Serena-Azarenka, Murray-Kyrgios matches highlight Saturday's lineup
PARIS – Day 7 on Saturday at the French Open features a must-see matchup between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, Andy Murray vs. Nick Kyrgios, plus Americans Jack Sock, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys all in action. Play begins at 5 a.m. ET on Tennis Channel, with coverage moving to NBC at 12 p.m. Full television and broadcast schedule can be found here. Full order of play can be found here.
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka go at it again: Serena and Vika head a blockbuster slate on Saturday as the pair face off for the second time this clay season (fourth match, Chatrier). Serena leads the head-to-head 15-3 but Azarenka has always been able to play her very tough over the last few years. The former No. 1 had three match points to hand Serena her first loss of the season a few weeks ago in Madrid but a bout of nervous serving proved her undoing and Serena won 7–6 (5), 3–6, 7–6 (1).
"I think out of all the top players she's, for whatever reason, has given me particularly some troubles," Serena said. "But she's great at what she does. She fights hard and never gives up, and she's really feisty. And I think that's obviously why she's been able to be a Grand Slam champion, not just on one occasion. Those players aren't always the easiest to play, but they also get you excited to play those matches and to be ready for that."
One cause of concern for Serena through the first week has been her serve. She hasn't been able to practice the shot as much as she'd like given an elbow injury during the clay season and if she's not near her best Azarenka will have looks to break her serve.
Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios face off for the second straight Slam: The young Aussie will be well-rested after receiving a walkover in the second round, but can he find a way to win a set off Murray, let alone the match? The two have played twice and Murray has won fairly easy each time, including a straight set win in the Australian Open quarterfinals this year. Kyrgios needs a big serving day, but if the weather remains cool and the conditions heavy, Murray should be able to work the rallies and bait Kyrgios into errors.
Young Americans have their eye on the fourth round: Jack Sock, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys all have a shot to make the second week, which would be a first in Paris for both Sock and Keys. Sock plays 18-year-old Borna Coric (third match, Court 2) in what will be the first of many showdowns between these two future stars. The match is a fascinating contrast of styles, with Sock's outright power game against Coric's fantastic defending and counter-punching. Sloane Stephens should have a far easier time against grass-court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova (fourth match, Lenglen).
The tougher women's duel will be between Keys and No. 23 Timea Bacsinszky. The Swiss is a former French Open junior champion. This is her surface, while Keys is still trying to convince herself she can play her power game on the dirt. Despite the rankings, Bacsinszky is the favorite to come through.
Novak Djokovic gets a glimpse of the future: The No. 1 will face 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, who came through a tough five-set win over Bernard Tomic in the second round. Both men come into the match under a cloud of injury. Djokovic looked to aggravate his hip or groin in his last match, calling a medical timeout to get it assessed. He dismissed any concerns afterwards, chalking it up to a bad slide that jammed his hip. Kokkinakis meanwhile took a bad fall that drew blood late in the fourth set against Tomic on Thursday.
Andrea Petkovic and Sara Errani get a quarterfinal rematch: The two faced off in the quarterfinals here last year with Petkovic getting the better of the Italian to make her first Slam semifinal. Errani is the lower ranked player this time but she's the favorite given Petkovic is playing with a leg injury that hasn't responded well through her first two matches.
Rafael Nadal should see smooth sailing against No. 120 Andrey Kuznetsov: Once he gets to the quarterfinals, Nadal has a tough draw. But it's a relatively easy first week for Nadal. No upset here.