A look at Day 4 key matches at the Australian Open
David Ferrer (8) vs Lleyton Hewitt
This Aussie Open is Hewitt’s last—it’s been known for months, and there is a particular energy to his matches as he is a veteran playing in front of his home crowd. Although it has been years since Hewitt has seen the second week of a major, he is playing with passion. Just look at the highlights from his first-round win—falling on the court after match point as if he had just won the tournament.
At 33, Ferrer also is in the twilight of his career, but, as a top player coming off a five-title season, he has the advantage. As much as the Aussies would love to see a Hewitt upset, his road will likely end here. However, Australian fans will continue to see him on the court as their new Davis Cup captain.
Prediction: Ferrer in four sets; for Hewitt, the end of a storied career
Milos Raonic (13) vs Tommy Robredo
Robredo is a former top-10 player who has enjoyed resurgence over the past three seasons. He will have his work cut out for him against Raonic, who handed Roger Federer a defeat in the Brisbane final last week. The big-serving Canadian has been a top player for the past several years, but has only advanced once past the quarterfinals of a major. This could be Raonic’s tournament—he is playing well and has shown the ability to compete with the best players. Look for him to best his quarterfinal showing from 2015.
Prediction: Raonic in four
Henri Kontinen/John Peers (8) vs Luke Saville/John-Patrick Smith
This men’s doubles match highlights the talent in the doubles draw. By coincidence, the Aussies Peers and Smith were NCAA All-Americans—Smith at the University of Tennessee and Peers at Baylor. Kontinen and Saville were both talented junior players—Saville won junior Wimbledon—and Kontinen has become a doubles specialist on the men’s tour. Peers played last season with Jamie Murray, reaching the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, so look for this match to have plenty of high-quality net play and returns of serve. The eighth seeds, Kontinen and Peers are primed for a big run.
Prediction: Kontinen/Peers in three
Kirsten Flipkens vs Garbiñe Muguruza (3)
Ranked third in the world at just 22, Muguruza is being touted as Serena’s heir and her greatest challenge this Australian Open. Wimbledon 2015 was Muguruza’s coming out party: she reached the final before losing to Serena in two close up-and-down sets. This match will be less about the encounter with 85th ranked Flipkens but will serve as a preview to how Muguruza’s game might stack up against the other top players. Although it is difficult to read too much into an early round match, Muguruza will likely display the powers that have people talking about her potential to dethrone Serena.
Prediction: Muguruza in straight sets
Victoria Azarenka (14) vs Danka Kovinic
Plagued by injuries the past two seasons, Azarenka seems to be healthy and playing well. She won the Brisbane International last week (her first title since 2013), but comes to Melbourne will a lower ranking than what she’s known in year’s past. The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, Azarenka was seen previously as the foremost threat to Serena’s dominance. It will be a long match for 54th ranked Kovinic.
Prediction: Azarenka in straight sets