Aussie Open Day 9 preview: Djokovic, Wawrinka play for berth in semifinals
MELBOURNE, Australia -- The quarterfinals begin on Day 9 of the Australian Open, highlighted by a rematch of a men's classic from last year's tournament. Tennis Channel will have two hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET, and ESPN2 will take over at 9 p.m.
Novak Djokovic  vs. Stanislas Wawrinka  (first night match, Rod Laver Arena): The three-time defending champion is 15-2 against Wawrinka, who hasn't beaten the Serb since 2006. But the Wawrinka of the last 12 months is a remarkably different player. His five-set losses to Djokovic at the Australian Open (a five-hour marathon that ended 10-8 in the fifth) and U.S. Open produced some of the most exciting tennis of the 2013 season, and Wawrinka is undefeated this year after winning the Chennai Open and making the quarterfinals here for the second time. Meanwhile, Djokovic has looked absolutely ruthless through four matches. He hasn't lost a set, he's been taken to a tiebreaker only once and he's dished out two bagel sets.
Their fourth-round match last year was Wawrinka's big coming-out party. Let's all revel in the highlights again, shall we? This is worth 17 minutes of your time:
"I have to be ready to play another 12-10 in the fifth like last year," Djokovic said. "I know that he's playing the tennis of his life in last 15 months. He's top-10 player now. He's established himself in the top level. He won against some top guys in the big tournaments. He is confident. You could feel that mentally when he comes to the court, he believes in himself more."
Wawrinka should be fully fit. He played only a set and a half in the first round before Andrey Golubev retired, he received a walkover in the third round after Vasek Pospisil’s withdrawal and he got through his fourth-round match against Tommy Robredo in three competitive sets.
Ana Ivanovic  vs. Eugenie Bouchard  (second match, Rod Laver Arena): It's hard to bet against Ivanovic, who upset five-time champion and No. 1 Serena Williams in the fourth round to extend her winning streak to nine matches, her longest since 2008. But she lost to Bouchard at Wimbledon last year and the 19-year-old Canadian is a gamer. Bouchard is easily the best competitor in her age group, which includes Sloane Stephens, Laura Robson and Madison Keys.
I like Ivanovic's chances, given her newfound confidence and belief, but if things get tight and she nervously starts missing, Bouchard will be ready to pounce. Ivanovic's return is a big shot to watch. She stepped in and smacked winners off the serve of Williams and third-round opponent Samantha Stosur. If she does that again, Bouchard, who has a far less intimidating serve than Williams or Stosur, will struggle to hold.
Li Na  vs. Flavia Pennetta  (first match, Rod Laver Arena): Li, 31, joked that she was looking forward to playing Pennetta because Pennetta was older, so Li wouldn't get any more questions about her age. Yes, Pennetta is older. By one day.
With Williams eliminated from her half of the draw, Li has a great opportunity to return to the final for the second year in a row and third time overall. The match will be on her racket, but the resurgent Pennetta will make her earn it. The two first played in 2000 and haven't met since 2010, with each winning twice. Tomas Berdych  vs. David Ferrer  (third match, Rod Laver Arena): Ferrer leads the head-to-head 7-4, including 4-2 on indoor hard courts, but they've never played on an outdoor hard court. The Spaniard is contesting his ninth consecutive major quarterfinal. Berdych has been dominant through four rounds, winning all 12 sets by 6-4 or better.