Five matches to watch on Day 5 of AO 2021

  • Gillian Tan

The biggest match of Australian Open 2021 beckons for the night session but there are plenty of tasty treats on Friday's tennis menu. Here is our pick of the best.

Dominic Thiem [3] v Nick Kyrgios

Clear your schedule – you’ll want to catch this. The most anticipated match of Australian Open 2021 so far, this hard-hitting duo haven’t collided since their only meeting in 2015, when Kyrgios retired with an elbow injury. The Aussie, who lives for big-stage battles and boasts career wins over the Big Three, is eyeing his first top 10 scalp since his victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas at last year’s ATP Cup. Tennis enthusiasts are keen to witness how the ever-sturdy Thiem, a finalist in Melbourne in 2020, fares against the barrage of big serves, drop shots and highlights-reel trickery that has won Kyrgios fans the world over. The Austrian dropped serve three times in his first two matches and needs to keep windows of opportunity firmly shut to avoid being bounced by the Canberra-born 25 year-old, who’ll draw on inspiration from a roaring, appreciative home crowd on John Cain Arena which is already sold out.

MORE: Day 5 schedule of play

F_Thiem_day 3_10022021_03
Can Dominic Thiem quell the Kyrgios fire on Friday night?

Ons Jabeur [27] v Naomi Osaka [3]

Tennis fans have had their fingers crossed for this first-time encounter since the moment the AO 2021 draw was unveiled last week. Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne last year, has soared to a career-high ranking of No. 30. She’s searching for her first top 10 win since defeating Karolina Pliskova in Qatar last February but Osaka won’t be easily foiled. The Japanese star, who won her second major here in 2019, is tough to beat on a hardcourt. The third seed is on a 16-match unbeaten streak and needed less than 70 minutes to record wins over both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Caroline Garcia earlier this week.

Novak Djokovic [1] v Taylor Fritz [27]

Rarely beaten in Melbourne, the eight-time champion is eyeing continued dominance on Rod Laver Arena, a court the Serb has said feels like his living room. Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set to 23 year-old Fritz, a decade his junior, in two prior meetings. Still, the American is eager to reach a career-first Grand Slam fourth round, but it’ll require breaking his drought against World No. 1s – he’s suffered losses to Djokovic, Federer and Nadal when each was atop the sport. Fritz has saved a whopping 25 of 30 break points already so far at AO 2021 and will require steadfast resilience to stop Djokovic who’s on a mission to capture a record-breaking ninth title this fortnight.

Anastasia Potapova v Serena Williams [10]

Potapova wasn’t yet born when Williams earned her first major title at the 1999 US Open. In a rematch of a first round AO 2020 tussle, the Russian is looking to notch more than three games. A year on, the 19 year-old is more assured and likely brimming with self-belief after eliminating 24th seed Alison Riske 6-2 6-1 in the opening round and delivering a similarly commanding performance to dismiss Hungarian Timea Babos on Wednesday. But Williams, the American seven-time champion hunting her 24th major, is showing no signs of weakness. The 39 year-old has dropped just five games so far and has won a remarkable 83% of first-serve points.

t_080221_serenawilliams__presser_day1_44.jpg
Serena Williams looks every inch the unstoppable queen of AO2021

Denis Shapovalov [11] v Felix Auger-Aliassime [20]

A clash of countrymen. The Canadians have already faced off three times in their young careers, and it’s the left-handed Shapovalov who has a 2-1 advantage thanks to a straight sets victory at the 2019 US Open. But a rising Auger-Aliassime has gained precious experience and is in form, reaching the Murray River Open final last week after a solid 2020 season during in which he posted a memorable win over Andy Murray in New York.

MORE: Go Canada: Young guns, elder statesmen fly the flag

Shapovalov, aiming to reach the last 16 here for the first time, enters this contest brimming with confidence after surviving a five-set thriller over Jannik Sinner and a straight sets defeat of Bernard Tomic in his first two rounds.