Australian Open

Australian Open Day 8 tips: Finely balanced Fritz v Tsitsipas contest

Tsitsipas
Greek tragedy? Can Tsitsipas oust Fritz once again in Melbourne

Today tennis analyst Gavin Mair examines a well-balanced encounter between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz, and is testing the stress levels of a talented but chaotic Ukrainian player

  • Tsitsipas incredible record in Melbourne

  • Fritz hard court prowess means victory will be hard fought

  • Can Kostyuk steer through pressure fog?


Arguably the best match in the round of 16 features Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz. The match marks a replay of their entertaining 2022 encounter at this stage of the Australian Open, which was won by Tsitsipas in five sets.

I feel a repeat may be on the cards.

Greek tragedy or comedy?

Tsitsipas saves his best hard court tennis for this event. His record relative to his season averages elsewhere on the harder tracks is notably better Down Under. Since 2019 he has repeatedly outperformed his pre-tournament seeding making the final or semi-final in four of his past five visits.

Record alone is not substantial enough to give the Greek the advantage in this match-up, but it is noteworthy that he has won three of their four career meetings to date. Fritz has always talked confidently of his chances against Tsitsipas saying before their 2022 encounter, "I don't feel it's a bad match-up for me at all.'

However, despite that Tsitsipas has more often than not found a way. His greater movement and variety have been the undoing of the American in these encounters.

I was very unimpressed with Fritz's first round struggle versus Facundo Diaz Acosta. His Argentine opponent was a match for Fritz from the back of the court with the American sluggish and below his best reportedly due to lack of conditioning caused by an injury impacted pre-season.

To his credit Fritz has picked up his level in his subsequent two matches, confidently sweeping aside both Hugo Gaston and the dangerous Fabian Marozsan. However, he should be winning these matches and that first round performance is a lingering red flag.

Tsitsipas by contrast had a few questionable spells in his first two matches against Zizou Bergs and Jordan Thompson, but both these players are capable of jabbing blows against top players - Thompson in particular who sent Rafael Nadal home to think again in pre-season.

When Tsitsipas was required to lift his game against those two players his level was very impressive. I rate what I've seen from Tsitsipas as higher than that shown by Fritz, and that is backed up by a four percent higher serving percentage throughout the tournament. It may not sound like a lot but it is a fair indicator of the marginal difference in level.

For all those reasons Tsitsipas is deserving of his 4/61.67 favouritism. However, Fritz is more than capable of taking at least a set and that is why I endorse backing Tsitsipas at 6/42.50 to win the match and both players win a set.

Back Tsitsipas to win and both players to win a set at 6/42.50

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Emotionally charged match for Kostyuk

Marta Kostyuk is a player I enjoy watching. She is an incredibly talented player that first shook up the sport as a 15-year old when she won through qualifying to make a WTA tour main draw in Stuttgart.

It is fair to say the road has been bumpy since then as she tried to grow into her talented shoes. There have been numerous false dawns but it should not be forgotten that she is still incredibly young at 21-years old. I know that I certainly was not fully mature at that age.

Kostyuk is quick to share her emotions on court, and unfortunately this has thwarted a more consistent breakthrough. It is rarely as easy as it should be for a player of her natural talent.

Unfortunately a major factor in her breakthrough has been the war in her homeland of Ukraine, of which she is constantly outspoken, stating repeatedly that it is hurtful to see Russian and Belarusian players at tournaments, and that few of them have shared sympathy with her over the unfolding tragedy.

To this day it remains a charged emotional situation with players from Ukraine and Russia bypassing the customary handshaking at the net. It clearly affects Kostyuk acutely. Following her previous round victory against Elina Avanesyan she revealed that prior to the game she was full of doubt, "I'm not going to do it. I can't win it," she said.

She has not fared well against Russian and Belarusian players since the invasion, with a strong negative record. Although given these matches have often been against the likes of Aryna Sabalenka or Ludmila Samsonova it is not a fully fair measure, but it is nevertheless a negative.

Opponent Maria Timofeeva is on a tear at the moment. Her tennis is confident, clear-minded and positive. Winning through qualifying is in itself impressive, but dispatching 10th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and former champion Caroline Wozniacki is a very eye-catching form guide.

Kostyuk has been placed as favourite, but an examination of their statistics makes that a hard sell. Timofeeva has been more secure on serve and far more impactful on return through her matches so far.

The Russian is clearly a player of high potential. Last season she qualified in Budapest for her first WTA tournament and went on to win it. Staying fit has been an issue for her as playing week to week has been sporadic.

When her body does allow her to play she tends to do very well. Timofeeva may be a new name but her tennis is likely to see her stay around.

Timofeeva is too big to win this match. Emotions may hamper Kostyuk, and frankly even without that factor the stats strongly suggest the value is on her opponent.

Timofeeva 6/42.50 to win looks to be of value.

Back Timofeeva to win at 6/42.50

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