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Australian Open Day 5 Preview

The seeds collide at Melbourne Park on Friday.

Published January 20, 2011 06:30

Australian Open Day 5 Preview
Andrea Petkovic

Third Round, Friday

Rod Laver Arena
[1] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN #1) vs. [29] Dominika Cibulkova (SVK #32)
Head-to-Head: Wozniacki leads 5-2
Wozniacki is bidding to reach the fourth round for a seventh consecutive major; she has reached the third round or better at every Grand Slam since the start of 2008. While some sniff at the young Dane's consistency, it's an impressive (and rare) feat. And despite a lacklustre lead-up, so far this week the 20-year-old has been all business, reminding us that she is a genuine title contender. That said, she's faces one of her best contemporaries today, and will need to step it up a notch. Cibulkova, who followed a similar trajectory as Wozniacki before injury stalled her progress at No.12, appears to be finding her old self. Indeed, last week in Sydney the 5'3" pocket dynamo beat Wozniacki for her first-ever win over a reigning No.1. That should give her the confidence to force the play, which is her best hope. However, Wozniacki is prodigiously good at blocking out disappointment and getting on with the job.

[11] Justine Henin (BEL #13) vs. [23] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #26)
Head-to-Head: Henin leads 16-2
If this match sounds worthy of a Grand Slam final, that's because it is: Henin beat Kuznetsova in the title match at Roland Garros in 2006 and Flushing Meadows in 2007. But if the Belgian has owned the Russian in the past, the lopsided head-to-head is curious, because Kuznetsova is one of just two players to beat Henin twice when she was No.1 (Serena being the other). Likely, then, that both will see this as a clean slate. Having professed her need for matches because she could hope to approach former levels, Kuznetsova was reassuringly impressive, physically and mentally, in beating Sam Stosur in Sydney last week. Henin, too, has been gently talking down her chances while quietly building momentum, both at the Hopman Cup in Perth and here in Melbourne. Forget about rankings and the muddied waters of the past couple of years. These two still rate among the sport's very best; brimming with variety, they could well produce a classic.

[4] Venus Williams (USA #5) vs. [30] Andrea Petkovic (GER #33)
Head-to-Head: First meeting
Such is Petkovic's charisma and star quality, it is no insult to say the tennis world has been praying for her results to catch up. Happily, gradually, that is happening. Exhibit A: Her come-from-behind blitz of Marion Bartoli in the Brisbane semis was breathtaking evidence of the über-fit German's capabilities. She'll relish the opportunity to play a legend under the lights, with a place in the second week at stake. Venus needed every ounce of her champion's valor to make it past Sandra Zahlavova in the last round, and it is unclear how much of a factor her stomach muscle strain will be; Petkovic may need to suss out the lay of the land before she settles on the best course of action. Then, if she finds herself in a winning position, the trick will be to not think about it too much - or want it too much. Because such thoughts have brought her undone in the past, and a sliver of doubt is all Venus will need.

More to watch…
Maria Sharapova, the No.14 seed, faces dangerous German Julia Goerges on Hisense. Sixth seed Francesca Schiavone plays Monica Niculescu first up on Margaret Court Arena, to be followed by Chinese ninth seed Li Na against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka faces South African Chanelle Scheepers on Show Court 2, while in an all-unseeded affair, Anastasija Sevastova and qualifier Vesna Manasieva face off on Court 3.

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