Australian Open 2014: Top Draws on Day 9 Schedule in Melbourne

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2014

A few remaining tennis stars will look to survive the Australian Open's quarterfinals during Day 9 of the grueling tournament.

Round 4 bred two major upsets on the women's side, as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova were forced to pack up early. Without two of the bracket's biggest mainstays, last year's championship competitors could rehash their finals bout.

On the men's terrain, all the usual suspects are alive and roaring. No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro is the only man inside of the top eight no longer clashing for the crown in Melbourne.

That leaves tennis fans with some star-studded matchups to watch on Day 9.

 

No. 3 David Ferrer vs. No. 7 Tomas Berdych 

A beacon of consistency, David Ferrer has advanced to at least the quarterfinals in each of the last eight majors. Despite regularly reaching the late stages, however, the 31-year-old Spaniard is still searching for his first Grand Slam title.

After again handling his opponents of lesser prestige, Ferrer now receives yet another chance to attain that elusive title in Melbourne. Before he can conquer his demons and knock off one of the top four superstars on the grand stage, he must best a game Tomas Berdych. 

Although Ferrer leads their head-to-head bouts with eight wins in 12 tries, Berdych bested him in two sets during their last meeting in 2013's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Berdych is entering with the hotter hand, sweeping all 12 sets while Ferrer has dropped two and salvaged two others in tiebreakers.

For all their accolades, both men are still searching for their first major championship victory. One will at least gain another chance to joust with the big names during the semifinals.

 

No. 4 Li Na vs. No. 28 Flavia Pennetta

With Sharapova and Williams out of the fray, Li Na has a golden opportunity to return to the Australian Open finals.

Last year, the Chinese star was ousted in the finals by Victoria Azarenka, and those two players are the top-ranked competitors remaining. If Li can carry over her scorching play from the last round, she'll take one more step toward setting up that rematch.

Per the Women's Tennis Association, the world's fourth-seeded female needed slightly less than an hour to fend off Ekaterina Makarova in her last matchup.

But Flavia Pennetta, who has split her four head-to-head contests with Li, is no slouch. She knocked off No. 9 Angelique Kerber in the fourth round to cement her deepest Australian Open run. 

After each dealing with younger adversaries, the two 31-year-old veterans will take on someone their own age. As Li jokingly said during her press conference (via the WTA), she is technically the younger of the two by a slim margin.

"It's been at least two years we didn't play, and time can change everything. But at least she's one day older than me, so I don't have to play a younger player again." 

Expect a tactical bout between two experienced experts looking to solidify their career revivals by clinching a semifinal bid.

 

No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka

If last year's epic bout is any indication, we're in for a treat when Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka square off.

Djokovic is typically expected to cruise past the fourth round without breaking much of a sweat, but Wawrinka dueled him for five hours and two minutes during last year's Australian Open. Eventually, Djokovic closed out the fifth set at 12-10.

They also engaged in a U.S. Open thriller that lasted more than four hours but ultimately also saw Djokovic escape with a victory.

While fans take Djokovic for granted, assuming he'll advance to at least the semifinals every time, the star did not speak so assuredly. According to ESPN's Greg Garber, Djokovic is preparing for another long and testing match against Wawrinka.

I have to be ready to play another 12-10 in the fifth like last year. I know that he's playing the tennis of his life in last 15 months. He is confident. You could feel that mentally when he comes to the court, he believes in himself more. You cannot expect a clear favorite in that match.

Despite the close nature of their most recent major affairs, Djokovic has dominated their overall series, winning 17 of their 19 showdowns. Nevertheless, the road to claiming his fourth straight Australian Open title won't be easy.

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