Before each day of play at the Australian Open, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches. For full coverage of the season's first Slam, go to our tournament page.
Venus Williams (8) vs. Johanna Konta
The 35-year-old American and the 24-year-old Brit may not seem to have much in common, but they’re in similar boats at the moment. Both had breakthrough seasons in 2015: Venus returned to the Top 10 for the first time in five years, while Konta cracked the Top 100, and then the Top 50, for the first time. They finished, appropriately enough, by playing an excellent match against each other in Wuhan, which Venus won 7-5 in the third. So far, though, 2016 hasn’t gone as smoothly for either of them. Venus was the top seed in Auckland, but she lost her opener, while Konta is 0-2 so far. Williams is defending quarterfinal points in Melbourne, but there’s a lot on the line—all of their momentum from 2015—for both women in this one.
Winner: V. Williams
Rafael Nadal (5) vs. Fernando Verdasco
Was it seven years ago that these two Spanish lefties played the best match that many of us have ever seen at the Australian Open? It seems like yesterday that they were side-spinning each other into oblivion for five hours in Rod Laver Arena. Nadal won that match, of course; he also won his first 14 meetings against his countryman. But Verdasco has turned the tables in two of their last three, and there may not be much between them today, just as there wasn’t the last time they played here. Nadal won their most recent match, in three sets, on clay in Hamburg last summer, and has played better overall since then. But he still isn’t blowing people away, which means that Verdasco should have his chances. We’ll see what, if anything, he can do with them.
Andy Murray (2) vs. Alexander Zverev
On paper, this looks like must-see tennis TV. The 18-year-old Zverev, a former top-ranked junior, has been touted, not without reason, as a future Grand Slam champion. A 6’6” German with an older brother on tour, the kid they call Sascha has already cracked the Top 100, and he has the serve and forehand to go much farther. Plus, he’s a hothead, which should play well in Margaret Court Arena. But while Murray has never faced Zverev, this is just the type of match that he loves to play, and just the type of lesson in professionalism that he loves to give. Murray tied Nick Kyrgios up in knots in Melbourne last year, and you can expect him to do the same to Zverev this time.
Jack Sock (25) vs. Taylor Fritz
U.S. tennis fans will look forward to seeing how Fritz, the country’s next hope, matches up against Sock, its current one.