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Day 5 women's preview: Blockbusters abound in round three

  • Ravi Ubha

The third round at Grand Slams marks the first time seeds can face off — and superb matchups feature on Friday in the top half of the women's draw. 

MORE: AO 2022 women's singles draw

A four-time Grand Slam winner meets a Grand Slam semifinalist, the world No.1 battles a ferocious hitter who won a prestigious title last year, and a two-time Grand Slam champ battles a double major semifinalist. 

MORE: Day 5 schedule of play

Oh, did we mention that two French Open champions collide?  

Here's a closer look. 

[13] Naomi Osaka vs Amanda Anisimova

Head-to-head: First meeting 

Anisimova couldn't help but notice the similarity between herself and Osaka.

"I think that our personalities are a little bit similar in terms of composure and trying to be the quiet players on tour," the 20-year-old said to reporters with a smile after defeating Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic. 

Quiet players who mix power and precision. 

Few wouldn't be uplifted to see the rejuvenated Anisimova, whose father died in 2019. Only months earlier, the American with Russian ties reached the semifinals at the French Open. From a high of 21 in late 2019, her ranking dropped to No.86 last August. 

"It's really nice to see her around, because I heard of her story and what happened to her, so it's really good, like she's pushing through it," Osaka said. 

The twice Australian Open champion — who has lost four in a row versus Bencic — admitted she returned to the tour earlier than expected after taking a break from tennis after the US Open. 

Osaka has packed a punch in her first two victories

Andy Murray gave a shout out to Osaka this week, while the Japanese megastar said she has enjoyed watching Nick Kyrgios and Carlos Alcaraz. 

Both Anisimova and Osaka are unbeaten in 2022, with the latter pulling out of her semifinal at Melbourne Summer Set 1 with an abdominal injury. 

Anisimova claimed her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2, producing a sizzling comeback against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the final that included a phenomenal spell of seven winners in eight points. Osaka-esque. 

[1] Ash Barty vs [30] Camila Giorgi

Head-to-head: Barty leads 3-0

Like Anisimova and Osaka, home favourite Barty holds an unblemished record this season, even claiming her last 12 sets.

She raced through two rounds, surrendering three games total and spending fewer than two hours on court so far at AO 2022. The world No.1 should have plenty in the tank. 

Barty's latest demolition job came against Lucia Bronzetti, and the top seed meets another Italian in No. 30 seed Giorgi — speaking of quiet, mammoth hitters. 

"She has the ability to hold baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return," Barty, who required three sets to see off Giorgi at Melbourne Park in 2018, said. 

"It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening.

"I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges."

Challenges, of course, for Giorgi, too. But if she needs confidence, Giorgi, now 30, might reflect on Canada's National Bank Open last August. 

Giorgi overcame six top-40 foes, including Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and the player Barty toppled in last year's Wimbledon final, Karolina Pliskova. 

If the seedings hold, get ready for a Barty-Osaka blockbuster in the round of 16. 

[24] Victoria Azarenka vs [15] Elina Svitolina

Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 4-0

Expect both Azarenka and Svitolina to be more demonstrative, with fist pumps and a "come on" or two sure to surface. 

Their head-to-head record suggests Azarenka — the last back-to-back women's winner at the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013 — has had more reason to celebrate. 

The two know each other well, practising together and occasionally lining up in doubles. 

"I think there won't be too many big surprises on the court," Azarenka said. 

"However, she's an amazing fighter. She fights no matter what. I think that is a very important quality in her game. 

"The rest is about trying to really focus on myself to be more in charge, be more in control. I think that's what I've been kind of trying to implement for the last few months."

Svitolina's impressive résumé includes a title at the year-end championships. A maiden Grand Slam final awaits, though topping Azarenka would prove a significant boost in her quest.  

The Ukrainian is bound to be feeling good in at least one way — hubby Gael Monfils is enjoying one of his best ever starts to a season. 

Friday's match-up will offer few surprises for both Svitolina and Azarenka

"For me, will be important to bring my best game to the next match, try to work on few tactical things with my coach," Svitolina said. 

"For me it's important just to be mentally fresh and to be ready for the big fight."

[4] Barbora Krejcikova vs [26] Jelena Ostapenko

Head-to-head: Ostapenko leads 2-1

Krejcikova is the reigning French Open champion, while Ostapenko blasted her way to the crown in 2017. 

But making the third round in Melbourne marks a first for singles and doubles threat Krejcikova, with Ostapenko returning to this stage for the first time since 2018. 

Krejcikova has already broken new ground in Melbourne

Their path to the last 32 couldn't have been more different. Ostapenko needed three sets in the first two rounds – "roller-coaster" continues to be an apt description of her matches – with Krejcikova only giving away seven games. 

Krejcikova, the world No.4, beat Ostapenko 6-3 6-1 last year in Dubai, the tournament that truly began her singles ascent. 

"I know her since juniors so I know how she's playing," Krejcikova said. 

"We have to figure out with my coach the best way how to play against her and how to beat her.

"I believe it will work out for me and that I'm gonna have a good match."