16 players remain in both draws as we get ever closer to the business end of the first slam of the year. We look at the must-see matches on Sunday’s schedule of play.
(9) Angelique Kerber vs Flavia Pennetta (28) 11am, Rod Laver Arena, head to head tied 2-2
In a schedule that has a list of matches that will likely be walkovers on paper, this match looks likely to be the one that could be most competitive. Kerber remains as consistent as ever, seeing off Jarmila Gajdasova, Alla Kudryatseva and Alison Riske on her way to the fourth round with only a bizarre second set blip against Gajdasova the only mark against her. She takes on an opponent in Pennetta that has brought her best form at the slams in recent events. This is her third fourth round (or better) in a row after making it there at Wimbledon and winning 10 straight sets on her way to the semis in New York. It has been six straight for the Italian so far in Melbourne but Kerber will not be so generous in terms of errors as third round opponent Barthel. While the head to head is tied, Kerber has won both her matches at slams.
Prediction: Kerber in 3
(8) Stanislas Wawrinka vs Tommy Robredo (17) Second night match, Rod Laver Arena, Robredo leads 6-1
On paper, this head to head looks mightily curious as Wawrinka has been dominated by the Spanish grinder over his career. A little can be attributed to the surface favouring Robredo in their numerous clay meetings and that he was in his prime during the mid 00’s but with Stan having the best year of his career in 2013, going 0-2 against Robredo did come as somewhat of a shock. While many players have suffered the full effects of the heat while toughing out victories, Wawrinka has been able to rest up due to an early Andrey Golubev retirement and a third round withdrawal from Vasek Pospisil. Meanwhile, Robredo has played thirteen sets already and knocked off Richard Gasquet in a shock victory last time out. If Wawrinka is to ever get a second win against Robredo, it surely has to be here and he will be motivated with Novak Djokovic likely waiting in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Wawrinka in 4
(4) Na Li vs Ekaterina Makarova (22) Not before 12:30pm, Hisense Arena, Li leads head to head 4-0
Although the head to head doesn’t give much promise of a contest between these two, it is worth noting that three of the four meetings between these two have gone three sets including their US Open quarter final last year. Li navigated potential banana skins against two of the tours highly touted future talents in Ana Konjuh and Belinda Bencic before saving a match point against Lucie Safarova to make it this far. Meanwhile, Makarova came back to defeat Venus Williams in round one with straight sets wins in the following two rounds. Both players clearly enjoy playing in Australia – Li has two finals in the last three years while Makarova has a win over Serena Williams recently. Makarova’s losses in the past three years read as follows – Sharapova (semi finalist), Sharapova (finalist) and Clijsters (winner) which may mean her run ends here but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if we saw another three setter.
Prediction: Li in 3