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Day 5 men's preview: Seeded showdowns take centre stage

  • Dan Imhoff

Fourth-round berths are on the line with a trio of all-seeded showdowns locked in on Day 5 of Australian Open 2022.

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

Here's our pick of the best clashes in the top half of the men's draw on Friday.

[7] Matteo Berrettini v [31] Carlos Alcaraz

Head-to-head: Alcaraz leads 1-0

Upset stomach settled, seventh seed Berrettini conceded his energy levels were not yet replenished despite his four-set triumph over American wildcard Stefan Kozlov in the second round.

MORE: Day 5 schedule of play

They would need to be in time for his next outing against Spanish dynamo Alcaraz.

Berrettini reached Slam quarterfinals either side of his maiden run to the Wimbledon final last season, but the fast-rising Alcaraz stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his first major quarterfinal in New York.

The youngest man to be seeded at a major since Michael Chang at the 1990 US Open, Alcaraz has added bulk to his 18-year-old frame in an extended off-season and since the pair's only previous showdown.

That went the way of the teenager in a third-set tiebreak in Vienna last October.

Alcaraz has looked bigger - and better - so far in Melbourne

"It was a really close match. I mean, I know the way that Matteo is playing," Alcaraz said. 

"I know that it's gonna be a really good and tough match against him ... I think I grew up since that match … He's one of the best servers of the tour. (It) is tough to return his serve, but I have to be focused on that."

[6] Rafael Nadal v [28] Karen Khachanov

Head-to-head: Nadal leads 7-0

Alcaraz's idol Nadal, the standard-bearer of Spanish men's tennis, continues his pursuit of a 21st major when he meets 28th seed Khachanov on Friday.

The sixth seed warmed up with his 89th title in Melbourne leading in – just his second trophy on Aussie soil – in his first tour event since August, while Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Khachanov reached the Adelaide final.

Khachanov was in with a shout the last time the pair met in the third round of a Slam, in a 5-7 7-5 7-6(7) 7-6(3) defeat at the 2018 US Open, but has not passed that stage of a hard-court major.

Nadal has fallen before the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park just once since 2007 and holds a 7-0 record against the Russian, including 16 of their 17 sets played.

"I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the fact that I'm going to be playing in a third round for one more time here after all the things I am going through," Nadal said. 

"I don't have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don't feel it. 

"The pressure is only to stay healthy and to enjoy the fact that I am competing again … Always is a big challenge against Karen. In my situation today, (it's) going to be even more."

[14] Denis Shapovalov v [23] Reilly Opelka

Head-to-head: First meeting (Shapovalov leads 1-0 in qualifying, Challenger and Futures matches)

Wins haven't come easy for swashbuckling 14th seed Shapovalov, following his breakout run to a Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon last year.

But after claiming three of four matches to help Canada to its maiden ATP Cup title in Sydney leading in, the 22-year-old restored some much-needed self-belief heading into his fifth Australian Open.

He has needed it, too, first in a four-set victory over Laslo Djere, before a four-hour, 25-minute marathon against Soonwoo Kwon to set a showdown with 211cm American Opelka. 

Opelka's run has come in stark contrast – straight-sets victories over former world No.5 Kevin Anderson and German Dominik Koepfer.

The only prior time the pair met, Shapovalov prevailed in a third-set tiebreak in Queen's Club qualifying, but that came four-and-a-half years ago.

"It's going to be tricky," Shapovalov said of facing the recent Sydney Tennis Classic semifinalist. 

"He's a big guy, obviously (a) big server, so it's going to be a lot of guessing from my end and just kind of trying to take my opportunities when I get them."