The 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals get underway on Day 9, with every match bearing massive significance in featuring some of the biggest names in tennis.
While the draw has played out essentially according to plan on the men's side and has set the stage for some excellent matchups, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic's upset victory over Serena Williams in the fourth round has her taking on No. 30 seed Eugenie Bouchard.
Thus, Li Na is the marquee star in action for the women's side against Flavia Pennetta, who has made an impressive run through the season's first Grand Slam tournament to get to this point.
Below is an overview of when and where to catch the action, along with predictions for all the quarterfinal matches on tap.
Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
When (local): Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m.
When (U.S.): Monday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. ET
TV: Tennis Channel (7-9 p.m. ET), ESPN2 (Broadcast begins at 9 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|2014 Australian Open: Day 9 Matchups and Predictions|
|Court||Time (Local)||Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (First)||Li Na (4) vs. Flavia Pennetta (28)||Li Na|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Second)||Ana Ivanovic (14) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (30)||Ana Ivanovic|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Third)||Tomas Berdych (7) vs. David Ferrer (3)||Tomas Berdych|
|Rod Laver Arena||7 p.m.||Stanislas Wawrinka (8) vs. Novak Djokovic (2)||Novak Djokovic|
Analysis and Predictions for Day 9 Matches
Li Na (4) vs. Flavia Pennetta (28)
Last year's finalist Li Na has been cruising through her portion of the draw, most recently defeating Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-0.
Li is at the top of her game and will be an extremely difficult out for Pennetta, who just expended a lot of energy to advance past No. 9 seed Angelique Kerber in three sets. However, the 31-year-old veteran can't be discounted as she continues her resurgence.
Pennetta made the semifinals at the 2013 U.S. Open, so she's clearly figured something out on the hard courts as of late. However, this is also her first trip to the quarterfinals in 11 attempts, and Li has reached this stage in three of her past four appearances.
It seems as though Li's game is built to win at Melbourne Park, because her serve placement is as precise as anyone's, and that's complemented nicely by her powerful groundstrokes.
This match should be close for the first set due to Pennetta's grit and a huge forehand, but it won't be enough to prevent Li from eliminating her in straight sets.
Prediction: Li Na wins; 7-5, 6-2
Ana Ivanovic (14) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (30)
The momentum generated by upsetting a player of Williams' caliber should see Ivanovic teeming with confidence ahead of a far more favorable opponent.
Although that could be grounds for a letdown for the former world No. 1, Ivanovic isn't likely to let this golden opportunity slip.
As for the 19-year-old Bouchard, this marks her best performance in a Grand Slam by far and is an indication that her star is rising quicker than expected. She's taken full advantage of absent seventh seed Sara Errani's opening-round loss.
Bouchard's future is bright; what's more, her only dropped set of the tournament thus far came in a first-set tiebreaker in her last match—after which she lost just two games. She does realize how tough this clash with Ivanovic will be, per the Canadian Press' Bill Scott (via CTVNews.ca):
She beat Serena so she's playing really well. I'm going to look forward to a really tough battle. We're in the quarters now, so she deserves to be there. No one's going to give it to me, so it's going to be a good match. ... I always expect a lot from myself. Every match I go on the court believing I can win. Just take it one match at a time. I just have a match ... and I'm just looking forward to that.
Both players are going to be aggressive in going for winners, but Bouchard has been a more consistent server throughout the event. That is a great weapon to help her hang around and make this match go the distance.
Nevertheless, the more experienced Ivanovic will find a way to win in a three-set battle.
Prediction: Ivanovic wins; 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. David Ferrer (3)
This just isn't a good matchup for Ferrer, who is gritty and a great mover on the court but doesn't have the power to hang with a player such as Berdych.
But Ferrer is more consistent than his upcoming adversary, having reached nine consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals—something he takes pride in, per the ATP's official Twitter account:
For Berdych, this is also the fourth consecutive time he's reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne, having not gotten past that point in all his previous tries.
The hard-court surface definitely best suits Berdych's skill set. His prolific, swift serve gives him a big edge, and even at 6'5", his fitness and ability to cover ground on the court is exceptional.
Plus, the pace with which Ferrer hits his groundstrokes doesn't demand anything extraordinary in terms of baseline-to-baseline movement. Berdych's massive reach also helps him in those situations as it is.
There are demons for Berdych to exorcise at this juncture of the tournament, but his form—he hasn't dropped a set—and skill set translate well to pull off this match against the relentless Ferrer.
Prediction: Berdych wins; 7-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
Stanislas Wawrinka (8) vs. Novak Djokovic (2)
The lasting image from last year's epic fourth-round showdown between these two men was a sympathetic Djokovic embracing the defeated Wawrinka at the net after a five-set thriller.
This is some of what Djokovic had to say when the dust settled and a fifth set that went 12-10 in the Serbian's favor was secured, per ATPWorldTour.com:
It was one of the longest, most interesting, and most exciting matches I played in my career. All the credit to him. I feel sorry that one of us had to lose. He definitely deserved to win. But I'm just thrilled to be able to fight once again up to the last moment. I'm just really full of joy after this match.
Djokovic would go on to win his third consecutive title at Melbourne Park, but Wawrinka wound up having a respectable 2013 campaign, once again pushing Djokovic to five sets at the U.S. Open semifinals.
Despite the devastating results from the past, Wawrinka is still optimistic in his quest to solve the mystery of beating Djokovic after minimal stress in the previous rounds, per the Sydney Morning Herald's Michael Chammas:
For sure, I think it's better not spending too much time on the court than spending four hours every match. I don't think it's an advantage against him because he didn't spend so much time on the court. But for myself, it's good. It means I'm fit, I'm ready. I didn't spend too much energy the first few rounds. So, again, everything is great here. I'm just enjoying and trying to find a solution to beat him.
If the previous matches are any indication, it seems this is destined to be yet another instant classic.
With the amazing movement and returning ability of both these players, rallies become littered with winner-caliber shots that are inexplicably returned.
The final match point between Djokovic and Wawrinka from the 2013 Australian Open showcases that, as does this sensational effort from the No. 8 seed in his straight-sets romp over Tommy Robredo in Round 4:
As close as Wawrinka has come to defeating Djokovic, though, he's never quite pulled through. This match won't quite live up to the hype generated by the pair's recent history, but it will be an entertaining showcase to cap the action off.
Prediction: Djokovic wins; 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5