Australian Open Day 6 matches to watch: Rafael Nadal-Gael Monfils on tap
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Two marquee third-round matches will headline Day 6 of the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils, two of the most athletic, dynamic athletes on tour, face off at night. Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, two of the most exciting talents in Generation Next, face off during the day. Also Saturday, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sloane Stephens try to navigate their tough matches to reach the second week.
Rafael Nadal  vs. Gael Monfils  (first night match, Rod Laver Arena): It's safe to say that at least a few exchanges in this match will make the list of the best points of the tournament. Nadal is 9-2 against Monfils, but both of the Frenchman's wins have come on hard courts in January -- at the Qatar Open in 2009 and 2012. They met again at the Qatar Open two weeks ago, with Nadal winning the final 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
Maria Sharapova  vs. Alize Cornet  (first match, Rod Laver Arena): This showdown between Sharapova, the game's iciest competitor, and Cornet, the game's most dramatic competitor, shouldn't lack drama. Cornet said after her second-round victory that she wanted a shot at Sharapova, and the No. 3 seed will need to stay focused when Cornet almost inevitably starts inciting the chaos that usually envelop her matches. Sharapova won their only match, by retirement on clay. Both women are coming off tough three-set matches in Thursday's extreme heat.
Agnieszka Radwanska  vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  (second match, Hisense Arena): Quick aside: It's a little ridiculous that Radwanska, the No. 5 seed, hasn't had a chance to play on Rod Laver Arena through three matches (in comparison, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki will have played there twice). Though she leads the head-to-head 3-1, Radwanska should get a good test against Pavlyuchenkova, who always plays her tough. Radwanska's 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 victory in the Seoul final last year was one of the best women's matches of 2013.
Andy Murray  vs. Feliciano Lopez , (third match, Hisense Arena): I'm going to let Andy and his mother, Judy Murray, preview this match for you:
"@tennis_roasted: on playing Feliciano Lopez, Murray :“He's got a gr8 serve, gr8 volleys, & according to my Mum, he's hotter than me.” True.
— judy murray (@judmoo) January 17, 2014
Sloane Stephens  vs. Elina Svitolina (second match, Margaret Court Arena): Stephens needs to start better than she did in the first round (she fell behind 1-5 against Yaroslava Shvedova) and second round (she lost the first set to Ajla Tomljanovic). Otherwise, this will be a good chance for Svitolina, a talented 20-year-old who, unlike Stephens, has won a WTA title.
Milos Raonic  vs. Grigor Dimitrov  (third match, Margaret Court Arena): Some are calling this the battle for the future of men's tennis. Raonic, 23, and Dimitrov, 22, have split two matches as professionals. Dimitrov won their most recent showdown, at the Sydney International last year, en route to his first ATP final. Raonic is considered the standard-bearer of this generation. A win by Dimitrov would be huge; he's never made the fourth round of a major.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  vs. Gilles Simon  (first night match, Hisense Arena): Simon was on crutches on Saturday after spraining his ankle on Friday, but he's won back-to-back five-set matches to make the third round. That's one heck of an effort, but look for his run to end here against a fellow Frenchman.
Kei Nishikori  vs. Donald Young (night match, Margaret Court Arena): Young, ranked No. 91, is the last American standing after Sam Querrey lost to Fabio Fognini on Friday. After ousting No. 24 Andreas Seppi in five sets in the second round, this is a big opportunity for Young to make the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2011 U.S Open.Upset special: Caroline Wozniacki  vs. Garbine Muguruza (third match, Rod Laver Arena): Wozniacki has played well through two matches, but Muguruza is on a hot streak after winning the Hobart International last week. Beware the confident youngsters, and the 38th-ranked Muguruza has the type of big power game to hit through Wozniacki's defense.