Storylines and matches to watch on Day 8 of the Australian Open (click here for the order of play):
• Roger Federer vs. another young gun: Two days after dismissing 20-year-old Bernard Tomic in straight sets, Federer will take on another riser in Canada’s Milos Raonic. As opposed to Tomic, the 22-year-old Raonic has actually had success against Federer, pushing him to three sets in their three ATP meetings last year. This will be their first matchup at a Slam, and if the big-serving Raonic couldn’t topple Federer in a best-of-three, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do it in a best-of-five. Besides, Federer loves beating up on the kids. He has yet to lose to a player born in the 1990s.
• Challenge awaits Caroline Wozniacki: It’s been a year since Wozniacki made the quarterfinals of a Slam. Then again, it’s been a year since Wozniacki did much of anything. The last time she was running around the courts in Melbourne, she was the No. 1 player in the world. Now she’s fighting for relevancy. She won a tough first-round match against Sabine Lisicki in three sets and cruised against surprise opposition, 16-year-old Donna Vekic and Lesia Tsurenko, in the next two rounds. Wozniacki will get a big test against Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Slam champion and former No. 2 who beat her two weeks ago in Sydney.
• French menu: Bad news for the Frenchies. Their top two players go head-to-head in the fourth round, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes on Richard Gasquet. Their other two hopes are hobbled with injuries. Gilles Simon, coming off a 4 1/2-hour (and 71-shot rally) epic against Gael Monfils on Saturday night, has already admitted he doesn’t have much of a chance of beating a fitter Andy Murray on Monday. Meanwhile, Jeremy Chardy, who upset Juan Martin del Potro in the third round, sustained a knee injury in his doubles match Sunday. He is scheduled to play Andreas Seppi on Monday.
Matches to watch
• No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 13 Milos Raonic (second night match, Rod Laver Arena): The way Federer has been moving in this tournament makes me want to revisit my pick of Novak Djokovic for the title. His defense was incredible against Tomic, and he’s looked so sharp. Raonic’s only chance is to get it to a tiebreaker and redline the aggression from there.
• No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (7 p.m. ET, Rod Laver Arena): Their Sydney tilt was a messy affair that took place in extreme heat. Kuznetsova prevailed 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-2 in almost four hours for her first win over the Dane since 2009. Kuznetsova is coming back from a knee injury that left her ranked 75th coming into the tournament. With Wozniacki back to playing her defensive style — and I say “back” only because she showed small glimpses of a new offensive-minded game last year — I like Kuznetsova here. She should be able to attack Wozniacki’s forehand all day. Wozniacki will need a good serving day to fend off the easy break.
• No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. No. 9 Richard Gasquet (third day match, Rod Laver Arena): Interestingly, these two haven’t played since 2009. Tsonga hasn’t dropped a set in Melbourne. Gasquet needed four to get past Ivan Dodig in the third round. Tsonga must know he can’t get stuck in protracted rallies with Gasquet, but knowing and doing are rarely the same thing for Tsonga. If Tsonga isn’t attacking the net, Gasquet could take this one.
• No. 29 Sloane Stephens vs. Bojana Jovanovski (third day match, Hisense Arena): A quarterfinal spot is Stephens’ to lose here against Jovanovski, an erratic hitter who’s been stuck in a prolonged slump for two years. With a victory, Stephens could face friend and mentor Serena Williams in her first Slam quarterfinal. That is, if Williams gets past No. 14 Maria Kirilenko on Monday night.
Filed under: Australian Open, Preview Tagged: Andy Murray, Bojana Jovanovski, Caroline Wozniacki, Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic, Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer, Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova