Australian Open: Day 5 Preview
Published January 17, 2013 10:22
MELBOURNE, Australia - Two match-ups featuring a pair of former World No.1s who have combined for 12 Grand Slam titles headline the opening of third round play at the Australian Open.
Friday, Third Round
Rod Laver Arena
 Maria Sharapova (RUS #2) vs.  Venus Williams (USA #26)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 4-3
One might think two surefire Hall of Famers playing in the same era would have met in a plethora of WTA finals, yet Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams have never faced off beyond the semifinal round, and once again will clash fairly early in a tournament. Williams has prevailed in both previous tussles at majors, but those came on her favorite surface, grass, at Wimbledon.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams appears to be in fine form, following up a strong 2012 comeback season that saw her return from illness by dropping just seven games in her two matches so far this week. However, Sharapova's form in Melbourne has been spectacular - becoming the first player to win consecutive matches at a major, 60 60, since Wendy Turnbull at the 1985 Australian Open. The winner has to like her chances to go on to the final eight, as they will take on unseeded Valeria Savinykh or unseeded Kirsten Flipkens in the fourth round. Increasing the stakes even more for Sharapova, she has a chance to return to No.1 in the world should she reach the final here.
 Ana Ivanovic (SRB #13) vs.  Jelena Jankovic (SRB #21)
Head-to-head: Ivanovic leads 7-3
Despite having met 10 times, Fed Cup teammates Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic have faced off just once before in a major. Ivanovic was victorious in the 2008 French Open semifinals en route to the shining moment of her career - a Grand Slam triumph. Though she has been unable to repeat that success since, 2012 was a bit of a resurgence for Ivanovic. She reached at least the third round of all four majors for just the second time of her career, including her first quarterfinal in over four years at the US Open.
Jankovic also had her career-defining moments in 2008, rising to World No.1 and reaching her lone major final at the US Open. Though she did reach two WTA finals last year, Grand Slam success has been hard to come by of late, as she has not been to a final four in almost three years. Both players come into their showdown having escaped upset bids against qualifiers in the second round, Ivanovic edging Chan Yung-Jan and Jankovic surviving Maria Joao Koehler.
Rod Laver Arena
 Angelique Kerber (GER #5) vs. [WC] Madison Keys (USA #105)
Head-to-head: first meeting
On the day she turns 25, Angelique Kerber will be encountering no gift of an opponent. At 17, the youngest player left in the draw, Madison Keys showed no fear in powering past World No.30 Tamira Paszek on Wednesday. By reaching her first Grand Slam third round just a week after she made her first WTA quarterfinal in Sydney, she has assured herself of making her Top 100 debut on the new rankings. A win over Kerber would be Keys' biggest to date and yet another sign that there is yet another young American star on the rise.
However, Kerber has the experience and the résumé to make herself the clear favorite. She made the final four at a major in 2011 and won her first two WTA titles while becoming the fifth German to crack the Top 5 in 2012.
Around the grounds…
Also on Rod Laver, 2011 Australian Open runner-up Li Na takes on Sorana Cirstea for the fourth time at a major and the fifth time overall. And over on Hisense, Agnieszka Radwanska looks to continue to stay perfect in 2013 not only in matches, but in sets when she plays Heather Watson.