Australian Open 2013: What to Watch for on Day 11 at Melbourne Park

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20:  Maria Sharapova of Russia serves in her fourth round match against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium during day seven of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Sloane Stephens sent shock waves across the tennis landscape on Wednesday, upsetting the surging Serena Williams in three sets at the 2013 Australian Open. The win not only elevates Stephens and sends her through to the semifinals, but it also opens up the women's draw.

The 19-year-old American will now get set to take on defending tournament champion Victoria Azarenka on Day 11, a match that could go either way after what we witnessed on Day 10.

But Stephens and Azarenka aren't the only stars set to square off on Thursday. Let's take a closer look at what tennis fans should be watching for on Day 11 of the 2013 Aussie Open.


Will Novak Djokovic Make His Third Straight Aussie Open Final?

Novak Djokovic has owned the Australian Open over the past few years, winning in Melbourne three times since 2008 and twice in a row the last two years.

On Thursday, Nole will face off against fourth-seeded David Ferrer inside Rod Laver Arena. Just over four months ago the two players squared off in the semifinal stage of the 2012 U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows. Ferrer jumped out early, taking the first set, but dropped the next three to lose in four sets.

I expect Djokovic to come out with much better energy this time around, though, dictating points from the start and dominating his service games.

Ferrer's size should once again prove to be a mighty disadvantage, as he will struggle to hang with Djokovic in rally situations. On the other side, Nole's length and unrivaled defense will force Ferrer to be superb during his service games.


Can Sloane Stephens Do it Again?

Day 10 was exciting, as 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens pulled off an unthinkable upset, ousting five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams in three tough sets.

On Thursday, Stephens will be pitted against the women's No. 1 seed and defending champ, Victoria Azarenka. Both players represent the future of women's tennis, but Azarenka, like Williams has proven herself on the Grand Slam stage already, has won here before.

Be sure to get a good look at Stephens, however, as she represents the future of American tennis. She's young and possesses endless potential. Perhaps the 2013 Australian Open will mark the first of many Slam titles for Serena's protege. 

There's a whole lot to watch for in this match. Although the top seed is favored, defeating Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in two straight days would be the greatest accomplishment of Stephens' young career and would generate tons of buzz for the remainder of 2013.


Will Maria Sharapova Get Back to Women's Final?

Second-seeded Maria Sharapova will battle sixth-seeded Li Na in Day 11's first women's singles semifinal inside Rod Laver Arena.

Sharapova, 25, will be aiming to get back to the women's final in Melbourne for the second straight year, while the 30-year-old Li is shooting to reach the final of the Aussie Open for the first time since 2011, when she lost there to Kim Clijsters. 

But only one can prevail.

This matchup is flying under the radar because of Stephens' remarkable run, but whichever player wins will be a huge threat to take home the title on Saturday. Sharapova looks focused and hungry after last year's embarrassing finals defeat to Azarenka, and Li seems energized and determined to prove her 2011 French Open victory wasn't a fluke.

Look for some quality tennis in this match. Both women are veterans and this stage isn't too big for either. 


*Click here for match times and Day 11's schedule of play.


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