The first week of the Australian Open is now in the books with Serena Williams and Juan Martin Del Potro’s losses the most profile on each side of the tournament. Rod Laver Arena has a stacked Monday schedule with each match potentially a thrilling encounter.
(2) Victoria Azarenka vs Sloane Stephens (13) Second Match, Rod Laver Arena, Azarenka leads head to head 1-0
Last year’s semi final between Azarenka and Stephens was overshadowed by the over the top reaction by many to the Azarenka medical time out deep into the second set of a match that the eventual champion dominated a large part of. It was Stephens’ first slam semi final and had she not drawn an opponent who has not lost in Melbourne since 2011, she may have had the opportunity to repeat that once more this year.
Azarenka dropped just five games in the victory last year making the idea of the treatment for her ribs being decisive to any result very strange indeed. Nonetheless, this rematch provides Azarenka with the opportunity to dispel the ridiculous notion that she needs to resort to gamesmanship to pick up a victory over Stephens. The Belarussian was far from convincing in her first set in her opening round match but looked very comfortable in wins over Zahlavova-Strycova and Meusberger in the following rounds. Meanwhile, Stephens has found herself in difficult positions in each of her three victories in the tournament but fought back to make it this far.
Prediction: Azarenka in 2
(10) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Roger Federer (6) 7pm, Rod Laver Arena, Federer leads head to head 9-4
On paper, this match looks the pick of the bunch on the Men’s side as Federer looks to cling on to his position as Swiss No.1 but it seems a matter of when, not if. Both players are yet to drop a set in the tournament and despite Federer’s struggles, the likes of James Duckworth and Teymuraz Gabashvili were never going to pose that great a threat to the four times champion.
This will be the first real test for Federer and there is a strong possibility that he could be exiting at this stage as Tsonga looks to have finally got going after a far from convincing end to 2013 after his return from injury. While the head to head is heavily in Federer’s favour, Tsonga does thrive on the big occasion and most recently dominated a straight sets victory at Roland Garros last year while he also took Federer to 5 at this event last year. That would be Federer’s only top 10 win for much of the season until the Paris Masters came round.
Prediction: Tsonga in 4
(5) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza Second Night Match, Rod Laver Arena, Radwanska leads head to head 1-0
One of only two unseeded players in the last 16 (Australia’s Casey Dellacqua lost on day 7 to Eugenie Bouchard), Muguruza has had an exceptional start to 2014 as she looks to live up to the potential she showed before her 2013 season was cut short due to the need to have surgery after Wimbledon. It looked as if she had never been away, picking up her first WTA title in Hobart with wins over the likes of Kirsten Flipkens and Klara Zakapalova and dropping just 22 games over the 8 matches she needed to win to take the trophy.
The draw was unkind to her but she has dealt with it well to get this far with wins over Kaia Kanepi and Anna Schmiedlova before truly making a name for herself in the comeback win over Caroline Wozniacki in round three. The latter will be talked about much more as a reflection of Wozniacki’s decline, something that is unfair on this talented young Spaniard. Serving for the match against Wozniacki, a bad service game saw her broken but she showed great maturity and calm to deliver an outstanding return game (highlighted by coming out on top of a 26 shot rally to begin it) to take out the Dane for the second time in as many meetings.
Radwanska has always been seen as someone who is truly vulnerable to red hot ball striker and Muguruza could advance if she continues to play as she has but the amount of tennis played recently is sure to catch up with her at some point and it could be the Pole that finally ends an 11 match winning streak.
Prediction: Radwanska in 3