By Tia Ko
Serena Williams (1) vs. Maria Sharapova (5)
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet for the 21st time Tuesday afternoon in Melbourne where they will compete for a semi-final spot in the Australian Open. It will be the first time the two have met prior to the semifinals at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2010. Statistically speaking, Sharapova doesn’t have a very good chance of winning this match considering she hasn’t beaten Williams since the WTA Championships back in 2004. Since then, Williams has gone 17-0 with her last victory over Sharapova occurring during the semifinals of Wimbledon last year 6-2 6-4. Serena’s road to the quarterfinals has been pretty smooth sailing despite not having played competitive tennis since her devastating defeat at the US Open in September. In her last four matches combined, her opponents have only managed to win 17 games to Serena’s 49 with her toughest match coming in the first round against Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5. After that, she was victorious over Su-Wei Hsieh, Daria Kasatkina, and Margarita Gasparyan.
Maria Sharapova’s route to the quarterfinals has also been straightforward except for her third round where it went to a deciding set against the American Lauren Davis 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0. She also beat Nao Hibino, Aliaksandra, and Belina Bencic. When asked about her upcoming match, “It’s not like I think about what I can do worse,” Sharapova said. “Always trying to improve. I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam. There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”
Agnieszka Radwanksa (4) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (10)
Agnieszka Radwanksa and Carla Suarez Navarro have only met three times but their past two encounters have gone the distance. The last time they met was last year at the Miami Masters where the Spaniard won 5-7 6-0 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Head-to-head, Radwanska leads 2-1. In Radwanska’s fourth round match, she was two points away from being defeated by Anna-Lena Friedsam 4-5 in the third set; however the German ended up getting leg cramps late in the match and failed to get into the rallies thereafter. Radwanska was able break and serve out her game winning 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-5. Radwanska also beat Christina McHale, Eugenie Bouchard, and Monica Puig on her way to the quarters.
Carla Suarez Navarro seeded no. 10 disappointed hopeful Australians when she beat the new hometown hero Daria Gavrilova in the fourth round. Gavrilova, who originally represented Russia but emigrated to Australia last year, took the first set easily 6-0 but was unable to stay focused and ended up losing to Suarez Navarro 0-6 6-3 6-2. The Spaniard defeated Viktorija Golubic, Maria Sakkari, and Elizaveta.
Angelique Kerber (7) vs. Victoria Azarenka (14)
Victoria Azarenka leads their head-to-head 6-0. Will the higher seeded Angelique Kerber be able to finally take a match from the Belarusian? These two met just a few weeks ago in the finals in Brisbane where Vika won easily 6-3 6-1. Azarenka is a two-time champion having won in both 2012 and 2013 and is currently a favorite to win a third title down under. The German Kerber is looking to reach her best result at a Grand Slam since her semifinal performance back at Wimbledon in 2012. Kerber beat Misaki Doi, Alexandra Dulgheru, Madison Bregle, and Annika Beck on her way to the quarters. Vika was victorious against Alison Van Uytvanck, Danka Kovinic, Naomi Osaka, and Barbora Strycova on her route to the last 8.
Johanna Konta vs. Shuai Zhang
We’re witnessing the success story of Zhang Shuai, the first women’s qualifier to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals in 26 years. This has been the first time the 133rd ranked 27 year old Chinese player has made it past the first round of a Grand Slam much less the fourth! She will be playing against 47th ranked Johanna Konta. The two met only twice: once in the 2012 US Open qualifiers with Konta coming out on top 6-4 3-6 7-5 and once in 2013 during the Guangzhou, China tournament with the Chinese countrywoman winning 7-5 6-3. Both players created huge upsets as they made their way to the quarters most notable Zhang beating no. 2 seed Simona Halep, Alize Cornet, Varvara Lepchenko, and Madison Keys. Konta upset no. 8 seed Venus Williams in the first round then Saisai Zheng, Denisa Allertova, and Ekaterina Makarova.