Is there a better sleeper pick for the women’s title right now than Belinda Bencic?By Jan 20, 2023
The Wizards of Oz, starring Australian Open women’s champion Aryna SabalenkaBy Jan 28, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka captures first Grand Slam title, conquers Elena Rybakina at Australian OpenBy Jan 28, 2023
The Rally: Djokovic vs. Tsitsipas will be a clash of generations, playing styles, and fan-basesBy Jan 27, 2023
Novak Djokovic breaks record for longest men’s winning streak at Australian Open in Open EraBy Jan 27, 2023
Stefanos Tsitsipas to play for Australian Open title and No. 1 ranking after defeating Karen KhachanovBy Jan 27, 2023
Novak Djokovic's father won't attend Australian Open semifinal matchBy Jan 27, 2023
Semifinal Previews: Do Tommy Paul and Karen Khachanov stand a chance against Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas?By Jan 26, 2023
The Rally: Rybakina vs. Sabalenka is a compelling battle for No. 1 in Australia, and No. 2 on the tour totem poleBy Jan 26, 2023
Flawless Aryna Sabalenka ends Magda Linette fairytale to reach first major finalBy Jan 26, 2023
Is there a better sleeper pick for the women’s title right now than Belinda Bencic?
Plus, an intriguing all-American clash to keep an eye on.
Published Jan 20, 2023
WATCH: Andy Murray defeats Thanasi Kokkinakis in an Australian Open second-round match that finished past 4 a.m. in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic vs. Grigor Dimitrov
It has been 10 years since Dimitrov recorded his only win over Djokovic, on clay in Madrid. He’s pushed him a few times since: They played four close sets at Wimbledon in 2014, and went to 6-4 in the third in Cincinnati in 2018. But with a 9-1 career record, the Serb has basically owned the Bulgarian.
Is there are any reason to think that might change on Saturday? Djokovic did tweak his upper left leg in Adelaide, and this week he has said that it doesn’t feel “ideal.” But two years ago we saw him win this tournament and then announce that he had had torn an abdominal muscle in the third round. Djokovic did drop a set to Enzo Couacaud on Thursday, but he went on to win the last two 6-2, 6-0. He also said, after his first round, that his leg felt better as the match went on.
Dimitrov is still a talent, and he has been a semifinalist here before. He has also won his two matches this week in straight sets. He’ll likely have to strike early, while Djokovic is still loosening up, to have a chance of pulling the upset. But even if he does, it’s a long shot. Winner: Djokovic
Andy Murray vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
Will either the 35-year-old Brit or the 34-year-old Spaniard have anything left for this third-round match? Murray, as we know, has won back-to-back marathon five-setters, over Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis. The second of those lasted five hours and 45 minutes and ended at 4:00 in the morning. But RBA also had to come back from two sets down on Thursday, to beat American Brandon Holt in five.
Whatever their ages, these guys don’t tire easily, and they’ll be ready to compete again. But Murray will have another problem on his hands: He has lost his last three matches against Bautista Agut. The first was a five-setter at the 2019 Australian Open; Murray had just announced his retirement, and everyone thought it was his final hurrah Down Under. His last two losses to RBA were much worse: 6-0, 6-1 in Doha last February, and 6-3, 6-2 in Basel this past fall. Murray hasn’t been able to grind with Bautista Agut since his latest hip surgery.
Murray has put in a lot of good work with Ivan Lendl since, and so far he’s playing better tennis now than he was in 2022. On another day, when he hadn’t just played for 10 hours, it might be enough to get him across the finish line. But this isn’t that day. Winner: Bautista Agut
Belinda Bencic vs. Camila Giorgi
Is there a better sleeper pick for the women’s title right now than Belinda Bencic? She has come flying out of the gates in 2023, beating Garbiñe Muguruza, Caroline Garcia and Daria Kasatkina on her way to the title in Adelaide, and winning her first two matches this week in straight sets. Bencic has already seen one high seed, Ons Jabeur, exit her quarter; if she wins this, she might face another in Aryna Sabalenka.
First, of course, she has to win this. Giorgi is ranked 70th, but she’s still dangerous. Some days her ultra-relentless, hit-everything-flat-and-hard attack is counterproductive, but other days it clicks long enough to give her a big win. She and Bencic have played five times, and Giorgi has won twice. But Bencic, with her current form, and her ability to change speeds and absorb pace, is the better bet. Winner: Bencic
BONUS: Tommy Paul vs. Jenson Brooksby
There has been a big U.S. presence in both draws through three rounds, but this is when the winnowing usually begins for the Americans at the Slams. Unfortunately, it will happen automatically here. Whatever the result, there will be one fewer Yank in the men’s field when it’s over.
Who is more likely to move on? Both of these guys are coming off outstanding wins. Brooksby knocked off the No. 2 seed, Casper Ruud, and looked exceptionally sharp doing it; even after blowing a lead in the third set, he came back and dominated the fourth. As for Paul, he survived a five-set trench war with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, closing it out with a clutch backhand pass at match point.
Brooksby won his only previous meeting with Paul, in two quick sets in Cincinnati last year. Paul didn’t really do himself justice in that match; he’s a superior athlete to Brooksby, and he has the higher ranking to show for it. But if Brooksby can stay at his disruptive best, the way he was against Ruud, you can throw the rankings, and the athleticism, out the window. Winner: Brooksby