Australian Open 2013: Third Round Matches to Watch in Men's Draw

Justin OnslowContributor IIJanuary 16, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand in his second round match against Ryan Harrison of USA during day three of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

With Rafael Nadal not appearing in the Australian Open this year, Novak Djokovic’s path to the finals looks a little more friendly.

Djokovic is chasing down history in pursuit of a third straight Australian Open title, but he’s only through two rounds. Nothing is a certainty, and his third-round match with Radek Stepanek will be a good one to watch.

If Djokovic is to make a run at another title, though, he’ll have to get through Stepanek and possibly No. 4 David Ferrer in the fifth round if Ferrer is to battle through his next two matches.

Ferrer squares off with Marcos Baghdatis in Round 3 after defeating Olivier Rochus in straight sets in Round 1 and Tim Smyczek in four sets in Round 2.

Ferrer and Djokovic will likely have to go through one another for a shot at the title, which makes their Round 3 matches that much more intriguing.

*Full Australian Open Schedule can be found here.

(1) Djokovic vs. (31) Stepanek

Stepanek stumbled in Round 1 against Viktor Troicki, eventually winning in five sets, but he cruised through his second-round match in straight sets over Feliciano Lopez. Stepanek needs to ride that momentum into the third round, though. Djokovic has his eyes set on the finals and a potential match with either Andy Murray or Roger Federer, should all the pieces fall into place.

Djokovic hasn’t run into any resistance thus far in the tournament. He won each of his first two matches in straight sets en route to his third-round matchup with Stepanek.

The 34-year-old Stepanek was formerly ranked No. 8 in the world and won the 2012 Australian Open doubles title, but he’ll have his work cut out for him one-on-one with Djokovic.

(4) Ferrer vs. (28) Baghdatis

Ferrer currently sits at No. 5 in the ATP rankings just 95 points back of the sidelined Nadal. He is coming off a tournament win at the Auckland Open earlier this month, and he’ll be riding momentum into the third round of the Australian Open, despite stumbling in the second round against Smyczek.

While Ferrer stumbled slightly in Round 2, Baghdatis really battled in each of his first two rounds. The 2006 Australian Open runner-up took Round 1 in five sets against Albert Ramos and Round 2 in four sets against Tatsuma Ito.

It won’t be impossible for Baghdatis to take Ferrer deep into the match and potential slip past him, but he’ll need to make Ferrer play at the net and not allow him to get too comfortable at the baseline for too long. Ferrer is terrific at playing the ball deep and using his agility and quickness along the baseline.