Australian Open

Australian Open 2014: Highlighting Most Entertaining 3rd-Round Matchups

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Rafael Nadal of Spain serves in his second round match against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia during day four of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2014

The action Down Under is heating up as the top stars in tennis make their way through their respective draws.

The first two rounds of play are officially in the books, but upsets have been few and far between as a majority of the favorites are still standing at Melbourne Park.

With third-round singles play set to begin on Day 5, let's look ahead to the most entertaining upcoming matches. 

 

No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 25 Gael Monfils 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Gael Monfils of France plays a backhand in his second round match against Jack Sock of the United States during day four of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo
Matt King/Getty Images

No men's top seed will face a stiffer test than Rafael Nadal in Round 3. The 2009 Australian Open champion and overall top seed in the men's draw will take on 25th-seeded Gael Monfils on Day 6.

While Nadal leads the all-time head-to-head 9-2, the Frenchman has upended the Spaniard early in the year on a similar surface as recently as 2012. Rafa won their most recent meeting in Doha in early January but needed all three sets to defeat Monfils and secure his first singles title of 2014.

On top of that, Monfils is playing superb tennis coming into this matchup, having not yet dropped a single set at Melbourne Park.

Rafa is always must-see television. But an in-form Monfils will make for an electric atmosphere that tennis fans won't want to miss. 

 

No. 14 Ana Ivanovic vs. No. 17 Samantha Stosur

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 13:  Ana Ivanovic of Serbia plays a forehand in her first round match against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during day one of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 13, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Two fan favorites will square off against one another in the third round of the women's draw on Day 5 when 2008 Australian Open finalist Ana Ivanovic plays Aussie Samantha Stosur.

As tennis reporter Matt Cronin points out, these two players will be matching strength against strength:

While neither player has fared well at Melbourne Park in recent years, this is a rare showdown between two past Grand Slam champions. The 14th-seeded Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008 and has made three Grand Slam final appearances overall. Meanwhile, Stosur won the 2011 U.S. Open title and has appeared in two major finals since 2010.

Head-to-head, Ivanovic and Stosur have been as even as two competitors can be. The 29-year-old Stosur has won three of their past four matchups, but the 26-year-old Ivanovic won their most recent meeting on the hard courts of Sofia, Bulgaria last fall. Still, that match went the distance.

And with a sea of Aussie supporters cheering her on, Stosur will have an excellent shot to avenge that defeat on Day 5 inside Rod Laver Arena. 

 

No. 11 Milos Raonic vs. No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 07:  Milos Raonic of Canada serves during a practice session ahead of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 7, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Although most of the attention will be on Nadal and Andy Murray on Day 6, tennis fans won't want to miss the third-round battle between Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. 

The two up-and-coming stars have met just twice since 2011, splitting on the hard courts of Stockholm and Brisbane. And while the 11th-seeded Raonic has reached the fourth round in Melbourne twice since 2011, Dimitrov had previously never been past the second round Down Under. 

Still, Raonic knows he can't take the 22-year-old Bulgarian lightly, per the Toronto Star: "He can do a lot of different things. I have to try to take control as much as I can and try to dictate as much as possible."

With expectations rising for both players, Day 6's showdown is sure to bring plenty of pressure.

Both Raonic and Dimitrov have been impressive to open the tournament, especially the 23-year-old Raonic who possesses one of the biggest serves in men's tennis and has laid down 48 aces through the first two rounds. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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