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Day 6: Three to see at AO 2023

  • Gill Tan

As the third round continues, once again we pick three must-see matches for Saturday at AO 2023. 

MORE: Day 6 schedule of play

Andy Murray v (24) Roberto Bautista Agut

Head-to-head: 3-3

A fourth round berth is on the line as these marathon men meet in a rematch of their 2019 epic at Melbourne Park.

Four years ago, the Spaniard was seeded 22nd and prevailed 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2 in a first round match that Murray thought could be the last of his career.

Fast forward to 2023, the Scot has fought hard to earn big-time wins that have been scarce since he returned to competition, metal hip in tow.

But Bautista Agut, seeded 24th, will use his relative freshness to his advantage in his seventh clash against the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Despite being extended to five sets by qualifier Brandon Holt in the second round, he has spent just 4 hours and 47 minutes on court thus far.

That's almost an hour less than the heroic five-set comeback staged by Murray against Thanasi Kokkinakis, the longest match of the Scot's career.

His improbable five-set, match point-saving effort against Matteo Berrettini in the opening round is so far the second-longest match of the tournament – and as a result, Murray has already clocked in 10 hours and 34 minutes of battle time.

Andy Murray’s heroic victory: by the numbers

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

"I'm happy for him that he's in good shape, he is winning good matches, and he is enjoying the court again," said the Spaniard, adding that he's looking forward to the contest.

The 34-year-old Bautista Agut, like the rest of us, watched the titanic Murray-Berrettini encounter. "He is playing well...he looks fit, he is a good fighter, he loves the game."

The world no.25 had a string of wins in Adelaide, upsetting Andrey Rublev in the first tournament and finishing as runner-up at the second.

Roberto Bautista Agut (Getty Images)

The right-hander rates his chances against Murray, a five-time AO finalist, perhaps because he has been victorious in all three of their most recent bouts, dropping only six games in a pair of straight-sets wins on hard courts last year in Doha and Basel.

"I think I improved my game during the years, and also I'm [a] better player than when I played at the first times against him," he said.

(5) Aryna Sabalenka v (26) Elise Mertens 

Head-to-head: 6-2

There are no secrets between these former doubles partners as they prepare to meet for a ninth time.

Fifth seeded Sabalenka has triumphed the last five, meaning she hasn't experienced a loss to the Belgian since 2018.

If her booming serve is on target, as it has been this week, she'll earn a place in the final 16 for a third consecutive year.

"I'm just super happy right now that everything is working," said the 24-year-old, while knocking on wood.

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's singles

"I did I think almost everything to try to fix my serve…the whole year we were trying different things mentally, mental stuff, technique, technical, trying to breathe differently," explained the powerful ball-striker, who dubbed herself the "queen of double faults" during her challenging 2022 season.

But 26th seeded Mertens, a semifinalist in 2018, is pursuing her own path, which could lead to a fourth straight appearance in the fourth round.

The 27-year-old's belief in her own game has enabled her to hit more freely while competing.

"I try to enjoy the game a little bit more than I used to. I think when I was a little bit younger, it was quite stress," said the Belgian. "Now I have a little bit of experience I try to trust myself and what I can do."

While aware that an upset over Sabalenka, who she teamed up with to win the AO 2021 and 2019 US Open doubles titles, will not come easy, Mertens plans to leave everything on the line.

"It's definitely going to be a tough round. She just won Adelaide, so she's kind of on fire and has a lot of confidence. I think I can be good too, I try to do my best, and, of course, she's very powerful, but I try to take every opportunity as I can."

Camila Giorgi v (12) Belinda Bencic

Head-to-head: 2-3

This powerful duo hasn't faced off since 2019, and we can't wait to see how this match-up has morphed following developments in both their games.

Thanks to a seventh career title in Adelaide last week, 12th-seeded Bencic is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2021. Armed with confidence after her gold medal performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics among other memorable wins, the Swiss 25-year-old will believe in her ability to conquer her elder Italian opponent.

But Giorgi, a 31-year-old journeywoman who is chasing her first fourth-round appearance in Melbourne in 11 attempts, is dangerous in any draw.

In her first look at Rod Laver Arena this year, the right-hander, ranked No.70, will relish the big occasion. After all, she's made slaying seeds at Grand Slams somewhat of a regularity. 

Among her conquests are Aryna Sabalenka at Roland Garros 2022, Flavia Pennetta at AO 2015 and Caroline Wozniacki at the 2013 US Open.