Round 4 of the 2014 Australian Open will get under way on Monday, Jan. 20, and there are several compelling singles matches to watch after an exciting first seven days of the tournament.
The first portion of the tournament featured some great tennis, with the best match of all coming on Day 7 in women's singles. Serena Williams, in the midst of a 25-match win streak prior to her showdown against Ana Ivanovic, was ousted in three sets. Once considered the heavy favorite for the tournament, Williams will now have to give way to any one of the remaining women's competitors.
With Williams eliminated, the field is pretty wide open.
The men's side still features the typical names one would expect in the latter rounds of a tournament—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic—so there will surely be fireworks as the tournament reaches its end.
Here are predictions for the top singles matches on Day 8 of the Australian Open.
Garbine Muguruza vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Garbine Muguruza is on a hot streak in Melbourne. She won her first WTA title and advanced through qualifying last week, eventually leading to a third-round match against Caroline Wozniacki. Muguruza ousted Wozniacki in three sets (4-6, 7-5, 6-3) in her first-ever Grand Slam third round. With the win, she'll move on to Round 4 against Agnieszka Radwanska.
On her win against Wozniacki, the 20-year-old told Mike Hedge of The West Australian, "I was really prepared for a big fight. So I had to fight too, and keep fighting."
Despite dropping the first set to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Radwanska took nearly two-thirds of the points in the match (5-7, 6-2, 6-2).
Radwanska's experience will give her the advantage over Muguruza, but it's hard to ignore the streak that Muguruza is on. This is the farthest she has advanced in a Grand Slam tournament, and she will certainly be riding the high of defeating Wozniacki.
I like her chances against Radwanska in Round 4.
Roger Federer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga met twice in Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2013, and those results indicate that their fourth-round match in this Australian Open could go either way.
It took five sets (and two tiebreakers) for Federer to oust Tsonga at the 2013 Australian Open, but Tsonga got his revenge at the French Open by winning in straight sets. Federer is 9-4 overall in his career against Tsonga, however.
Both players are playing superb tennis as they enter the quarterfinals. Federer committed just 18 unforced errors in Round 3 against Teymuraz Gabashvili, and Tsonga didn't have a double-fault against Gilles Simon.
This match has all the makings to be one of the best matches of the 2014 tournament to date.
Federer's chase for his first Australian Open since 2010 will give him a little extra motivation—as will his chase for his 18th career Grand Slam title. That, along with his career record against Tsonga, gives Federer the edge.
Andy Murray vs. Stephane Robert
Andy Murray's defeat of Feliciano Lopez in the third round indicated that he's a serious contender for the title. He won 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-2 against the No. 26 seed, showing just how dominant he can be in any given match.
Stephane Robert's path to Round 4 was interesting—historic, in fact. Piers Newbery of BBC Sport writes that Robert is "the first man ever to make the fourth round after losing in qualifying only to get a 'lucky loser' place when another player withdrew."
While Murray is the heavy favorite given his dominance of Lopez, this match is worth watching due to the implications of an upset. If Robert were to oust Murray, then the entire title picture would be shaken up. Also, it would be an unprecedented win for a player who wasn't technically supposed to be in the tournament.
Soreness might be an issue for Murray, who is in just his second tournament following back surgery. He told Newbery how it has affected him up to this point: "I've recovered well after the matches. From time to time there's a bit of stiffness and soreness, but for the most part it's been good."
Look for Murray to come out on top, despite the potential soreness.
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