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Beyond the Baseline

Aussie Open Day 10 preview: Federer-Murray among four quarterfinals

Roger Federer Roger Federer hasn't dropped a set in four matches in Melbourne. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The quarterfinals wrap up on Day 10 of the Australian Open. Andy Murray and Roger Federer will play the marquee match, their first meeting since Murray's five-set victory in the semifinals of last year's tournament. Also Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will face Grigor Dimitrov, who is contesting his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

On the women's side, Victoria Azarenka will renew her testy rivalry with Agnieszka Radwanska, and Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova try to make good on a huge opportunity.

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Andy Murray [4] vs. Roger Federer [6] (first night match, Rod Laver Arena): Federer passed his first test of the tournament with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over the dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, his fourth consecutive straight-set win. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, vying for his 11th semifinal in a row here, still has to beat Murray and potentially Nadal just to reach his first major final since Wimbledon in 2012.  But he's feeling healthy and more sure of himself after a bumpy 2013 season.

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"What I've shown over the last three to four months to myself is that I'm more confident, that I know I'm most likely going to play OK in my next match, which wasn't always the case midway through last year when I didn't know how I was going to feel during the match," Federer said. "I feel like I can think ahead. I can think tactics. I can think many things out there. Everything else but [worry about] my body, and that's very positive. I've overcome a lot in the last few months."

Murray could say the same, after having back surgery in September. A three-time finalist, Murray is trying to make his fifth straight Australian Open semifinal. He's dropped one set through a favorable early draw. Murray leads the head-to-head 11-9, but his only victory in four Grand Slam meetings came last year in Melbourne.

“Last year is pretty relevant because it’s on the same court and it will be under the same conditions,” Murray said. ” But in an individual sport, any day is a new day. Anything can happen.”

Rafael Nadal [1] vs. Grigor Dimitrov [22] (third match, Rod Laver Arena): Nadal has won all three meetings, but Dimitrov took a set in each one. The big question is whether Dimitrov -- who is coming off four-set victories over No. 11 Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut -- has the physicality and focus to overcome Nadal in a best-of-five format (and whether anyone with a one-handed backhand, like the 22-year-old Bulgarian, can really do that much damage against the 13-time major winner). The consensus seems to be that Dimitrov doesn't have the legs to do it, but if he has a particularly good serving day, he could get himself into some tiebreakers. Then things could get interesting.

Agnieszka Radwanska [5] vs. Victoria Azarenka [2] (second match, Rod Laver Arena): There's no love lost between these two. Azarenka has won seven in a row against Radwanska, including six in 2012 alone. That year, Radwanska accused Azarenka of exaggerating an injury during a match, saying, "[I] just lost a lot of respect [for her]." This could be one-way traffic for Azarenka if Radwanska starts slowly. The two-time defending champion plays her best when she has a chip on her shoulder, and she's won 10 straight sets off Radwanska.

Simona Halep [11] vs. Dominika Cibulkova [20] (first match, Rod Laver Arena): Cibulkova leads the head-to-head 2-1, but none of their matches came during Halep's emergence in the second half of last year. I like Halep here simply because she's the more consistent competitor. Cibulkova is a powerful ball striker, as she showed in upsetting Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, but she can produce long stretches of error-filled play. Halep, already with her best run at a Slam, is trying to become the first Romanian to reach the semifinals in Melbourne.

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