Three to See, Day 9: Serena v Halep, Osaka v Hsieh, Djokovic v Zverev

Three to See, Day 9: Serena v Halep, Osaka v Hsieh, Djokovic v Zverev

What matters more, the overall head-to-head record between two players, or the result of their most recent meeting?

Before each day's play at the 2021 Australian Open, we'll preview three must-see matches.


Naomi Osaka vs. Hsieh Su-wei

When an on-court interviewer reminded Osaka who she would be playing in the quarterfinals, she made a face. No wonder: She and Hsieh have played four times at the WTA level, and three of those matches have gone the distance.

While Osaka is 3-1 in them, she nearly lost the third-rounder they played here in 2019. It isn’t just that those matches were close, though; it’s the nature of her opponent’s game that worries Osaka. Of all the tricky, deceptive, and frustrating players to play, Hsieh may be the trickiest, the most deceptive, and the most frustrating. She’s 35, she’s slight, she walks softly between points, and she barely seems to move her feet or use any energy during them. Then you look up and the ball is flying past you, in a direction you never thought it could go.

Osaka will likely need some time to figure out how to seize control of the rallies and keep Hsieh from weaving her web. But based on her recent, perfect results, she will. Winner: Osaka

UPDATE: Osaka wins, 6-2, 6-2


Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep

What matters more, the overall head-to-head record between two players, or the result of their most recent meeting? If it’s the former, then Serena is the clear favorite here: She’s 9-2 against Halep. If it’s the latter, you have to like Halep’s chances; the last time they played, in the Wimbledon final in 2019, she won 6-2, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

How about their current form? That’s a toss-up. In the fourth round, Serena and Halep both adjusted their games and found their way through difficult opponents, 6-4 in the third set. The fact that each of these veteran champions suffered through a bad patch of play and survived should give them confidence that they can do the same again, which means we could be looking at a three-setter. That’s what happened the last time they faced each other in Melbourne, and Serena won. Winner: Williams

UPDATE: Williams wins, 6-3, 6-3


Novak Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev

When Djokovic faced, and edged, Zverev at the ATP Cup two weeks ago, I wondered if it might be a preview of bigger occasions to come. Zverev seemed to be in form to start the season, and we all knew Djokovic would be hanging around in the second week at the Australian Open.

After an injury scare two rounds ago against Taylor Fritz, Djokovic has arrived in the quarters seemingly intact. We may not know for the rest of this event exactly what he’s feeling, but that shouldn’t change Zverev’s mindset. He’ll have to play the match of his life to win. He has beaten Djokovic twice in seven tries, but doing it in best-of-five, in Rod Laver Arena, is the second-toughest task in the men’s game today. Winner: Djokovic