Storylines and matches to watch on Day 3 of the Australian Open (click here for the order of play):
• Seeds should cruise: Make reservations for a nice dinner with your loved ones, do those three loads of laundry piled up in the corner or, hey, just turn in early to grab some much-needed rest after two days of nonstop action. The Day 3 schedule is one you can probably skip with a fairly clean conscience, as the matchups may not keep even diehard fans glued to their couches. The marquee names in action, such as Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Tomas Berdych, and Agnieszka Radwanska, should sail through against their unseeded opponents.
• Americans offer intrigue: If you are going to stick around, the Americans are your best bet. Ryan Harrison, cursed once again with a tough draw, takes on Djokovic for the second time at a Grand Slam tournament, after losing in straight sets at Wimbledon last year. The 20-year-old Harrison also lost to Djokovic in straight sets in their other matchup (the 2011 Cincinnati Masters), but he’ll be as amped up as ever for his evening clash on Rod Laver Arena.
Also on Day 3, the only seeded American on the men’s side, No. 20 Sam Querrey will meet Brian Baker for the first time. On Day 1, the 27-year-old Baker made his Australian Open debut by defeating Alex Bogomolov Jr. in five sets.
But the one to really watch — and I realize I sound like a broken record here — is Madison Keys. The 17-year-old has a great chance to upset the No. 30 seed, Tamira Paszek. Keys’ first-round victory means that she’ll break into the top 100 after the tournament.
• The doubles tournament begins: Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 seed, open against Oliver Marach and Horacio Zeballos. The 34-year-old brothers are seeking their sixth Australian Open title. Meanwhile, Lisa Raymond has a new partner, Maria Kirilenko, after splitting with Liezel Huber during the offseason. Seeded third, they’ll take on Alicja Rosolska and Tamarine Tanasugarn. Vania King is back with Yaroslava Shvedova, and the two-time Slam winners, seeded 11th, will play Irina Falconi and Shuko Aoyama.
Matches to watch
• No. 9 Samantha Stosur vs. Zheng Jie (third match, Rod Laver Arena): Stosur got the monkey off her back by winning her first-round match, but it was a scratchy effort and her form isn’t at all convincing. Zheng is precisely the type of opponent who causes a matchup problem for Stosur. She hugs the baseline, hits flat groundstrokes and takes the ball very early, which takes time away from Stosur and forces the Aussie to rush her shots. Stosur has struggled with her serve since the start of the season, but she’ll need a good serving day to keep the pressure off herself.
• No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Ryan Harrison (second night match, Rod Laver Arena): Harrison doesn’t have much of a chance here, but then again, few really do against Djokovic these days. This will be a good measuring stick for Harrison, who lost to Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at Wimbledon last year. If he can push Djokovic or even take a set, he’ll walk away knowing he’s making progress. But if you see Harrison running from sideline to sideline behind the “Melbourne” emblem on the court, this could go quickly. A night spent retrieving is going to end badly.
• Tamira Paszek vs. Madison Keys (second match, Court 3): Paszek can flat out wallop the ball. Whether that ball ends up inside the lines or through the back fence is another issue. Besides her inconsistency off the ground, Paszek’s biggest weakness is her serve. Keys should be able to get into her service games right off the return, especially if Paszek is stuck rolling her weak second serve in every other point. Unless the Austrian starts zoning, I don’t see Keys losing this one.
• No. 20 Sam Querrey vs. Brian Baker (second match, Court 6): This matchup pits Querrey’s power against Baker’s variety. Given Querrey’s form, I have to tip him. This should be a fun match, though, especially if Baker can keep the ball low and out of Querrey’s strike zone.
• No. 13 Ana Ivanovic vs. Chan Yung-Jan (fourth match, Margaret Court Arena): Chan’s run at Carlsbad last year makes you believe that she’s capable of a good upset. She beat Yanina Wickmayer and Jelena Jankovic that week en route to her first WTA final. Chan won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open and then knocked off Daniela Hantuchova in three sets in the first round. Ivanovic looked sharp in her opener against Melinda Czink, though the tossing yips are still present. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Chan gives her a test.
• Upset specials: Madison Keys over Tamira Paszek; Xavier Malisse over No. 22 Fernando Verdasco (first night match, Margaret Court Arena).