Big names, and up-and-comers matched up on the mens draw, and a series of upsets in the women’s draw in Round 2, sets the stage for a huge Round 3.
Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it? After a relatively quiet first round, days three and four at the Australian Open provided a swarm of upsets to kick the tournament into full gear. The women’s draw proved particularly treacherous for the big names, with world no. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza, world no. 6 Anna Kontaveit, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and US Open champion Emma Raducanu all falling by the wayside. Making for an exciting Round 3, in Australia.
The men’s side didn’t see quite the level of unpredictability, though two top 15 seeds in Hubert Hurkacz and Diego Schwartzman both saw their campaigns end prematurely. Round 3 is often when the tournament really kicks into gear, as seeded players begin to square off with one another and the later rounds begin to take shape.
Here are the best clashes to look out for in the third round of the Australian Open:
AZARENKA VS SVITOLINA
A lot of the blockbuster matchups in Round 3 on the women’s side were snuffed out due to a rush of second-round upsets, but this clash survived and on paper, it could be a doozy. Two women with very different careers face off in a match that both will feel they need to win.
Azarenka is seven years removed from her last major triumph, after going back-to-back at Melbourne Park in 2012-13, but the 32-year-old has mounted a serious late-career charge, coming remarkably close to adding to her grand slam tally with a US Open final appearance in 2020. We don’t know how long she intends to stick around for, but an in-form Vika is a threat at any tournament, against any player.
Svitolina, on the other hand, is somehow still chasing her first major crown, despite having been firmly in the mix for the better part of half a decade. It might be the case that one can only suffer so many backbreaking losses deep in big tournaments before the baggage becomes to much to overcome mentally, so every major tournament feels of paramount importance for the now 27-year-old.
This is a match that you could easily imagine seeing at the semifinal stage of a tournament with a different draw. Instead, it will happen on Round 3, so buckle in a expect a match of immense quality, and tension, with both women in the position where a win is of particular importance given where they are at in their respective careers.
BERRETTINI VS ALCARAZ
Is it really an upset if everyone is picking it as their upset? Put the seeding aside here, if the form book is anything to go by, then 18-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz should be able to take care of business against Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, who has looked incredibly unsteady at best in back-to-back grinding four-set wins over Brandon Nakashima and qualifier Stefan Kozlov.
Yet the experience is clearly on the side of the ‘Italian Hammer’; he’s the man with multiple deep major runs until his belt and while he hasn’t looked anything close to his best thus far, he has at the very least proven the ability to gut through the tough moments. Aside from Alcaraz’s marathon breakthrough win against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open last year, big matches in major tournaments are still a fairly new concept to the Spaniard.
Berrettini cannot continue to play at the level he has and expect to win, Alcaraz is simply too powerful and his backhand too consistent for the six seed to get away with the level he has to this point. But the coronation of Alcaraz as the next big thing will be seriously under the microscope in this match. If he handles Berrettini’s thundering serve and forehand and comes out unscathed? It’s full steam ahead on the Carlitos hype train. If Berrettini can take him out? Maybe it’s time to pump the brakes just a smidge.
NADAL VS KHACHANOV
The man with maybe the most eyes on him of any player in the men’s draw takes on his first real test of the tournament. 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal has done exactly what he has done in major tournaments for the better part of the past two decades so far this week; take care of business with minimal fuss.
It’s been six’s across the board so far for the 2009 Australian Open champion, through two comfortable wins against unseeded foe’s Marcus Giron and Yannick Hanfmann, and while his form has been incredibly solid, we have yet to see him be physically tested with anything resembling an extended match.
That could (notice the italics) change here against an in-form Karen Khachanov, a man who has seen his reputation drop pretty sizably in the past two years, but has proven in the past that he can be a tricky customer when his bludgeoning groundstrokes are finding the lines. The Russian has looked in fine form of his own through two rounds in two routine wins over unseeded opponents, which is a great sign for the notoriously streaky Olympic silver medalist and former Paris Masters champion.
This match likely hinges a lot on the first set; Khachanov’s game is all about confidence, if he can come out firing and snag a cheap first set, watch out. If not, it’s likely another straight-set win for the Spanish legend, who will have plenty more obstacles awaiting him down the line.
If Round 3 is as exciting as the second round was, tennis fans around the world will be in for a treat.