Australian Open 2013: Analyzing Path to Final for Top Stars

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Australian Open 2013: Analyzing Path to Final for Top Stars
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We are in the midst of the quarterfinals as the Australian Open is in the early stages of Week 2. Both men’s and women’s tennis have evolved into the Big Four on either side. The top four seeds in each draw have advanced to the quarterfinals. 

In the women’s draw, five of the top eight seeds have advanced. American Sloane Stephens and Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are the three who have crashed the party.

Makarova is seeded 19th, and Stephens is the 29th seed. Kuznetsova is the most dangerous of the three. This is the 13th time in her career that she has reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal. She won the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open and has also been a Grand Slam runner-up twice. 

Kuznetsova and top seed Victoria Azarenka should provide the best match of the quarterfinals. Kuznetsova holds a 4-3 advantage in head-to-head meetings, but Azarenka has won the last two. She also won their last two meetings on hard courts. 

The winner of that match will face what could be another blockbuster matchup. Serena Williams will face Sloane Stephens in the other quarter in the top half of the draw. Their first meeting was earlier this month in Brisbane. Serena won in straight sets. 

In just her seventh career Grand Slam, this is the furthest Stephens has advanced. Serena is 6-2 in her career against Kuznetsova. They have split two Grand Slam matchups. Their last meeting was a three-set victory for Williams in the 2009 Australian quarters. Six of their eight career meetings have gone three sets. 

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Williams has similarly dominated Azarenka. She has an 11-1 career record against the world No. 1. Their matchup in the fourth round in Melbourne in 2009 was memorable. Azarenka had to retire after winning the first set because of heat stress. Eight of their meetings have been at the Olympics or in a Slam. All of those were won by Williams.

The bottom half of the draw will commence with Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska. They have met five times with Li winning five of those. This will be their third career meeting in a Grand Slam. They split their meetings at Wimbledon in 2009 and 2010. 

Radwanska had entered the match having won 26 consecutive sets in 2013. Li has more experience in the big matches. She won the French Open in 2011 and was the runner-up down under two years ago. After winning in straight sets, Li will play the winner between Makarova and Sharapova. 

Makarova and Sharapova will be meeting in the Australian quarters for the second year in a row. Sharapova won in straight sets last year. She has won all four of their career meetings, only dropping one set in the process.

Sharapova and Na have had an odd rivalry. Sharapova holds an 8-4 career advantage. She won the first five meetings, including three in Grand Slams. She did not lose a set in their first three meetings. Li then won their next four meetings, dropping only one set in the process.

Her biggest win against Sharapova was a 6-4, 7-5 victory in the 2011 French Open semifinals. She completed her run by winning her only Grand Slam. 

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The Wednesday (Tuesday night in the USA) schedule will begin with the Kuznetsova-Azarenka match. 

The David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro match is the first of the men’s quarterfinals. They play the second match of the day at Rod Laver Arena. Ferrer has owned Almagro. He owns a 12-0 career record against his compatriot. Their only Grand Slam meeting was in 2006 at the U.S. Open. Ferrer won that in straight sets. 

Berdych and Djokovic will play in Australian prime time as the only night match on Day 9. The winner plays the survivor of Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych. Djokovic has dominated their rivalry nearly as much.   

Djokovic holds an 11-1 edge against Berdych. They are even in Grand Slam matchups. Djokovic won their quarterfinal matchup two years ago in Melbourne in straight sets. That was his win to avenge his shocking loss in straight sets to Berdych in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2009.

Djokovic has a much longer history with Ferrer. They have met 14 times. He holds a 9-5 career record versus Ferrer. Four of those meetings occurred in Grand Slams. They met twice each in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Djokovic has won all three meetings with Almagro. Their one Grand Slam meeting was in 2011 in Australia. Djokovic won in straight sets. 

Andy Murray and Roger Federer are the heavy favorites to emerge from the quarterfinals to form what would be a highly anticipated semifinal. Murray will be the third match on Rod Laver following the two women’s quarterfinals on Day 10, Wednesday afternoon in Melbourne. 

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Murray has the fortune of playing the only remaining unseeded player in the men’s draw, Jeremy Chardy of France. Chardy has had an incredible run in Melbourne. He began the year 0-2 in the tuneup events Down Under.

He has ousted seeded players in each of the last three rounds. He had arguably the biggest upset of the tournament. He defeated No. 6 seed Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round in five sets. 

Murray won the first four matchups against Chardy, losing only one set. Chardy won their last matchup. He upset Murray in the round of 16 last summer in the Cincinnati Masters. 

Federer has a much more formidable opponent. Tsonga is making his ninth quarterfinal appearance in a Grand Slam. Federer holds an 8-3 edge in 12 career matchups with Tsonga. Their last meeting ended up in a Tsonga walkover. The most memorable meeting was a Tsonga win in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011.

He came back from two sets down to defeat Federer. Tsonga enters their quarter having lost only one set through the first four rounds. Federer has breezed through fairly easily. He has yet to lose a set, and only two of those have gone to tiebreakers. His last two wins were over Bernard Tomic of Australia and 13th-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada. 

Murray is one of the few players on tour who holds a career advantage against Federer. He leads 10-9. Seven of their career meetings have occurred at a Grand Slam, the Olympics or the year-end championships. In those matches, Federer holds a 5-1 advantage. 

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