Breaking it down…….

As Day 7 erupts today at Melbourne Park the wonderful thing about Grand Slam tennis is sooner or later you are going to get heavyweight contests coming at you. There will always be upsets but as the draw takes shape as the business end gets closer the contests become intense. More at stake, more opportunity, world class athletes going toe to toe. This morning first up on Hisense is one of those contests. Kei Nishikori and Jo Willy Tsonga will be dropping the hammer and only one guy moves on. It’s the nature of the beast.

Hard to pick a winner in this one. Nishikori is the modern day human backboard who sends ground strokes back down the court with rapid fire. The Japanese star has world class technique off both wings and can hurt you from anywhere in the court with his laser beam accuracy. The two handed backhand is as solid as it gets and is up there with Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in terms of stroke production and reliability. It is indeed that impressive. The forehand is most likely to leak more errors but Nishikori will jump on you in a flash when he sees a short ball and opening and today is no different. His rise to top 5 in the world and to a regular top 10 player has been due to improvements in mental toughness and fortitude combined with increased physical conditioning and durability. Michael Chang being added to the team has had a calming influence and the improvements made in these areas on top of Nishikori’s lightning quickness and court coverage rounds out a very impressive tennis player and package. To win today’s heavyweight contest against Tsonga Nishikori must break even on the serve. The serve is the one area he doesn’t have an advantage in most matches. It’s solid and for a man of Kei’s height it’s effective but it’s not intimidating and the best players in the world can jump on it at any moment.

Jo on the other hand will be rocking serves down at 220km+. He is a force of nature and when he maximises his ability and athletic gifts there is not much any player on the planet can do about it. Explosive power and all out attack will be Jo’s game today. Do not be fooled though. For a man who stands 6 foot 4 and weighs 100kg Tsonga covers the court like a much smaller man. His ability to recover and explode on the ball at maximum velocity is remarkable and the reason why he has always been a threat to the elite players in the game. He brings an all court game and without question is one of the best packaged players on the ATP Tour. You don’t make Grand Slam finals being average in any areas.

This dream match up first up is a 50/50 contest. Nishikori will be relying on his steady rock solid back court game to wear down Jo. He will look to cash in on Jo’s concentration lapses and at times erratic shot selection and he will look to ride this to the finish line. Big Jo Willy will be in attack mode. This is it for Jo. Time is ticking away on his Grand Slam dream. He needs to get hot for the next week and it starts today. Time to crush the serve followed by huge forehands. Time to bring the total package at his disposal that when put together could see him lift a Slam trophy. Time to fulfil the potential that is so obviously there. The Japanese star and the flamboyant Frenchman toe to toe.

It is indeed time………..

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