consecutive World Tour Finals appearance last fall and so far Down Under he has taken out Philipp Kohlschreiber, Austin Krajicek, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez while dropping only one set to Garcia-Lopez in the process. But he took a medical timeout for a wrist injury against the Spaniard and that will cast some doubt on his physical condition heading into Sunday.
Tsonga, on the other hand, appears to have recovered from the knee troubles that plagued him during the offseason. The Frenchman played relatively well last week in Auckland despite losing to Roberto Bautista Agut and he has been outstanding so far at the Aussie Open. Tsonga advanced to the last 16 by powering past Marcos Baghdatis, Omar Jasika, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Among those three, only Baghdatis bagged a set.
“I have been playing good and (have) a lot of confidence coming up,” Tsonga commented. “So it’s gonna be a good match. Every time we played, it was a good fight. We have a different style. It’s going to be good for [the spectators], for sure.”
It should be good for Tsonga, too. Not only is Nishikori possibly less than 100 percent, but Tsonga is also in stellar form and the No. 10 seed positively loves this event. He finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic back in 2008.
Prediction – Tsonga in five sets