Aus Open site logo 15-28 Jan 18
Juan Martin del Potro is into the third round Juan Martin del Potro is into the third round

Six juicy matches to watch on Saturday

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Reaching the second week, or fourth round, of a Grand Slam tournament is a coveted milestone. Here are six juicy match-ups on Saturday that will provide a spot in the Sweet 16 for those that win their matches.

No.97 Tennys Sandgren (USA) vs. No.94 Maximilian Marterer (GER)
You are more than likely saying to yourself… “who are these two guys?”
Marterer is a lefty who has previously played one Gram Slam tournament main draw match. Sandgren, a righty, has played two. Sandgren, 26, defeated Jeremy Chardy and Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round in Melbourne. He has rocked 23 aces, while committing just two double faults. Sandgren has amazingly won 19/21 at net, while playing just 14 extended rallies of 9+ shots. He excels in shorter rallies. Marterer, 22, defeated Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Fernando Verdasco to still be alive in the tournament. He has only been broken three times in 37 service games. 

PREDICTION: Flip a coin. Heads for Sandgren. Tails for Marterer.

No.4 Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. No.58 Hyeon Chung (KOR)
Zverev is 20 years old. Chung is 21. Why be a star of the future when you can be a star right now? Chung defeated Zverev 6-1 6-4 in Barcelona last year, and is a better player now. Don’t let their respective rankings fool you - this is a very, very even battle. The big difference is in serve performance. Zverev has crushed 42 aces to reach the third round in Melbourne. Chung has only hit six. It’s a massive difference, but somehow Chung creates advantages in other areas.

PREDICTION: Chung in four sets

Alexander Zverev def. Peter Gojowcyzk match highlights (2R)

Video

No.10 Juan Martin Del Potro vs. No.20 Tomas Berdych
Del Potro is back into the top 10 for the first time since August of 2014. This is the lowest Berdych has been ranked since April 2010. Their paths are crossing in different directions at the moment, and that looks like the correct metaphor for this match as well. Berdych will need to make A LOT of first serves in this match to be a chance. The tournament average is 61 per cent - which is exactly where the Czech is at. Del Potro is at 66 per cent (151/228), which will help him from facing too many critical break points.

PREDICTION: Del Potro in four sets

No.16 Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. No.48 Maria Sharapova (RUS)
These two played each other four times in 2012, but only three times since. Sharapova leads the head-to-head 4-3. Sharapova is back to serving really well, winning 79 per cent (49/62) of first serve points, which is good for third best in the entire tournament. But that number is about to get hammered down, because Kerber just happens to be the tournament leader in first serve return points won, at 58 per cent (34/59). Yin versus yang. Power versus consistency. 

PREDICTION: Kerber in 3 sets

Kerber vs. Sharapova: Former champions go head to head

Video

No.6 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs. No.29 Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Safarova has won more here in Melbourne (12-9), but Pliskova leads their head-to-head 5-1. Both women are yet to drop a set in the opening two rounds, with Pliskova putting up slightly superior return metrics. Pliskova is putting 81 per cent of her returns in play (Safarova 69 per cent), and winning a staggering 76 per cent (34/45) against opponent’s second serves, to be ranked second best for the tournament in this area. Safarova is serving comparatively better, winning 59 per cent of her second serve points (Pliskova 45 per cent). 

PREDICTION: Pliskova in three sets

No.17 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs. No.72 Naomi Osaka (JAP)
Short points are going to greatly outweigh longs points in this match. In the first two rounds, Barty played 267 points in the 0-4 rally length and just 22 in the extended rally length of at least nine shots. Osaka has played 232 points of 0-4 tennis and just eight - repeat eight - points of nine shots or longer. Power is going to trample all over consistency in this one. Barty is the tournament leader in aces hit, with 23, while Osaka is second with 19. 

PREDICTION: Barty in three sets