Australian Open Day Three Preview: 12 Matches Not To Be Missed

Rob YorkSenior Writer IJanuary 20, 2009

Second round play is underway for both men and women’s players at Wednesday at the Australian Open. The competitors on Day 3 may be hard pressed to match the fireworks provided by the five-set Fernando Gonzalez-Lleyton Hewitt bout in Rod Laver Arena, but there are a few eye-catching contenders that may provide plenty of tension.

For the day sessions, don’t miss…

Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [3] Jeremy Chardy (FRA)

Defending champion Djokovic managed to get through his first-round encounter with Andrea Stoppini of Italy in straight sets, despite falling behind two breaks of serve in the third. Such lapses may be more harmful against Chardy, the lanky Frenchman who defeated David Nalbandian and Dmitry Tursunov in last year’s Roland Garros.

Djokovic, however, usually takes a match or two to settle in to Grand Slam events and should have more than enough to chase off Chardy and reach round 3.

Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [5] vs. Alberta Brianti (ITA)

Ivanovic, last year’s runner-up, is still looking to find her form following last year’s triumph at Roland Garros. Her opening round victory over Julia Goerges of Germany was a straight-setter, albeit closer than it needed to be.

At 5’5, Brianti gives up seven inches against her more famous foe, and has already had to fight her way through qualifying. This shouldn’t be a close one, but given Ivanovic’s form of late, who knows?

Roger Federer (SUI) [2] vs. Evgeny Korolev (RUS)

The 20-year-old Russian Korolev had already endured the qualifying rounds before dispatching the veteran Spaniard Carlos Moya in round 1. In doing so, Korolev, the second youngest man in the top 100, equalled his previous best performance in a major.

That accomplishment will probably have to do for now, since no-one expects Federer’s quest for the record-tying 14th Grand Slam title to be ended here. While it lasts though, the shots should certainly be spectacular.

Nadia Petrova (RUS) [10] vs. Sania Mirza (IND)

Having been ranked No. 27 in the world, the 22-year-old Mirza is the highest ranked female player in Indian history. After a 2008 season in which her rankings suffered due to a right wrist injury, she’d love to have a breakthrough here.

It is her opponent however, the 10th-ranked Petrova who’s in need of a pick-me-up and soon. Two years ago she was a game away from defeating Serena Williams in straight sets early in the Australian Open, only to have Williams escape and ultimately win the title. Now 26, Petrova probably doesn’t have many more opportunities like that left, and needs to win here.

Robin Soderling (SWE) [16] vs. Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)

Sweden’s Soderling is the higher-ranked player in this encounter, as the Cypriot Baghdatis suffered from back pain late in 2008, which caused him to miss the U.S. Open. Currently ranked No. 97, the darling of the 2006 event now begins the climb back.

We predict that, backed by the boisterous Greek contingent who cheered him on to the final three years ago, he’ll upset the Swede. His first round win over Julian Benneteau, a player that he’d previously never beaten, indicates his intent to return to the world's top 10.

Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [1] vs. Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)

This match should, if nothing else, give a good indication of the top seed’s level of play so far. Don’t expect much in the way of competition from the overmatched Flipkens however.

Dinara Safina (RUS) [3] vs. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)

Ditto what was said about the Jankovic match. Safina’s game has been on a definite rise in recent months and she should have little trouble against Makarova, who needed three sets to escape round one.

Andy Roddick (USA) [7] vs. Xavier Malisse (BEL)

On paper, the match between the top ranked American and the mercurial Malisse looks enticing. Roddick, however, is 7-for-7 against the Belgian, and with new coach Larry Stefanki in tow, will probably make it 8-for-8.

David Ferrer (ESP) [11] vs. Dominik Hrbaty (SVK)

Hrbaty, who has hinted that his days on the tour are nearly over, toppled the towering American John Isner in round 1. He now faces an entirely different challenge in the gritty Spaniard Ferrer. As the Slovak is known for his fitness and fighting spirit, look for him to extend the higher-ranked player before succumbing in three or four hard-fought sets.

Marat Safin (RUS) [26] vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)

Is this Safin’s final year on tour? If so, this might be Australia’s last chance to see him either put on a ball-striking masterclass … or flame out against a far less gifted opponent. Only a masochist would dare predict which will take place.

Then, for the night sessions, don’t miss…

Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) [17] vs. Jelena Dokic (AUS)

Of all the seeded women’s players in action today, the Russian Chakvetadze may have drawn the toughest assignment against Dokic, who was once ranked No. 4 in the world. Back from the injuries and off-court problems that have beset her in recent year, Dokic has said that she considers 2009 to be her last chance for a comeback.

That she gutted out a three-set first round win over Tamira Paszek in round 1 indicates her resolve. The 21-year-old Russian won’t be interested in having that comeback come at her expense, though. Look for Chakvetadze to come through in three sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [8] vs. Florian Mayer (GER)

The lanky Argentine del Potro has lately began living up to his hype, winning four titles in 2008 and qualifying for the year-end Master’s Cup in Shanghai. As the youngest man in the top 100, one suspects he’s still coming into his stride, so Mayer, with his unconventional shot selection will be a good test of his mettle.

Like another male German player, Mayer is 6’3, but don’t be fooled; with his preference for delicate drop shots and backhand slices, he’s the anti-Becker. Some players, like Andre Agassi at the 2004 U.S. Open, have found his game rattling; others, like Roddick at the 2006 Wimbledon, considered it target practice.

The still-green del Potro may be thrown for a set, but will regain his footing and win in no more than four.