Venus, Keys meet for all-American QF, Djokovic-Raonic headline at night
MELBOURNE -- Here are the matches to watch on Day 10 of the Australian Open. Wednesday's quarterfinal play begins on Rod Laver Arena at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Click here for the order of play, and see the full TV schedule here.
No. 18 Venus Williams vs. No. 35 Madison Keys
For the first time since 2003, three Americans are into the quarterfinals of a Slam. First up on Rod Laver Arena is the first All-American Slam quarterfinal since 2013 when Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams here in Melbourne. Venus joked after her solid three-set win over No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska that her younger opponent has been watching her since she was in diapers and she's not that far off. Keys, 19, was just four years old when she happened to see Venus wearing a beautiful dress at Wimbledon. That singular moment inspired the youngster from Rock Island, Illinois to pick up a racket, and she's now into her first Slam quarterfinal.
Venus won their only match, a 6-4, 6-4 win at the Family Circle Cup last year. Both women come in fantastic form, with Keys following up her big win over reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova with a dominant win over Madison Brengle in the fourth round. She credits her improved fitness after a tough off-season, as well a simpler game plan, honed under the watchful eye of new coach Lindsay Davenport.
"I think it's just more I'm finally kind of understanding [how to be patient] and really knowing when I have it," Keys said, "but also the confidence of being able to stay in points and if I can get to this ball, I can get to another ball, things like that. I think it's more just confidence in knowing that I can last in a point, and knowing I can run side to side for 12 balls."
Will having Davenport in the box this time around be the difference for Keys? No one knows Venus' game better than Davenport. The two faced off 27 times in their careers, with Davenport edging Venus in the head-to-head 14-13. "Lindsay comments on so many matches, so I know that she I'm sure knows everyone's game," Venus said. "I'm sure that's why Madison is playing so well. I think my game has changed a lot since I used to play Lindsay, as well. I feel like I'm continually evolving, adding things to my game. I don't think it's the same report as it would have been at that time, however many years ago that was."
"Lindsay used to just hit a clean ball," Venus said. "She was so fun to watch play. I loved watching her play. Of course, didn't love watching her hit those clean balls against you. That was a part of it as well. I thought she brought a lot to tennis. I think she should actually get more credit. People don't always mention her name. But she was an amazing player. Yeah, definitely some similarities. Madison hits a clean ball, goes for it. So it looks like it's a good match."
While Venus is competing in her 34th Slam quarterfinal, it's the first since she was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome in 2011. She is undefeated on the season after winning the title at the ASB Classic over two weeks ago. Venus may be the far more experienced player but she remembers what it was like to be a free-swinging teenager keen on a upset. "Of course, experience is definitely a factor," Venus said. "But I was 19 once. I beat players who were more experienced. So at the end of the day if you can hit the ball in the court enough times and get enough points on your side, that will be who wins no matter what the other numbers are."
A win for Venus could set up the 26th meeting between Serena and Venus and the first at a Slam since 2009 at Wimbledon.
No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova
The diminutive Slovakian has proven herself to be a giant-slayer in Melbourne. Last year she knocked off Maria Sharapova in straight sets en route to her first Slam final appearance. This year she came through in a tough three-set win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to earn a shot at the woman to beat, top-seeded Serena. Cibulkova is, pound for pound, the biggest hitter on the WTA Tour. She generates a remarkable amount of pace for a small player and she can wreak havok with her forehand if she's given time to step in a take it up the line. But she is 0-4 against Serena, having won just one set, and the American should be able to take advantage of her soft second serve.
"I mean, to be her size, she hits so hard and she plays so well," Serena said. "She's just such a power, compact, great player. I just have to stay focused and not underestimate her."
No. 4 Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 5 Kei Nishikori
It's a total pick-em match when Wawrinka and Nishikori take to RLA to close out the day session on Wednesday. The defending champion has lost just one set heading into the quarterfinals, while Nishikori looked like his best self in a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over David Ferrer in the fourth round. Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 2-1 but it was Nishikori who got the better of him in their last match, a five set win in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. The key for Wawrinka will be his serve and his ability to keep Nishikori off the baseline. Expect to see him hit a heavy topspin ball to keep Nishikori at bay.
"He's a great shot maker," Wawrinka said. "He can [hit] winners. Doesn't matter, he's always taking the ball really early. It's always tough to play against him. He doesn't give you a lot of time."
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 8 Milos Raonic
"Obviously, if he serves as well as he does, 20, 30 aces average per match, puts a lot of pressure on the opponent's serve," Djokovic said. "You take a chance, you double-fault, the set is gone. These kind of matches are very challenging mentally for us to play against servers like that."