Storylines and matches to watch on Day 5 of the Australian Open (click here for the order of play):
• Rivalries revisited: In intriguing third-round matches, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams headline the night session on Rod Laver Arena, while Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic turn back the clock (hopefully) to resurrect the rivalry that once determined the No. 1 ranking. “You certainly know what she’s capable of,” Sharapova said of Williams. “But when you’re out on the court, you’re not thinking how many titles she’s won or how experienced she is. You’re thinking about what you need to do to step it up in a certain situation and win as many points as you can.”
• The Steps and Djoker Show: Novak Djokovic is in such prime form that he’s an overwhelming favorite to continue his roll against the 34-year-old Czech Davis Cup hero, Radek Stepanek. But Stepanek loves to entertain the crowd, and if he gets down in this match, you can fully expect these two to drop into exhibition mode. Could be fun.
• Radwanska still streaking: Is it dangerous to dismiss Agnieszka Radwanska’s chances at the title? She beat Sharapova on hard courts last year and pushed Serena Williams to three sets in the Wimbledon final. Under the right circumstances, she has a great shot in Melbourne. The No. 4 has yet to drop a set in winning her first 10 matches of the year. She’ll be first on at Hisense Arena against Heather Watson. In their only other meeting, Radwanska crushed Watson 6-0, 6-2 in the third round of Wimbledon last year.
Matches to watch
• No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 25 Venus Williams (first night match, Rod Laver Arena): Both players have built up a good head of steam entering the marquee third-round match on the women’s side. Sharapova is the first player in 28 years to win back-to-back Grand Slam matches by double bagel, while Venus has dropped only seven games in her two matches. Williams is the first Sharapova opponent here who actually has weapons. This will be first-strike tennis from both sides. Sharapova should get through as long as she serves well. But if Venus can get herself to the net consistently, Sharapova could be in trouble. Sharapova leads the head-to-head 4-3 but the two have played only once since 2009, a 6-4, 6-3 victory for Sharapova last year on the Rome clay.
• No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka vs. No. 20 Sam Querrey (third match, Margaret Court Arena): Querrey, the last American standing, is 0-2 against Wawrinka, who won 6-4 in the fifth set of their last meeting, at the 2010 U.S. Open. Querrey will need one of his big serving days to get some easy holds and possibly carry him through a couple of tiebreakers.
• No. 5 Angelique Kerber vs. Madison Keys (first match, Rod Laver Arena): Kerber will be a real test for Keys’ consistency off the ground, as the German veteran will make the 17-year-old American hit the extra ball and figure out a way to penetrate her defense. “I think just really have to focus on playing my game and just worrying about me,” Keys said. “She’s obviously a good player. She’s been around and she’s done well the last couple years.”
• No. 10 Nicolas Almagro vs. No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz (third match, Court 3): Jerzy forever! One of the biggest questions for me coming into this tournament was whether the 22-year-old Janowicz was for real. He’s the No. 24 seed primarily based on his incredible run to the Paris Masters final in the fall. We haven’t had a real look at him since, and though he has all the attributes of the new modern player — a strong, tall, big hitter who actually can move and possesses incredible feel — he has to show some consistency. We were introduced to his emotionally volatile side in the last round, which he won in five sets. Now he gets a shot at Almagro, who has made the fourth round three consecutive times in Melbourne.
• No. 13 Ana Ivanovic vs. No. 22 Jelena Jankovic (second match, Hisense Arena): The last time these two met at a Slam was the 2008 French Open semifinal, a lifetime ago in relation to their careers. The No. 1 ranking was on the line in that match, which Ivanovic won in three sets. Ana got the ranking, the endorsements and the Slam title, while Jankovic kept plugging away until she finished as the year-end No. 1. Neither player has reached those heights since but they continue to strive for relevancy, which is why this match is so interesting. Ivanovic has won seven of 10 in the series, and she’s been far more consistent than Jankovic over the last year. But never underestimate the nerves that arise when you play your countrywoman. This one could be an ugly three-setter, but it’s sure to be entertaining.
• Upset special: Zheng Jie over No. 18 Julia Goerges.