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Day 8 preview: Devil in the detail for Demon, Sinner

  • Gillian Tan

Buckle in for a manic Monday at Melbourne Park, where by day's end, four women and four men will have earned a place in the Australian Open 2022 quarterfinals.

MORE: Day 8 schedule of play

Local hope looks to repel 'immense firepower'

In a match guaranteed to raise the Rod Laver Arena crowd to their feet, Australian 32nd seed Alex de Minaur will be seeking to deal Italy's Jannik Sinner his first defeat of 2022. But the 11th seed holds a 2-0 win-loss record over the 22-year-old De Minaur, nicknamed 'Demon', with both victories arriving on hard courts. 

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

"[It] is going to be a tough one," said Sinner, who dropped a tiebreak set to his Sydney-born rival in their last encounter.

Enjoying a career-best performance at Melbourne Park, De Minaur knows he will need to play aggressive and not reactive tennis to cause an upset. 

"I've hit with him a lot, I've played him, I know what's coming: immense firepower," said the Australian. 

"I'm going to have to be ready to … not get bullied around the court and really take it to him." 

Young players dominate men's line-up 

Joining Next Gen star Sinner on Monday are a slew of players aged 25 or younger. 

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 23, takes a 2-0 head-to-head advantage into his battle with 20th seed Taylor Fritz, 24. 

"Big server, big hitter, he has weapons," said the Greek right-hander of his rival. 

"It will really be all about staying in the present and trying to come up with some creative stuff when there is going to be big hitting from both sides." 

Fritz made his way to the last 16 after outlasting 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut to win in five sets on Saturday.

"I feel like it's not a bad matchup for me at all," said Fritz of Tsitsipas. 

The American will be aiming to add a third win against a top-five opponent by adding Tsitsipas to a list that includes a 2019 win over Dominic Thiem and a victory last year over Alexander Zverev.

Fritz broke new ground at a major by making the final 16

Fans are also in for a treat as second seed Daniil Medvedev, 25, takes on serve-and-volley exponent Maxime Cressy, 24, for the first time. 

The American took out countryman and 22nd seed John Isner in a five-set opening round marathon, en route to reaching a career-first fourth round of a major. 

"I heard he serves pretty well," said Medvedev, who said he'd prepare tactically and mentally to face a new opponent. 

The winner of that match faces either 2018 finalist Marin Cilic or ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime

Cilic, the 27th seed, crashed the youth movement by upsetting fifth seed Andrey Rublev. 

The 33-year-old Croatian holds a 3-0 advantage over the 21 year-old Canadian, most recently claiming a straight-sets win on grass last year. 

"I'm expecting absolutely another difficult challenge ahead," said Cilic, aware of the Canadian's results at the ATP Cup. 

"It's going to come down to who is going to be better [in] those critical points."

Will we get a Swiatek-Sabalenka showdown?

When the women's draw was released, eyes were immediately drawn to a potential clash between seventh seed Iga Swiatek and second seed Aryna Sabalenka. But will they deliver?

The powerful Belarusian has served a tournament-leading 41 double faults and been taken to three sets in each of her first three matches. To reach her maiden quarterfinal berth in Melbourne, Sabalenka must get past dangerous Estonian Kaia Kanepi, who she fell to on Australian soil last year in their only prior meeting. 

MORE: AO 2022 women's singles draw

"I need to … [not] give her so much like opportunities, so I just have to be focused from the beginning," said Sabalenka, adding that she's looking forward to the challenge.

Sabalenka has been up and down en route to the last 16

The in-form 36-year-old Kanepi defeated three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the opening round, and – if she can take out the second-seeded Sabalenka – will punch a ticket to the final eight in Melbourne for the first time, a stage the journeywoman has reached at every other major.

Swiatek, eyeing another Grand Slam to accompany her Roland Garros 2020 title, tackles a resurgent Sorana Cirstea, who eliminated both 20th seed Petra Kvitova and 10th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during the first week. 

It's a first-time meeting between the two, and the Polish 20-year-old, yet to drop a set as she pursues a maiden quarterfinal berth, has said she's targeting a personal best after falling in the round of 16 in 2020 and 2021. But her Romanian opponent, now 31, has a track record of stepping up on a big stage, with top-10 wins against the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur and Kvitova at majors. 

Halep in the hunt

Simona Halep, seeded 14th, has a chance to take one step closer to a first Australian Open title when she takes on Alize Cornet. Surprisingly, the 32-year-old Frenchwoman has a 3-1 win-loss record over the Romanian, though the pair haven't met since 2015. 

"I feel she's kind of back at her best level," Cornet said of Halep, adding that she watched the right-hander win the Melbourne Summer Set 1.

"I followed her for many years; she's a player that I really admire, that I also identify myself a little bit to," admitted Cornet. 

"She has this will and she's such a fighter, the way she plays with [variety]."

The Frenchwoman, who claimed the scalps of third seed Garbine Muguruza and 29th seed Tamara Zidansek to reach the round of 16, said she can see the ambition in Halep's eyes. 

"I think now she's back on track for real … I would not be surprised if she goes very far in the tournament," added Cornet, who has a toolkit to stop Halep in her tracks. 

Fighting for the right to play Halep or Cornet in the quarters is either 27th seed Danielle Collins or 19th seed Elise Mertens, who split their two prior meetings. 

The American, a 2019 semifinalist in Melbourne, won their most recent tussle in Chicago last year.

Mertens, a 2018 Australian Open semifinalist, is seeded third in the women's doubles draw and could potentially face Collins in that competition too if both players' teams make the final four.