The final three matches on Day 10 of the 2014 Australian Open offer plenty of excitement, as the remaining semifinalists for both the men and women are decided.
An epic showdown between Andy Murray and Roger Federer caps off the action at Melbourne Park's Rod Laver Arena, but well before then will be two other captivating matches.
Agnieszka Radwanska will attempt to knock off two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka, while men's top seed Rafael Nadal looks to continue cruising as the prohibitive favorite against upstart No. 22 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Below is a closer look at this trio of clashes, including predictions as to who will emerge with victories and semifinal berths.
Agnieszka Radwanska (5) vs. Victoria Azarenka (2)
If there were any chance that Azarenka would suffer a letdown at the hands of a formidable Round 4 opponent in Sloane Stephens, she extinguished doubts quickly with a clean 6-3, 6-2 triumph to advance.
Two of Radwanska's four matches have gone the full three sets, which may actually benefit her if she's meant to grind this one out against her gritty opponent.
Making this match even more compelling is the at-odds history the two women have with each other. Radwanska has criticized the loud grunting of her opponent and implied Azarenka may have faked an injury in a match from 2012, per the Sydney Morning Herald's Michael Chammas.
This marks the fifth career trip to the quarterfinals for Radwanska, where she has failed to advance on all previous occasions. However, she does match up well stylistically with Azarenka in that both have great fitness and should battle amid many extensive rallies and eye-popping points.
The difference in this one will be Azarenka's status as a perennial champion and the superior power she possesses on her backhand.
Even with the added fuel Radwanska has against this particular foe, she won't have quite enough to top Azarenka, who should ultimately capture the trophy yet again with top seed Serena Williams out of the running.
Prediction: Azarenka wins; 7-6, 6-3
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (22)
This is easily the best effort the 22-year-old Dimitrov has put forth in a major, but he is facing a seemingly indomitable force in Nadal to keep his impressive run going.
Dimitrov has a strong serve, precise groundstrokes and a stout 6'3" frame that translates well to the hard-court surface. The problem is his lack of mobility—something Nadal seeks to exploit in how he seems to never give up on any point.
Even though his first-serve percentage is down at 59, it hasn't stopped Dimitrov from holding 95 percent of his service games in the tournament (h/t ATPWorldTour.com). However, he hasn't squared off with such a dynamic athlete to date.
There is some serious history on the line for Nadal, too, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Rafael Nadal is seeking to become the 3rd man to win each Grand Slam event at least twice (Rod Laver and Roy Emerson).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2014
Last season, Dimitrov pushed Nadal to three sets at Monte Carlo on the Spaniard's preferred surface of clay, so there is some precedent to suggest that he could give his heavily favored opponent a run for his money.
Unfortunately for the underdog, the experience disparity on this grand of a stage and Nadal having not dropped a set through four rounds, look for this one to be over in straight sets.
Prediction: Nadal wins; 6-3, 7-6, 6-4
Andy Murray (4) vs. Roger Federer (6)
Which lower seed is likeliest to win?
Perhaps what makes this matchup most intriguing is that both world-class players are attempting to revitalize themselves in different ways. For Federer, it's a matter of remaining a serious factor to challenge for Grand Slam trophies after a 2013 campaign in which he won just one singles title overall.
Murray is thus far making a convincing comeback from back surgery despite minimal competition under his belt before the Australian Open.
The last time this pair met in a major was at this venue in last year's semifinals, where Murray won a five-set marathon—also marking Federer's best finish at the four biggest events for the year.
But that was the only occasion in which Murray beat Federer in a Grand Slam, dropping the three previous encounters, per Paul Newman of the Independent.
Given the need each player has to prove himself in this one, look for it to go at least four sets. The knack Murray has to make his opponents pay for aggression shouldn't stop Federer from going for a ton of winners with mixed results.
It is worth noting that Federer did just that against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round and beat him in straight sets. A new racket has helped the 17-time Grand Slam champion regain some of his legendary form and drove his success against Tsonga, per ATPWorldTour.com:
Tonight things were just clicking. It was smooth for me. I do believe I have easier power with the racquet on the serve. It might help me on the return, as well. I hope it is the case. I still need to put many more matches and hours on it, but so far so good. It's a great start to the season with the racquet and with my body. Everything is going really well. I'm very happy.
With how formidable Murray is, this will go four sets, but Federer is playing a bit sharper right now. In his Round 4 win over Stephane Robert, Murray hit 48 winners but also 47 unforced errors.
Federer will find a way to force himself to the semis with a renewed confidence and the improved health he alluded to.
Prediction: Federer wins; 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3