MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The quarterfinalists on the bottom half of both men’s and women’s singles draws play at the Australian Open on Tuesday, with plenty of familiar faces and rivalries and minus a few stars.
Here are some things to watch on Rod Laver Arena:
PARISIAN MEMORIES (No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard): Sharapova has beaten Bouchard all three times they’ve played, including twice at the French Open over the past two years. Bouchard took the first set in last year’s semifinal at Roland Garros, but Sharapova came back to beat her and went on to win the title, her fifth Grand Slam singles championship. Bouchard made the semifinals at three Grand Slams last year, including a run to the Wimbledon final. “Last year she had the most consistent in all the Grand Slams,” Sharapova said. “She’s playing really well, confident tennis, aggressive. I have a tough match ahead of me, but I always look forward to that.” Bouchard recalls that semifinal in Paris well: “I kind of just remember a grind, I didn’t feel like I was playing great tennis the whole time. I remember I had chances and stuff, but I was pretty disappointed after. So that’s motivating.”
ROOF RAISER: (No. 6 Andy Murray vs. Nick Kyrgios): If inclement weather should force the roof to be closed on Rod Laver on Tuesday, this match could raise it. Kyrgios, who upset then No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, has developed a reputation for his audacious types of shots and for his crowd interaction — he asked a couple leaving his fourth-round match “where are you going?” when they stood up in the stands. “I definitely believe that I can do it,” the 19-year-old Krygios said. Murray is 10-0 against Australian opponents but bristles at suggestions he might disappoint the Australian crowd on Tuesday if he beats the local hope. “I plan on trying to beat Nick. I’m not planning on trying to break anybody’s hearts,” Murray says. “This is tennis. This is sport.”
OLD MATES (No. 3 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 7 Tomas Berdych): Nadal and Berdych have played each other 21 times dating back to 2005, and Nadal holds an 18-3 edge. However, the last time they played in a Grand Slam tournament was at Melbourne Park in 2012, when Berdych forced Nadal to come back from a set down to beat him in four in the quarterfinals. Berdych’s last win over Nadal came at the Madrid Masters on clay in 2006. Nadal has won their past 17 matches, so will be a big favorite on Tuesday. Berdych is remaining confident. “It’s been a great, great run so far,” Berdych says. “I just put myself in the best possible position right now … I’m going to have to add something extra again.” Nadal thinks the stats should be thrown out the window. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. Is different story this time,” says Nadal, who is still not 100 percent fit from a right wrist injury and appendix surgery in November. “Different moment for me; different moment for him. He’s a player that is top level.”
ON THE CUSP (No. 3 Simona Halep vs. No. 10 Ekaterina Makarova): Halep made the final of last year’s French Open, losing to Sharapova, and improved her ranking steadily from No. 10 to No. 3 by the end of last year. Halep beat Makarova in straight sets — the second in a tiebreaker — in 2013 at New Haven on hard courts in their only meeting. Halep is said to be one player who could threaten for a Grand Slam singles title soon, and Makararova agrees — “She’s one of the greatest players now.” Makarova made the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in 2012 and 2012, losing to Sharapova both times, and the fourth round last year, losing to eventual champion Li Na. Halep is aware of her opponent’s good record here and says “she serves well, moves well, plays aggressive.”
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