The third round of the Australian Open begins tonight and if we’re all recovered from the late, late show put on by Garbiñe Muguruza and Johanna Konta, here are three matches to watch……….if you can keep your eyes open:
Maria Sharapova vs Caroline Wozniacki
This is their 11th career meeting, but first since Sharapova has returned from her 15-month drug suspension. Neither player has been tested so far, the Russian losing just three games and the defending champion just 10. The Sharapova serve will be key as if she can keep her double faults to a minimum, she has the firepower to blow the Dane off of the court. Wozniacki will look to wear the five-time major champion down by getting a lot of balls back and being a defensive backboard. While clearly in better form, if Wozniacki isn’t protecting her serve and playing long points, Sharapova will emerge victorious.
Petra Kvitova vs Belinda Bencic
Quietly, Bencic is coming back to the form that got her into rhe Top 10 and the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open as a 17-year old back in 2015. She faces a formidable opponent in the Czech, who has looked in sterling form to start the year. Much like Sharapova vs Wozniacki, this will be a case of Kvitova trying to impose her power game against the variety of the Swiss star (although Belinda hits harder than Caroline). Bencic will want to dictate the rallies with her terrific backhand and can accelerate her comeback even further with a victory in this match. Prone to losing early in Melbourne, this is a match that the Czech can’t look past.
Alex de Minaur vs Rafael Nadal
It’s all come quickly for the 19-year old Aussie, who claimed his firsr career title in Sydney and is through to his second career third round at a major. He’s being thrown into the deep end of the pool against the 2009 champion, who has looked superb through his first two matches. With a new serve and seemingly back in or close to top physical form, the young Aussie will need to use all of his talents to stand any chance against the Spaniard. Nadal will run de Minaur all over Rod Laver Arena and likely punish him with heavy groundstrokes. The crowd could become a factor if the young Aussie can get off to a good start. Regardless, it’ll be another step in de Minaur’s learning experience.