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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, January 24, 2022


"Everybody knows how good is Denis when he's playing well," Rafael Nadal said of quarterfinal opponent Denis Shapovalov.

Photo credit: Getty

Take a deep breath and exhale after a wild week one Down Under.

The top half of the draw takes center stage on Tuesday as world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and sixth-seeded Rafael Nadal continue historic championship chases.

Here’s what we’ll be watching on Day 9 of the Australian Open.

Australian Open Day 9 Schedule

Australian Open TV Schedule

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Madison Keys

(4) Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) vs. No. 51 Madison Keys (USA)
Head-to-head: First Meeting
Rod Laver Arena

Seven months after Barbora Krejcikova swept singles and doubles titles at Roland Garros, she’s poised for another major double dip.

The fourth-seeded Czech is one of three Grand Slam champions into the singles quarterfinals and has powered into the doubles quarters with partner Katerina Siniakova as well. Krejcikova has won 38 of her last 47 matches and is bidding to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2010 to capture both AO singles and doubles crowns.

The clever Krejcikova has permitted just one set in four singles wins, including dispatching two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round to reach her first AO quarterfinal.

This match pits Krejcikova’s all-court guile, feel and super versatility against Keys’ explosiveness, power and ability to impose her serve-forehand combination on anyone—when it’s clicking—on a hard court. It puts Krejcikova’s sharp return game—she’s broken serve 21 times in four matches—against Keys’ slashing serve.

Keys tuned up for Melbourne winning her sixth career title in Adelaide and has hit 24 aces in four AO wins, tying Ash Barty and Elise Mertens for ace leader status.

A 2015 AO semifinalist, Keys carries the confidence of a nine-match winning streak into this quarterfinal clash. Three weeks into the new year, Keys’ 10 wins have nearly matched her 2021 output of 11. If Keys can command the center of the court, control rallies with her forehand, continue to bang her backhand down the line and land that seismic serve, she’s in with a shot to pull off the upset.

Left Field: Rafael Nadal vs. Denis Shapovalov

(6) Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. (14) Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
Head-to-head: Nadal leads 3-1
Rod Laver Arena

Twenty lefties started the tournament and now these two talented lefty shotmakers remain.

The 2009 AO champion Nadal faces a left-hander for the second straight round following his 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2 win over Adrian Mannarino that saw the Spaniard save four set points muscling into his 14th AO quarterfinal.

Driven by the ultimate goal—winning his 21st Grand Slam title to eclipse rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the men’s mark—Nadal has been resourceful and thumped his shots with vigor in his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2021 Roland Garros. Nadal won his 89th career title at the Melbourne Summer Set tune-up tournament and carries a 7-0 record on the season into this match.

The streaky and super exciting Shapovalov is coming off one of his biggest career wins, a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 beat down of world No. 3 Alexander Zverev. Working with new coach Jamie Delgado, Shapovalov has shortened his backswing on the backhand return and is blocking back more returns into play giving himself the opportunity to unleash his nuclear forehand and jolting ground game.

In a clash between two of the biggest forehands in the sport, the man who can dictate most with his forehand will have the edge. Wimbledon semifinalist Shapovalov beat Nadal in their first meeting at the 2017 Montreal Masters. Since then, Nadal has reeled off 21 consecutive victories over lefties.

Still, Shapovalov won’t play this match on hope. He knows he can win as he beat Nadal in Montreal and nearly repeated the feat on Rome’s red clay last May. Shapovalov built a one-set, 3-0 lead before Nadal restored the roar in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) comeback conquest.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who owns a 6-7 career mark in AO quarterfinals, is playing for his seventh AO semifinal. The 22-year-old Shapovalov is playing for his second Slam semifinal in his last three major appearances. Oddschecker lists Nadal as second favorite to take the title behind second-ranked Daniil Medvedev with Matteo Berrettini list as third favorite.

Ashleigh Barty vs. Jessica Pegula

(1) Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs. (21) Jessica Pegula (USA)
Head-to-head: Barty leads 1-0
Rod Laver Arena

Aussie fans went wild for Barty’s Wimbledon win and are intent on extending the Barty Party at home.

Though the world No. 1 saw her consecutive service games streak snapped at 63 by American Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round, the two-time Grand Slam champion has delivered the dynamic tennis she showed during her stirring run at SW19.

Given Barty is 8-0 on the season with the Adelaide title under her belt, has surrendered just 15 games in four wins this week and is the game’s premier all-court player, you can understand why she’s a massive favorite to become the first Aussie woman to reach the final since 1980 and first native woman to raise the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in 44 years.

This is Pegula’s first showdown vs. a world No. 1 and she should be empowered by the fact she’s often brought her best against the best. Pegula is 8-10 lifetime vs. Top 10 opponents with all eight wins coming since the start of 2021.

Pegula hits flat, moves fast and is dangerous driving the ball down the line. The 2021 quarterfinalist has been through some battles, including knocking off eighth-ranked Maria Sakkari in the fourth round and figures to bring full commitment to the biggest match of her career.

You know Pegula, whose family owns the Buffalo Bills, watched one of the most insanely exciting NFL games in history and could be inspired or drained or both seeing her Bills come so close to the dream. Pegula can take the ball on the rise, excels on quick hard courts and figures to pour out the passion against the world No. 1.

Matteo Berrettini vs. Gael Monfils

(7) Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. (17) Gael Monfils (FRA)
Head-to-head: Berrettini leads 2-0
Rod Laver Arena

If this quarterfinal clash is anything like Berrettini's 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) win over Monfils in the 2019 US Open quarterfinals, then buckle up for a delirious duel.

A revitalized Monfils making magic again in Oz rolling into his second career quarterfinal without dropping a set. Contesting his 17th Australian Open, Monfils can make history for most AO appearances before reaching the Melbourne semifinals with a win.

Wimbledon finalist Berrettini is bidding to become the first Italian man to reach the final four in AO history. Berrettini is battle-tested to this point surviving 31st-seeded Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in round three and dispatching 19th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in a two-hour, 22-minute fourth-round.

While Berrettini's sledgehammer serve and finishing forehand can empower him to play points on his terms, he's also spent five hours longer on court than the elastic Monfils, who is the faster and smoother mover.

Of course, Berrettini will try to do what he does best: impose his first serve-ferocious forehand patter on the match, while Monfils, who can bang the ball with the best of them when he chooses to open up on offense, has more options and could drop back and defend in an effort to drain the big man.


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