Temperatures, emotions and play are heating up in Melbourne Park this January, as the 2013 Australian Open heads into its final days.
Tuesday's Day 9 action will feature four intriguing singles quarterfinal matchups. Favorites Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova will be in action, as well as some dark-horse contenders. All eyes will be on the past champions, as they attempt to breakthrough to the semis, where things will really get interesting.
Here are my bold predictions for Day 9 at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic Will Defeat Tomas Berdych in Straight Sets
Two-time defending Aussie Open champion Novak Djokovic will take on fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the men's singles quarterfinals on Day 9, and I like the No. 1-ranked Serbian to not only win, but win easily.
Berdych has won each of his first four matches Down Under in straight sets, but on Tuesday, it will be Djokovic who emerges with the quick victory.
Nole received a scary wake-up call on Day 7 in the Round of 16, surviving Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set, five-hour marathon match. With Djokovic well aware of his competition's potential at this stage of the year's first Grand Slam, I like him to minimize the unforced errors and shorten points by attacking the net more often on Day 9.
The result being a straight-set win over Berdych (who has never been beyond the quarters in Melbourne).
Li Na Will Oust Agnieszka Radwanska
Sixth-seeded Li Na may be playing a higher-ranked opponent who is also seven years younger than her on Day 9, but that won't stop the Chinese veteran from returning to the semifinals at the Australian Open for the third time in four visits.
Neither player has required more than two sets to win any of their matches during the opening rounds, and both are playing high-level tennis at the right time.
Considering the 23-year-old Radwanska has never been beyond the quarters at Melbourne Park, I'm predicting the 2011 French Open champion, Li, will prevail and go on to face Maria Sharapova in the semis.
The quarterfinal stage won't be too big for Li (she boasts a 25-7 singles record at the Aussie Open), and if Radwanska gets down a break, or a set, things could quickly go from bad to worse for the Polish star. She has yet to truly be tested Down Under, and my belief is that she will crack if and when she is challenged.
Nicolas Almagro Will Top David Ferrer
In a matchup of two Spaniards, fourth-seeded David Ferrer is considered to be the favorite, but before you go penciling him into the men's singles semis, consider that his younger foe on Day 9, Nicolas Almagro, is both confident and well-rested.
Almagro, the men's No. 10 seed won his Round of 16 match against Janko Tipsarevic after the Serbian retired in the second set because of a heel injury.
The 27-year-old Almagro played nearly half as many games in his fourth-round victory than the 30-year-old Ferrer. Although that doesn't seem like a strong enough reason to make him the favorite over a Top Five player, at this point in the tournament, legs and stamina play a key role.
Ferrer's footwork may be among the best of any player in the sport, but the longer Tuesday's match wears on, the more of an advantage Almagro will have. Therefore, I'm boldly predicting Almagro to survive Ferrer in a thrilling Day 9 quarterfinal.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter throughout the 2013 Australian Open for more reaction and analysis on the year's first Grand Slam.
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