Australian Open 2014: Top Stories Heading into Day 7

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Australian Open 2014: Top Stories Heading into Day 7
Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Temperatures have cooled off at the 2014 Australian Open, but the top-seeded players have not. The favorites continue to perform at a high level as we move into Day 7.

Juan Martin del Potro remains the only top-five seeded player to be eliminated on the men's or women's side.

We could be in for an epic final four rounds of play in Melbourne. Here's the latest.

 

Finally, Relief from the Heat

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

When No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova powered by Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6 (6) on Saturday, she did so in temperatures of 72 degrees, per John Pye of the Columbus Dispatch. That's a far cry from the triple-digit temperatures that had players, fans and ball boys falling ill.

With the major concerns about player, staff and fan safety seemingly behind us, we can finally concentrate on the game. Thankfully, the game's top stars are still around to make this Aussie Open memorable for more than just its hot beginnings.

 

Land of the Giants

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

World No. 1 Serena Williams is set to battle No. 14 seed Ana Ivanovic on Sunday in the fourth round. If her first three matches are any indication, she may be looking at another easy win.

Ivanovic is clearly the toughest opponent Williams will have faced all tournament, though. The 26-year-old Serbian is the highest-seeded opponent to challenge Williams.

The two have met four times in the past, and Williams has won all four matches in straight sets. Williams' serve has been too much for Ivanovic in their previous meetings. Serena has 26 combined aces in those matches, and that includes 12 in their most recent clash at the 2012 U.S. Open, per Matchstats.com.

As Greg Garber of ESPN (per ABC News) points out, Williams is like a fine wine:

At the age of 32, she is proving the old Clairol hair-coloring slogan to be true: She's not getting older; she's actually getting better.

This defies the career arc of virtually every previous tennis professional who has come before her.

Barring something completely unexpected, Williams should roll over Ivanovic again.

No. 2 seed and two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka made quick work of Yvonne Meusburger in the third round. Vika prevailed 6-1, 6-0 to set up a rematch with the No. 13 seed, Sloane Stephens.

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

There was controversy the last time they met at the Aussie Open. In 2013's event, Azarenka called a medical timeout that seemed like an effort to play mind games with her less-experienced opponent. It worked, as Azarenka gathered herself and won 6-1, 6-4.

ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe called the move an "absolute travesty."

Sloane says she learned from the experience and has grown. Per Garber, Stephens said:

"I'd say I don't get flustered as easily, something I have worked on. I don't get overwhelmed and I'm kind of learning to focus on myself, because that's the only thing I can control."

It will be interesting to see whether Stephens has closed the gap between herself and one of the sport's elite players.

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

The top seed on the men's side is Rafael Nadal, and he's playing like a man worthy of that spot. In the third round, he easily sent Gael Monfils home after a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victory. Nadal will play Kei Nishikora for a chance to move on to the quarterfinals.

It is hard to imagine anyone—besides maybe No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic—even having a chance to beat Rafa. 

Djokovic is the three-time defending champion, and he's chugging along almost as easily as Nadal. After beating Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 in the third round, Djokovic will face 15th-seeded Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.

 

Sleeper Watch

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Roberto Bautista Agut is making noise deeper into the tournament than almost anyone expected. He knocked off fellow Spaniard del Potro in the second round. He followed that upset win up with a victory over Benoit Paire in the third round.

On Sunday, Agut will tangle with the No. 22 seed, Grigor Dimitrov. A win over Dimitrov would put him in line to take on Nadal, should he beat Nishikora.

The lone Australian still alive in the tournament is Casey Dellacqua on the women's side.

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

She is also one of two unseeded women still playing in Melbourne. Her fourth-round opponent will be 30th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard. A win would push Dellacqua further than she's ever been at the tournament and into a match with the winner of the Williams-Ivanovic match.

 

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