Australian Open Day 7 Preview
Published January 22, 2011 06:37
Fourth Round, Sunday
Rod Laver Arena
 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN #1) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT #46)
Head-to-Head: First meeting
Wozniacki is two wins away from securing the No.1 ranking after the Australian Open (she needs to reach the semis) and four wins from a coveted Grand Slam title. So far she has impressed, but today's fresh challenge is to work out a first-time opponent with nothing to lose. Sevastova, just three months older than Wozniacki, is the first Latvian woman to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Larisa Savchenko in 1992. Last year she won her first WTA title at Estoril but before this week, had only won Grand Slam matches at the US Open, advancing to the second round the past two years. Amazingly, this is her first tournament of the year, having missed Auckland and Hobart with bronchitis - and she is yet to drop a set. Intriguingly, she is 2-2 vs. Top 10 players, although this is her first meeting with a Top 5 player.
 Li Na (CHN #11) vs.  Victoria Azarenka (BLR #9)
Head-to-Head: Li leads 2-1
Li, once a somewhat brittle talent but a semifinalist here last year, has emerged as a paragon of steadiness this Australian summer while being no less explosive. She is now on an eight match streak, taking in her feat of beating Kim Clijsters to become the first Chinese player to win a WTA Premier title in Sydney last week and three routine wins here. In fact, Li has dropped just 14 games at Melbourne Park, the fewest of any player in this half of the draw. That's quite an achievement for a player who takes no prisoners, just like her opponent today. The last three years Azarenka has fallen to Serena Williams here; last year she led the American 64 40. Has her time finally come? Of late Li has proven to be serene under pressure, so if things get tight, she could have the edge... but who dares, wins.
 Andrea Petkovic (GER #33) vs.  Maria Sharapova (RUS #16)
Head-to-Head: Sharapova leads 1-0
Is the cosmos trying to will Petkovic to greater heights? The German has won a total of six points in her third round matches at the last two majors, yet advanced to the fourth round of both (Peng withdrew at the US Open, Venus Williams retired here on Friday night). Swings and roundabouts, though: at the 2008 Australian Open, in her first round match, Petkovic suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in her right knee after only two minutes of play; then ranked No.92, she was out of the sport for eight months. In any case, here she is bidding to become the first German to reach the quarters at the Australian Open since Steffi Graf in 1999. Meantime, Sharapova is shooting for her first major quarterfinal since 2009 Roland Garros. The Russian improved her career three-set record to 100-36 by edging Julia Goerges in the third round; she is the only player in the Top 100 with a success rate of more than 70% in 3-set matches (73.5%). The message for Petkovic: do it in two.
 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #26) vs.  Francesca Schiavone (ITA #7)
Head-to-Head: Kuznetsova leads 8-4
Kuznetsova and Schiavone, the last two women to win the Roland Garros title, have met 12 times before, with Kuznetsova winning all six of their hardcourt meetings. The twist today is that for the first time since Dubai in 2004, Schiavone is ranked the higher. Certainly she had the better 2010; incredibly, Kuznetsova has not reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since winning the French Open in 2009. But the Russian is yet to drop a set this week, including her third round dispatch of Justine Henin. For her part, Schiavone is bidding for her first Australian Open quarterfinal in her 42nd consecutive Grand Slam outing, having reached the fourth round or better at six of the last seven majors (last year she went 15-3 in majors but only 26-20 elsewhere). At 30 years six months she's the oldest player left in the draw, but as her 9-7 third set win over Rebecca Marino in the second round showed, there's plenty of life left in those legs yet. Don't be surprised if blood is spilt.
- Adam Lincoln