Aussie Open quarterfinals preview: Serena-Sharapova rivalry resumes
Here are the matches to watch on Tuesday on Day 9 of the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne as the first round of quarterfinals matches get underway. Play begins on all courts at 7 p.m. ET. Click here for the full order of play, and see the full TV schedule here.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
(first match at 7 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
Fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanksa is into the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the fifth time in six years after a three-set win over German Anna-Lena Friedsam, who suffered cramping and was visibly upset during the last two games of the match.
Radwanska’s quest for her first Grand Slam title will have to go through No. 10-seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who knocked out Australian Daria Gavrilova on Sunday.
“I know her really good. We have really tough matches in the past,” Suarez Navarro said of Radwanska. “I know will be tough for me. I know that because her style, you have to run a lot, you have to think every point what to do. But I think I'm ready. I'm really enjoy playing here in Melbourne. I'm really happy to be in the next round. I want more. I want more.”
Radwanska leads their head-to-head 2–1 (not including a round robin Fed Cup victory) but Suarez Navarro defeated the Pole in three sets in their most recent meeting in the fourth round in Miami in 2015.
“I'm just very, very happy to do another quarterfinal here. Always feeling good here. I really like the atmosphere. I like the courts,” Radwanska said after her win on Sunday. “I just try to keep it up, play better and better because that's what I need for the second week of the Grand Slam.”
Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
(not before: 8:45 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
Let the rivalry resume. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet for the 21st time in their careers on Tuesday in Melbourne in a rematch of the last year’s Australian Open final where Serena won 6–3, 7–6(5). By now, most already know the statistics surrounding their head-to-head matchup: Sharapova has won just three sets during her 17-match losing streak against Serena, which goes back to 2004. Serena, 34, is coming off a 2015 season where she won three of four Grand Slams, while Sharapova, 28, last won a major title in 2014 at the French Open.
When asked about her first match against Sharapova in Melbourne 11 years ago—No. 7-seed Serena defeated No. 4-seed Sharapova 2–6, 7–5, 8–6—Serena said she doesn’t remember much.
“I just remember hitting an inside out forehand, and, yeah, when I was down match point. I remember hitting it as hard as I could,” she said. “Yeah, that's all I remember. I remember obviously winning, and that was really great.”
The match marked the start of a long losing streak for Sharapova, but the fifth-seeded Russian has looked strong through four matches in Melbourne, firing 52 aces for the tournament so far.
“You're always trying to—always trying to improve,” Sharapova said after defeating Belinda Bencic. “I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam. There is no reason I shouldn't be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It's only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”
Serena says she’s not thinking about her history against Sharapova going into Tuesday's showdown.
“Every match is new,” Serena said. “She always brings in something new and something special. She's very consistent, as well. [She’s] one player that's always consistently winning and training and working hard and winning matches.
“I think the person who's winning could definitely feel the pressure because there is a lot of expectations. The person who is losing, well, I have lost X amount in a row; I don't have anything to lose. But in this situation, I don't have anything to lose because I'm just here—every tournament for me is just a bonus at this point in my career. So it's an interesting place to be at.”
Roger Federer vs. Tomas Berdych
(not before 10:30 p.m. ET, Rod Laver)
After cruising to a straight-sets victory over David Goffin in just 88 minutes on Sunday, Roger Federer is into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 12th time in his career, where he’ll face sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych. The Czech defeated Roberto Baustista Agut 4–6, 6–4, 6–3, 1–6, 6–3 in the fourth round.
“He's become a very, very danger opponent, as always he is…I mean, it's Roger, so it's always going to be a huge challenge to play him,” Berdych said. “I'm just going to stick with the things that I'm doing right now. I think it's been a great preparation….I don't think there is any miracles waiting. I'm just have to believe in myself that all the work that I've done, it's the right one, and I'm strong enough and competitive enough to also beat those guys.”
The pair has played 21 times in their careers and Federer leads their head-to-head 15-6, with Berdych’s last win over Federer coming in 2013 in the semifinals in Dubai. Federer has won their last four matches, including his most recent victory at the ATP Finals in November.
“I have to play well. I think the court suits him. I think this sort of flatter bounce and faster court is good for his serves, good for his returns. It's a fast court,” Federer said of Berdych after the match. “It's going to be a good match….We're both going to play aggressive. This court pays off when you do play good and aggressive tennis.”
Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori
(not before 3:15 a.m. ET, Rod Laver)
Top seed Novak Djokovic outlasted a tough fight from Gilles Simon on Sunday, surviving his 100 unforced errors tally in the four-hour-and-32-minute-match to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals. He’ll face No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori, who dispatched of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, in the marquee match of the night on Rod Laver.
After his win over Simon, Djokovic was offered advice from a fan in the crowd: No more dropshots.
“The person who shouted was absolutely right, as I said on the court,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “But sometimes it works. It's my game. As I said, I don't think it can get much worse than this. A hundred unforced errors for a match is really tremendous for me, my style of the game. I'm aggressive but still like to construct the point….I'm going to make sure that I decrease that number at least more than half and hope for the best.”
Djokovic leads the head-to-head matchup against Nishikori 5–2, but the No. 7-seed did beat him in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals in four sets. Both players know Tuesday's match will be a battle.
“It's gonna be big challenge to play Novak, for sure,” Nishikori said. “He's, you know, right now one of the best player. He's been playing a lot of good tennis again this year, starting good.
“I think the biggest thing is he doesn't miss, you know. He doesn't give you easy points, any free points. I have to, you know, be the one to dictate. I think he's serving well, too. It always makes tough player.”