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Day 5 preview: Swiatek seeking to make amends

  • Gill Tan

The last time Iga Swiatek and Danielle Collins faced off at Melbourne Park, a berth in the Australian Open 2022 final was on the line.

Playing some of the best tennis of her career and, in her own words, "in the zone", the American secured a 6-4 6-1 upset over the then world No.9 to reach her first – and so far only – Grand Slam final.

MORE: Day 5 schedule of play

On Thursday, they’ll once again stride through the Walk of Champions at Rod Laver Arena – a fitting stage for their blockbuster second round.

Collins was too good for Swiatek when the pair met in Melbourne two years ago

Poland's Swiatek, who is on a 17-match winning streak and hunting for a fifth major title this fortnight, is well aware of the threat that her opponent poses.

BONUS: Download your copy of the Australian Open 2024 Official Program

“I can't say that I have easy draw here,” the top seed said after surviving a tricky opening round match against AO 2020 champion Sofia Kenin.

MORE: Swiatek defies Kenin to battle into second round

“Danielle is a really good player. We [have] played really tight matches,” added Swiatek, before admitting she had their last bout – a 6-1 6-0 trouncing at the Cincinnati Masters last August – decidedly “under control”.

“Every match is different, I'm not going to anticipate anything -- I'm just going to be ready and we'll see.

MORE: AO 2024 women's singles draw

“[It] doesn’t matter who I’m playing against – tennis is a pretty tricky sport where with these draws, you can play former champions, former world No.1s, really experienced players. You never know who it’s going to be, you have to be ready no matter what.”

Collins, currently ranked world No.62, is equally prepared for the duel.

“Iga’s game speaks for itself, she kind of has all the tools, her athletic ability and talent – it’s hard for everyone," said the Florida resident, who spent time during the off-season in Las Vegas, Portugal and London, where she practiced at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

“Hopefully I can have one of my best days on court – [against] the best players, you have to bring your best."

Later at Rod Laver Arena, two-time major champion and second seed Carlos Alcaraz is aiming to capture his first victory over Lorenzo Sonego after losing to the Italian in straight sets at the Cincinnati Masters in 2021.

MORE: Alcaraz accelerates to the finish against Gasquet

“He was really young, he's different now,” said the 28-year-old Sonego, recognising the improvements in the Spaniard’s game since that meeting.

“He's another player, he's aggressive on court … he has good touch, good volley[s], good return[s]."

Alcaraz was imposing once he found his range in the first round

A pair of Grand Slam champions headline the night session at Rod Laver Arena.

First up, AO 2023 finalist Elena Rybakina takes on Anna Blinkova, before two-time AO finalist Daniil Medvedev meets Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori.

MORE: Rybakina bends, but doesn’t break against Pliskova

In other much-anticipated matches in the women’s draw, fifth seed Jessica Pegula and France’s Clara Burel take to Margaret Court Arena for a career-first meeting, where two-time AO champion Victoria Azarenka later battles 21-year-old Dane Clara Tauson, who she described as a “very dangerous player”.

In the men’s draw, eighth seed Holger Rune tackles France’s Arthur Cazaux for the first time, while 11th seed Casper Ruud seeks to avenge his three-set loss to Max Purcell in Cincinnati last year.

"We know each other well, we are the same age, we grew up playing juniors, traveling around at the same time, same places," the top Norwegian said of his Australian rival.

"He [has] an interesting play style ... he has a really good serve, he mixes it up really well, [and] that was kind of what caught me a little bit off guard.

MORE: AO 2024 men's singles draw

"I didn't remember how good his serve was, but certainly do now, [he] plays well behind it, he comes to the net, rushes you and plays very different[ly] to what you're expecting in a way in this modern tennis.

"I'm going to try to do my best to get my revenge. He's going to obviously try to get another win here in Australia. It's going to be hopefully a good and tough match."

Ruud dropped just five games in his opening-round victory

John Cain Arena features mouth-watering match-ups, including a couple that are guaranteed to lure fans donned in green and gold.

Grigor Dimitrov, the men's 13th seed, and Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis clash for a place in the round of 32, before compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic and 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko take centre-stage.

MORE: Kokkinakis scores biggest AO singles win in nine years

The big-hitting Latvian, who is brimming with confidence after earning the seventh title of her career at the Adelaide International earlier this month, has a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Tomljanovic, but the Aussie is pumped for the challenge.

“She's a great player, [so] I'm definitely the underdog. I love that,” said the 30-year-old. “I'm excited … we’re both going to be competitive, that's for sure.”