Australian Open: Day 6 Preview
Published January 18, 2013 02:55
MELBOURNE, Australia - The middle Saturday of the Australian Open sees both Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams in action, although arguably the pick of the top half matches involve those slightly lower down the rankings.
Saturday, Third Round
Margaret Court Arena
 Roberta Vinci (ITA #16) vs. Elena Vesnina (RUS #47)
Head-to-head: Vesnina leads 3-1
Seven years after reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open as a Grand Slam debutante, Elena Vesnina bids to repeat the feat on Saturday afternoon. The Russian has been in sparkling form in the opening weeks of 2013, reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland, before winning her maiden career title in Hobart and then making it through the first two rounds in Melbourne.
And if her confidence needed any further boosting, she gets it in the shape of her head-to-head record with third round foe, Roberta Vinci. In their four previous meetings - all on hardcourts - Vesnina has won three times, with the most recent of these coming a fortnight ago in Auckland. However, Vinci, who is yet to be troubled in Melbourne, has been playing some of the best tennis of her career over the past six months and will be confident of at least matching the fourth round and quarterfinal showings at her previous two major appearances.
Show Court 2
Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP #33) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #75)
Head-to-head: Kuznetsova leads 2-1
She may not be garnering the headlines her higher-ranked compatriot Maria Sharapova is, but Svetlana Kuznetsova has been quietly impressive in the opening week, dropping just six games in her wins over Lourdes Domínguez Lino and Hsieh Su-Wei. Next up is the talented, if unpredictable, Carla Suárez Navarro.
As a former Australian Open quarterfinalist, Suárez Navarro has plenty of fond memories from Mebourne Park. The latest of these came earlier this week, her dazzling backhand in full flow during a first round win over No.7 seed Sara Errani. The two have met three times, with a win in last year's Fed Cup giving the Russian a 2-1 advantage.
 Sloane Stephens (USA #25) vs. Laura Robson (GBR #53)
Head-to-head: Stephens leads 1-0
Laura Robson may not turn 19 until Monday, but her tennis CV is already rapidly filling up with noteworthy achievements. The most recent came late on Thursday night, when she added Petra Kvitova's name to that of Li Na and Kim Clijsters on her list of conquests.
Her reward is a match with Sloane Stephens, a reprise of the meeting in Hobart two weeks ago and the opportunity to test again her promise against the pick of her age range. Stephens, who won that match in straight sets, has been drawing rave reviews this year and is already knocking on the door of the Top 20. Victory over Robson is likely to push her through that door and into a fourth round with either Kimiko Date-Krumm or Bojana Jovanovski.
Around the grounds…
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka gets the day underway on Rod Laver against Jamie Hampton, before being followed on court by Serena Williams, who takes on Ayumi Morita. On the outside courts, fellow seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Kirilenko face Lesia Tsurenko and Yanina Wickmayer.