Day 10 preview: Who will claim a spot in the semis?

  • Alex Sharp

Looking back at the recent Roll of Honour and you have to scroll down to 2009 to see Rafael Nadal’s name as champion.
 
Since then the world No.1 has built his legacy, amassing 19 majors and the Spaniard is certainly in the form to lift another Grand Slam title.

MORE: Day 10 schedule of play
 
On Monday night the top seed nullified the explosive threat of Nick Kyrgios in a corker 6-3 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6(4).

Next in his path, fifth seed Dominic Thiem.
 
The Austrian has incrementally improved in Melbourne, labouring past Australian wildcard Alex Bolt in five sets and being pushed to four by world No.34 Taylor Fritz.
 
However, he brushed Gael Monfils aside in straight sets to book his duel with Nadal. Twelve of their previous battles have been on clay (Rafa leading 9-3), including consecutive Roland Garros finals won by the world No.1.
 
Thiem’s fans can point to their only hard court match. The 26-year-old embroiled Nadal in a sensational contest in the US Open 2018 quarterfinals. The Spaniard just edging the fifth set tie-break and two years on Thiem is a much more accomplished player on hard courts.

“Very tough match. He's playing well. I saw him play today against Gael. He was playing a very high level the tennis,” noted Nadal.

“We know each other well. He's a player that I like him a lot, the way that he work, the way that he plays, and the way that he tries his best always.

“Is a match that going to be a tough one, but will be interesting, no? I am excited to play this quarterfinals against Dominic. I know I have to be at my best to have chances. I think I am moving in the right direction. Every day I'm playing a little bit better.”
 
Thiem sent out a statement with scorching aggression and power to overcome Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back at the ATP Finals in November. If the Austrian dials into that frame of mind, Rod Laver Arena could witness a classic.

MORE: AO2020 men’s draw

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep opens play on Wednesday to tackle the No.28 Anett Kontaveit.
 
The 2018 finalist was sublime in attack and defence in the fourth round to outsmart Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and the Romanian is competing with a smile on her face.

MORE: AO2020 women’s draw
 
“I feel like I played a better match than all the matches since I'm here,” stated the two-time Grand Slam champion.

“I feel happy about that, and I'm trying just to stay focused. I like how I feel.”

Halep’s buzz word is ‘focus’ and she’ll need to stay in the zone to prevail past fierce competitor Kontaveit.

The Estonian has advanced to a maiden major quarterfinal having swatted No.6 seed Belinda Bencic aside 6-0 6-1, and pipping promising Polish teenager Iga Swiatek in a gruelling three-setter.
 
Halep won both their previous matches from 2017, dropping just nine games across the four sets. Kontaveit’s Melbourne form thus far indicates it will be a lot closer this time.

The reinvigorated Garbine Muguruza will hope to prolong her equal-best Australian Open performance by navigating past the incredibly consistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
 
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza, who has taken out top-10 seeds in Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens, will arrive on court with a 4-1 head-to-head record to her name.
 
Saying that, world No.30 Pavlyuchenkova, also a quarterfinalist here in 2017 and 2019, has managed to dispatch second seed Karolina Pliskova and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber this fortnight.

Meanwhile, the victor of the Nadal versus Thiem encounter will meet with Stan Wawrinka or Alexander Zverev.
 
Australian Open 2014 champion Wawrinka has gone under the radar at Melbourne Park but launched into the spotlight on Tuesday by sending US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev home.
 
Twelve sets out of 12 for Zverev, the German has abandoned his serving and confidence conundrums to build some serious momentum in Melbourne.