It’s quarterfinal day for the Men of the Aussie Wildcard Playoffs (that sounds like it should be one of those cheesy beefcake calendars).  So today’s preview comes with BOLD CAPS-LOCKED PREDICTIONS, at no extra cost to you, the reading public.  But first!  Here’s the order of play for the day:

Melbourne Park – Crt 5
   1. Starting at 10:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Blue Group (A)
Jade Hopper
Sophie Letcher [7]
   2. Not before 11:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Magenta Group (C)
Viktorija Rajicic
Nina Catovic
   3. Followed by AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Green Group (B)
Monika Wejnert
Ashling Sumner
   4. Not before 1:30 PM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Yellow Group (D)
Azra Hadzic
Belinda Woolcock
Melbourne Park – Crt 6
   1. Starting at 10:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
Peter Luczak [1]
James Lemke [9]
   2. Not before 11:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Magenta Group (C)
Jelena Dokic [3]
Tammi Patterson [6]
   3. Followed by AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Yellow Group (D)
Jessica Moore [4]
Olivia Rogowska [5]
   4. Not before 1:30 PM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
Greg Jones [7]
Marinko Matosevic [2]
Melbourne Park – Crt 7
   1. Starting at 10:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Blue Group (A)
Alicia Molik [1]
Alison Bai
   2. Not before 11:00 AM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
Matthew Ebden [4]
Samuel Groth [8]
   3. Followed by AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Green Group (B)
Sophie Ferguson [2]
Isabella Holland [8]
   4. Not before 1:30 PM AO Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
James Duckworth
Adam Feeney

Now let’s take a closer look at each of the men’s quarterfinal matchups:

[1] Peter Luczak vs. [9] James Lemke – OK, people. I’ve been hedging my bets, prediction-wise, throughout my previous previews; so today I think I’ll really put it on the line. Therefore, I need to tell you (and you read it here first): JAMES LEMKE WILL BEAT PETER LUCZAK TODAY. So get your cutting and pasting fingers ready to throw those words back at me if I’m wrong. But I won’t be.

Here’s the evidence: to start with, if James Lemke reaches the final of these playoffs, then that final will be the 100th match he’s played this year. That’s right. You heard me (in your head, presumably). The 22-year-old born-and-raised Melburnian comes into this match with a sizzling 61/37 record on the year, a year that’s seen him rise 150 places in the ATP rankings to his current #318. Not even notorious workhorse/money-chaser Nikolay Davydenko has played that much in a year (70-29 in 2006 was his most impressive/crazy season, from a matches-played perspective). So it would be amazing were Lemke to reach the 100-match plateau. And frankly, Mr. Lemke seems headed for a date with that destiny. Sure, he had a slight hiccup in his 6-4 6-7(3) 6-2 victory, but the top-seeded Luczak didn’t look all that impressive in his 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over 16-year-old Luke Saville either. Therefore, I proclaim with great conviction: Lemke will not only win this match but the next one as well. You can’t argue with destiny, people. Or a crazy person on the internet.

[4] Matt Ebden vs. [8] Sam Groth – Matt’s the higher seed, but Sam’s the hotter hand. SAMUEL GROTH WILL BEAT MATT EBDEN TODAY. END OF INTERVIEW. I will, however (and also at no extra cost), throw out some evidence just to humour you: Groth and Ebden have played two times, and Groth has won two times. Do you know what this means?! That’s right: he’s won both their previous meetings. Good on ya! You’re smarter than I thought! Granted, these meetings were in 2007 and 2008, but Adam Feeney came into his match yesterday with the exact same head-to-head stats over Carsten Ball (2 wins in 2 old matches), and we all saw how that turned out. Grothy also has gone 31/5 at the end of this year, while Ebden went 36/24 for the entire year. So welcome to the semi-finals, Sam! Too bad you’ll be losing to Lemke, though. That’s a tough break. But you should get a discretionary WC from Tennis Australia anyway. Otherwise they’re complete and utter fools.

Sam Groth gets interviewed after his inevitable win

[7] Greg Jones vs. [2] Marinko Matosevic – oh what a loud, raucous and combustible contest this will be! Two of the most fiery and fun-to-watch competitors in all of Australian tennis – big players with big serves and groundstrokes who aren’t afraid to attack the net. Marinko leads their head-to-head 3-1, but two of his three wins over Greg have gone three sets, including their most recent meeting in Calabasas, which he won 5-7 7-5 6-1 in October. You can always count on one or two close sets when these two meet. The 25 year-old Matosevic has definitely had the better year, going 37/24 and breaking into the Top 150, while Jones went 38/31 and broke into the Top 200 for the first time. That said, Greg’s 6-1 6-4 demolition of the heretofore hot-hitting Sean Berman in the previous round bodes well for the 21 year-old Sydneysider. And Marinko did struggle a bit in his 6-4 7-6 (6) win over Michael Look. This is a tough one to call, and I don’t think I’m heading for any bold-faced CAPS LOCK prediction here. Let’s say that Marinko wins this one in three tight sets. But I reserve the right to be wrong.

Adam Feeney vs. James Duckworth – A battle between the men who took down third seed Carsten Ball and fifth seed John Millman, respectively. The two have met only one time previously, with Duckworth coming out on top 7-6 (5) 6-4 – a win made all the more impressive for the fact that it was two years ago, when Ducky was just 16 years old and Feeney was 23. Two years on, the Sydneysider’s just getting better and better. He came into the tournament with a hot hand, having had match points before going down to Sean Berman in the Optus 18′s final. In addition to being the top-ranked Aussie junior, Duckworth’s also gone 24/15 in first semi-full year on the pro tour, achieving an ATP ranking of 755. Feeney, meanwhile, has had an OK 22/19 year but he mostly tread tennistical water for the past two years, and is actually ranked 183 spots lower than when the two played their first match. All signs point to a BOLDED CAPS LOCK PREDICTION: DUCKWORTH WILL ADVANCE IN STRAIGHT SETS, and will play either Jones or Matosevic in the semis.

So what do YOU think? Tell me why I’m wrong (or even, gasp, right) in the comments below. And who are you supporting here? Who do you want to see in the semis and the finals?  Who do you want to see win this damn thing?