Australian Open 2014: Top Day 8 Matches to Watch

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Australian Open 2014: Top Day 8 Matches to Watch
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Round 4 of the 2014 Australian Open will conclude on Day 8, when some of the biggest names in tennis look to avoid the fate of Serena Williams

The top overall seed in the women's draw was beaten by No. 14 Ana Ivanovic on Day 7, which blasted the women's bracket wide open. Now, the eight women competing on Day 8 will look to advance and take advantage of her absence. 

On the men's side, three of the Big Four will take the court on Day 8. No. 1 Rafael Nadal will look to stay alive against Kei Nishikori, while Andy Murray and Roger Federer could set up an epic quarterfinal match if they both win.

It should be a great day of tennis, but if you can only catch a few matches, be sure to tune in to the following showdowns. 

Coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. 

Women's Draw

No. 2 Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs. No. 13 Sloane Stephens (USA)

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In a rematch of last year's controversial semifinal, two-time defending champ Azarenka will look to continue her strong play against the lone American left in Melbourne. 

Azarenka drew criticism last year when she took a 10-minute medical break following five blown match points against Stephens. She returned to win the match and received a harsh welcome at Rod Laver Arena when she arrived for the final two days later. 

This year, she will look to bury Stephens without the drama. Azarenka has looked great in Melbourne thus far, winning all three of her matches in straight sets and dropping just one game in her third-round win over Yvonne Meusburger

Stephens, meanwhile, advanced to the fourth round after a tough 7-5, 6-4 victory over Elina Svitolina

Given the recent history between the two, this should be one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament. Although Stephens has a decent chance of pulling off the upset, expect Azarenka to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals yet again. 

No. 3 Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)

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Sharapova has struggled in the tournament thus far. After needing three sets to dispose of Karin Knapp in the second round, she had another tough match in the third before advancing past No. 25 Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6 (8-6). 

That's good news for Cibulkova, who will look to follow Ivanovic's footsteps by upsetting one of the top women's contenders. 

The Slovakian has been playing well in Melbourne, easily moving past her first three opponents. She has yet to drop a set, and she has already beaten one higher seed, eliminating No. 16 Carla Suarez-Navarro 6-1, 6-0 in the third round. 

She has also had some past success against Sharapova. The Russian owns a 3-2 career advantage, but Cibulkova has won two of their last three meetings, including a quarterfinal match at the 2009 French Open.

Although Sharapova is one of the most talented players in the game, look for Cibulkova to pull off the upset on Day 7.


Men's Draw

No. 1 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. No. 16 Kei Nishikori (JPN)

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Rafael Nadal looks like a man on a mission as he attempts to win his first Australian Open title since 2009. The Spaniard has had no trouble in Melbourne thus far, eliminating all three of his opponents without dropping a set, though his first-round opponent, Bernard Tomic, retired early.

Meanwhile, Nishikori recovered well after a rough start to the tournament, beating Donald Young 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 in the third round. However, his run will likely come to an end on Day 7. 

Nishikori is 0-5 all time against Nadal, including a straight-sets loss to the Spaniard at last year's French Open. In fact, he has only won one set against Nadal, and that came in their first meeting in 2008. 

Expect another relatively easy victory for Nadal. 

No. 6 Roger Federer (SUI) vs. No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

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In a rematch of last year's Australian Open quarterfinal, Federer and Tsonga square off in what should be the best fourth-round match of the tournament. 

Last year's battle was a classic five-set match, with Federer eventually prevailing 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3. It didn't take Tsonga long to get his revenge, though, as he bested the Swiss maestro in straight sets (7-5, 6-3, 6-3) at the French Open quarterfinals. 

While it should be another great match, I'm picking Federer to come out on top in Melbourne yet again. He looked excellent in his third-round match against Teymuraz Gabashvili, and at 32 years old, he should be desperate for another shot at the Australian Open quarterfinals. 

It will be far from easy, but look for Federer to advance after a four-set victory. 

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