The action truly heats up at the Australian Open on Wednesday with some mouth-watering quarterfinal matchups. First up on Rod Laver Arena are the remaining women’s last eight contests, with Victoria Azarenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova getting the action underway.
World No. 1 Azarenka is sure to be anticipating a real test against a seemingly rejuvenated Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two-time grand slam winner missed six months with a knee injury and has slipped down the rankings but she has now claimed to feel refreshed and hungry again. That has been in full evidence in Melbourne.
The 27-year-old defeated former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the last round and her all-court skills could trouble Azarenka. The defending champion has already survived one scare against American Jamie Hampton and she could be set for another.
The second women’s quarterfinal also has an intriguing story line as the woman widely considered the current world’s best, Serena Williams, goes up against a fellow-American earmarked to one day earn that reputation in Sloane Stephens.
The 19-year-old is already the highest-ranked teenager and she will enter the top 20 for the first time next week. Many comparisons have been drawn between Stephens and Williams and the two are said to get on well off the court.
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But Williams balked at suggestions that she was a mentor for Stephens and her fiercely competitive spirit will trump any fond feelings toward Stephens when the two hit the court in Melbourne. The pair met for the first time in Brisbane earlier this month, with Williams winning in straight sets. With the five-time Australian Open champion serving to a level never before seen in the women’s game, a repeat looks firmly on the cards.
The pick of the men’s quarterfinals takes place in the evening session with Roger Federer facing off with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The two have had some memorable battles in the past, not least when Tsonga came from two sets down to prevail in their 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinal. Having shed weight in the off-season, the Frenchman looks to be in fine form in Melbourne. But Federer has also been mightily impressive in not yet dropping a set. That record is likely to go against Tsonga, but Federer should progress.
Before that, Andy Murray is a strong favorite to move through to the last four against unseeded Jeremy Chardy. The two 25-year-olds came through the juniors together so there are unlikely to be any surprises in store on Wednesday. Chardy has suggested that he is a player on the rise having beaten Juan Martin Del Potro en route to his first grand slam quarterfinal. But despite Chardy having won the last time the pair met in Cincinnati last year, Murray should have too much variety and nous.
Where to watch: Day 10’s play at the Australian Open gets underway at 7 p.m. Coverage begins on the Tennis Channel before switching to ESPN2 at 9 p.m. A live stream of all the action will be available on ESPN3.