The 2014 Australian Open is off to a high-flying start, with everything from favorites falling to top stars cruising, and action is quickly closing in on the final few rounds.
International icons such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and more are in action during Day 8's slate of matches and everything is on the line as top contenders will face what should be their toughest tests yet.
Will these favorites cruise into the next round and stay alive for the championship in Melbourne or will one or more of them fall victim to an upset like Serena Williams did in the women's bracket when she was eliminated by Ana Ivanovic?
Tune in to Day 8 of action to find out how the top stars fare and what the draw will look like moving into crunch time.
Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
When (local): Monday, Jan. 20, at 11 a.m.
When (U.S.): Sunday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|Court||Time (Local)||Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (First)||No. 3 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova||Maria Sharapova|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Second)||No. 2 Victoria Azarenka vs. No. 13 Sloane Stephens||Victoria Azarenka|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Third)||No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 16 Kei Nishikori||Rafael Nadal|
|Hisense Arena||1 p.m.||No. 8 Jelena Jankovic vs. No. 11 Simona Halep||Jelena Jankovic|
|Margaret Court Arena||1 p.m.||No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov vs. Roberto Bautista Agut||Roberto Bautista Agut|
|Hisense Arena||4:30 p.m.||No. 4 Andy Murray vs. Stephane Robert||Andy Murray|
|Rod Laver Arena||7 p.m. (First)||No. 6 Roger Federer vs. No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||Roger Federer|
|Rod Laver Arena||7 p.m. (Second)||No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Garbine Muguruza||Agnieszka Radwanska|
Top Matches of Day 8
No. 6 Roger Federer vs. No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
These two stars combined for some of the most memorable and entertaining matchups of 2013, so why not get another round of Federer-Tsonga in 2014's first Grand Slam?
In last year's Australian Open, Federer and Tsonga played arguably the thriller of the tournament. Their quarterfinal clash went the distance—all five sets—and two of those sets went to a tiebreak before Federer narrowly escaped the Frenchman and advanced for a spot with the final four players.
Will Federer win another Grand Slam in his career?
However, that experience must have resonated with Tsonga because he came out firing in the next Grand Slam. The two met again in the quarterfinal round at Roland Garros during the French Open and Tsonga quickly eliminated the 17-time Grand Slam champ in straight sets and convincing fashion.
Federer has had many months to ponder that embarrassing defeat and the fact that he's only won one Grand Slam since 2010 has to be lighting a fire under the aging Swiss star by now. His days near the top of tennis relevance are numbered and he's running out of chances to add to his all-time best total of major victories.
The 32-year-old may not have what it takes to be the last player standing, but I expect him to learn from last year, muster up everything in him to get past Tsonga and earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Federer in four sets
No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 16 Kei Nishikori
Coming off a spectacular, bounce-back 2013 campaign in which he won two of the four Grand Slam championships, Rafael Nadal has proven worthy of his top seed heading into a match against No. 16 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Nadal hasn't lost a set in his three victories so far in Melbourne and the Spaniard impressively extinguished No. 25 Gael Monfils in straight sets to set up the showdown with Nishikori.
The Japan native took a bit tougher of a road to get here. His first-round match against Marinko Matosevic went to five sets before he pulled out the win, but he took his next two matches each in straight sets.
Nishikori might be the highest seed Nadal has faced yet and his stiffest competition, but the world No. 1 has been head and shoulders above all of his opponents so far.
Given his recent form, that shouldn't change until he faces one of the Big Four.
Prediction: Nadal in straight sets