The 2014 Australian Open is rolling right along, with the third round set to continue on Saturday. A much-needed break from the tremendous heat that has plagued the tournament is expected, which should allow the top players to separate from the rest of the field.
While there is obviously still a chance for one of the higher-seeded participants to be upset, the underdogs had a better shot at pulling off the improbable feat while the temperatures were well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
With conditions expected to drop down to a high of 72 degrees and a low of 56 degrees, with a decent chance of rain and 15 mph winds, the heat is no longer a factor that could equalize talent levels.
Let’s take a look at what you should know about Day 6 of the 2014 Aussie Open, included an abbreviated schedule of the top matches, predictions on some participants who will advance and more.
Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
When (local): Saturday, Jan. 18, at 11 a.m.
When (U.S.): Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
Live Stream: ESPN3
|Australian Open Day 6 Schedule|
|Rod Laver Arena (7 p.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Alize Cornet (FRA) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)|
|Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) vs. Roger Federer (SUI)|
|Garbine Muguruza (ESP) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)|
|Rod Laver Arena (3 a.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) vs. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)|
|Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)|
|Margaret Court Arena (7 p.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)|
|Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Elina Svitolina (UKR)|
|Milos Raonic (CAN) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)|
|Margaret Court Arena (3 a.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Donald Young (USA) vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN)|
|Show Court 3 (7 p.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Zarina Diyas (KAZ) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)|
|Hisense Arena (7 p.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Kurumi Nara (JPN)|
|Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)|
|Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Feliciano Lopez (ESP)|
|Hisense Arena (3 a.m. ET)||Third Round|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Gilles Simon (FRA)|
Matchups to Watch
Rafael Nadal (No. 1) vs. Gael Monfils (No. 25)
Nadal, the No. 1 seed in this event, cruised through the second round with a straight-set victory over 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis. He now prepares to face Monfils, a familiar foe, in the third round.
These two have met 11 times, with the Spanish favorite winning nine of those. Monfils last earned a victory over the “King of Clay” back in 2012, when the daring Frenchman gutted out a straight-set W in the semifinals of the Qatar Open.
Nadal avenged that lost in 2014, knocking Monfils out in the finals, and looks poised to beat this 27-year-old challenger yet again.
Rafa is chasing a 14th Grand Slam title during this Australian Open, a major he missed playing in last year as he was still recovering from a devastating knee injury. Monfils might test him at times and provide some entertainment for the crowd, but ultimately the world No. 1 will advance to the fourth round.
Prediction: Nadal wins, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 16) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (No. 20)
These two seeded foes will be going head-to-head in what should be the most entertaining women’s match of the day.
Navarro has had a tough tournament thus far, struggling to get through the second round against Galina Voskoboeva. The No. 16-seeded Spaniard won a tough first set, dropped the second and gritted out an intense third to make it to the next round.
Cibulkova hasn’t had any trouble at all and has been downright dominant at the Happy Slam. The Slovak star breezed past veteran Francesca Schiavone to open the tourney and then obliterated Stefanie Voegele, 6-0, 6-1, to make it to the third round.
The fact that Cibulkova was on and off the sizzling hot court in a much quicker fashion should help her in Saturday’s contest. The 24-year-old will be fresher and fitter for a match against an opponent who just barely survived a 190-minute battle in Round 2.
You have to trust Cibulkova will finish the job that Voskoboeva was nearly able to complete.
Prediction: Cibulkova wins, 7-6, 6-4
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 10) vs. Gilles Simon (No. 18)
Tsonga has blown past his first two opponents at the 2014 Australian Open, winning in straight sets to herald in this third-round matchup with Simon—who has barely escaped his first two matchups.
The No. 18 seed was pushed to the limit by Daniel Brands in the first round, needing five sets to push past the pesky German. He then fought through another five-set war with Marin Cilic to improbably make it this far.
Considering Simon was on crutches and considering pulling out of the Grand Slam due to an ankle injury last weekend, it’s quite an impressive feat.
Unfortunately, it seems that his luck will run out against a fellow Frenchman. Tsonga is simply too rested and too talented to let an unfit Simon beat him on Saturday. This will be the ninth time that these compatriots have met on the court, with Tsonga taking five of the first eight meetings, including the last three.
His health and recent dominance over Simon is too much of a factor to ignore, although the challenger will make it tough in this one.
Prediction: Tsonga wins, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2