As Week 1 at the Australian Open in Melbourne draws to a close, there are some mouthwatering matches we earnestly pray will happen. They involve top-ranked players as well as aspiring newcomers hoping to reach the summit by upsetting those at the peak.
We have already seen some heartbreakers like No. 6 seed Aussie Samantha Stosur stumbling out of the blocks, as well as the top-ranked American Mardy Fish going out in the second round.
But when a door closes, a window opens. These upsets might unveil a new talent preparing his or her first full-fledged assault on a major.
As we head into the Round of 16, there are some challenging matches on tap—if only all the promised ones make it through the third-round staging ground.
Following are the matches we sincerely hope will happen.
Advancing to the fourth round was no easy task for either Caroline Wozniacki or Jelena Jankovic. The No. 1 seed defeated Monica Niculescu of Romania to take the next step.
Wozniacki led 2-0 in their head-to-head, but the players had not met on court since 2008 in New Haven. Wozniacki, however, was not to be denied winning their third-round encounter 6-2, 6-2.
Jankovic, on the other hand, needed to dispatch Christine McHale of the United States. McHale had defeated Marina Erakovic of New Zealand in three sets, as well as ranked Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in the first round. But McHale folded easily, 6-2, 6-0, allowing Jankovic entry into the fourth round.
Wozniacki and Jankovic, the two counterpunchers, will meet for the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals in Week 2 of the Australian Open.
Wozniacki has been battling injuries, working her way through the draw. Jankovic will be her sternest test to date.
This one is a toss-up and should prove to be a grind-it-out fourth-round encounter on the women’s side of the draw.
In order to advance to the fourth round, Novak Djokovic must get by Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, which should not be a problem for the No. 1 seed.
Milos Raonic, however, must put the hammer down on wily Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt. That might prove to be a real challenge for the young Canadian.
Hewitt will be the odds-on crowd favorite from this point forward, as he tries to win the Australian Open for the first time in his long and distinguished career.
Still, we would love to see the match between Djokovic and Raonic, who have never before met on tour. The best returner in the business, according to some, Djokovic would be tested by the big, booming serve of up-and-coming Raonic.
So far the No. 1 seed has not been tested, while the big Canadian was extended to four sets against German Philipp Petzschner in the second round. No doubt Hewitt will test Raonic even further.
Most expect Djokovic to reach the final of the 2012 Australian Open, but Raonic could cause a slight bump in the road.
Last year’s finalists for the 2011 Australian Open Women’s Championship will be dueling in the fourth round in 2012 in order to advance to the quarterfinals.
For the opportunity to meet each other in the Round of 16, both players had to score impressive wins.
Clijsters faced the No. 20 seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia while Na Li had to get by the No. 26 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain. In the first two rounds, Clijsters and Na Li advanced in straight sets.
Na Li suffered a slump after winning the French Open crown in 2011, while Clijsters continues to battle back from injury. Both players appear to be working their way into top form.
The two have not met since last year’s Australian Open where Clijsters prevailed, winning the final 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a hard-fought, entertaining contest.
This year’s fourth-round battle promises to be equally as thrilling.
No. 4 seed Andy Murray must first get by adept serve-and-volleyer Michael Llodra to advance to the fourth round. It could prove to be a difficult match for Murray—his first real test.
But Murray has won both times the two have met, the last back in 2008. So far, Murray has advanced without incident after a brief scare in the first round when he lost the opening set against Ryan Harrison.
Gael Monfils also dropped a set in the second round to Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci before righting the ship and going on take the match, advancing to the third round.
Now Monfils must get by Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in order to meet Murray in the fourth round. Monfils and Kukushkin have never before met on tour.
Murray against Monfils promises to be an exciting encounter because of the contrast the two offer in playing styles and attitude on court. The showboating exuberance of the Frenchman will be adroitly countered by the stern countenance of the Scot.
The two have met five times, with Murray leading in their head-to-head 3-2.
The last time Murray and Monfils met was in 2010, on the indoor hard courts of Paris where Monfils came out on top during a quarterfinal match. The Frenchman had worked his way into the Top 10 in 2011, and has the potential to beat anyone on tour.
We expect Murray to prevail—but this could be an exciting match to watch.
Vera Zvonareva has generally come out on the short end in her battles on the tennis court with the dynamic Serena Williams.
The two have played each other eight times, with Serena winning six. Zvonareva’s only wins have come during the semifinals in Cincinnati in 2006, and at Eastbourne on grass in 2011. Otherwise, the matches have gone to Williams even though Zvonareva sometimes extended the matches to three sets.
In order to reach the fourth round, Williams must overcome Greta Arn of Hungary while Zvonareva has to send fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova packing.
Last year, Zvonareva made it to the Australian Open semifinals where the Russian lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Williams, of course, did not participate because of complications from her foot injury.
Williams has not played much since the 2011 US Open, so perhaps Zvonareva has her best chance to defeat the American since Eastbourne.
It promises to be an exciting encounter.
Roger Federer had to survive the Karlovic test in order to advance to the fourth round.
This is something no man on tour relishes. Seeing Karlovic in your quarter of the draw must cause nightmares because if you cannot serve your best against the Croatian giant, you are doomed to defeat. Still Federer had won nine of their 10 encounters.
On the other hand, unseeded Australian Bernard Tomic had to defeat another up-and-comer, Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine, seeded No. 13 at this year’s Australian Open.
Tomic, as you may recall, survived his opening-round match against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in five sets, after losing the first two. His comeback from the jaws of defeat made Australian hearts beat faster as the Aussies continue to pray for a home-grown champion.
This is especially true after Sam Stosur lost her opening-round match.
Recently, Federer defeated Tomic in Davis Cup play as Switzerland faced off against Australia in a World Group Playoff. In fact, Federer defeated both Tomic and Hewitt.
Their Australian Open encounter may prove to be a more electric atmosphere for both players, as the hometown crowds will be pulling for their native son, Tomic.
This upcoming match promises to be a real test for Federer as well as a proving ground for the young Tomic.
This potential match between Sabine Lisicki and Maria Sharapova must endure many hurdles before it materializes.
First of all, Lisicki must defeat Russian and former US Open and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded No. 18 at this year’s Australian Open.
Sharapova, on the other hand, needs to get past red-hot German Angelique Kerber in order to advance to the fourth round. Neither match should be taken lightly by either player.
Lisicki and Sharapova have met twice, with the Russian winning both matches—the most memorable during the 2011 Wimbledon semifinals.
Sharapova won her last major at Melbourne in 2008, and she would love to add another slam trophy to her mantle.
Both Sharapova and Lisicki rely on big first serves and aggressive play, which allows them to dictate action on court.
This one should go the distance in entertaining fashion.
America’s last, best hope on the men’s side of the draw—John Isner seemed fated to meet Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
Both, however, had work to do in order to arrive in the Round of 16.
After surviving a five-set marathon against Argentine David Nalbandian in the second round, unseeded Isner had to outlast Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who provided too stiff a test for the American as the Spaniard prevailed 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.
Nadal had to upend Lukas Lacko of Slovakia to advance to Round 4. His route to the fourth round has proven to be much easier after an initial alarm concerning his knee.
Once Nadal won his first match, he has continued to advance without major problems.
The big-serving John Isner might have been the ultimate test of the tournament for the No. 2 seed, but Lopez is another matter. The two have met 10 times, with Nadal winning eight of those.
You have to suspect that the Nadal camp gave a huge sigh of relief when Isner fell.
Still, Lopez cannot be overlooked. With his big serve and excellent footwork, the No. 18 seed could present real problems for Nadal.