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Men's Day 7 preview: Sinner's second chance to stop Tsitsipas

  • Gill Tan

A stellar Sunday line-up beckons, and only four can make it through to the Australian Open 2023 men's singles quarterfinals. 

MORE: Day 7 schedule of play

Here's what to expect. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas [3] v Jannik Sinner [15]

Head to head: 4-1

These rivals are readying for only their second match on a hard court since Tsitsipas smoked Sinner 6-3 6-4 6-2 in last year's Melbourne Park quarterfinals.

"I couldn't generate the power that I would have wanted … it was a lesson," said the disappointed Italian after that loss. 

"He served better, he moved the ball better than me, he was moving better than me ... I was trying to move him, but I was maybe a little bit too far back." 

Rewind 12 months to AO 2022, and Tsitsipas left Sinner searching for answers

The sturdy right-hander didn't impose himself enough to generate a single break point. 

"My return games were not that good, especially when he had second serves … I know what I have to improve," Sinner admitted last January.

Twelve months on, the 21-year-old has refined his return game, and it's among the best of his peers in the round of 16. The agile youngster has made 78 per cent of first-serve returns, is winning 60 per cent of points on his opponents' second serve, and has converted a stunning 22 of 29 break points.

"I'm looking forward always [to] these kind of matches, knowing that he is one of the best players in the world," said Sinner. "This is what I practice for."

The Italian has an added reason to back himself if the match goes the distance: he earned his first comeback from two-sets-to-love on Friday against Marton Fucsovics.

Still, Tsitsipas, the world No.4, is a class above Sinner's recent prey. The popular Greek exuded confidence ahead of the clash, and has enhanced his own game over the past year.

"I have big weapons. I can, I think, generate even more power now than I did before, I can take the ball early, I have a lot of options out there," Tsitsipas said.

After early exits by the top two seeds, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, Tsitsipas is in new territory. On paper, the three-time semifinalist, unbeaten this year, is projected to reach his first AO final.

But the philosophical 24-year-old knows that can't happen unless he seizes the moment. 

"It's always up to me … I never wait for the opponent to do something, to give me something," said Tsitsipas.

"You should be going after it, you should be creating those opportunities, and aiming big within yourself, sometimes surpass[ing] your own abilities. That is something that I enjoy. When I see myself getting beyond that, it is a very beautiful feeling."

MORE: Day 7 women's singles preview

Jiri Lehecka v Felix Auger-Aliassime [6]

Head-to-head: 0-0

Ate age 21, Lehecka is peaking. In his second AO appearance, he's been on a seed-stopping spree. Upsets over 21st seed Borna Coric and 11th seed Cam Norrie made Lehecka just the 11th Czech man to reach the round of 16 in Melbourne, and he won't want to stop here.

His Canadian adversary has been vulnerable in every round thus far – dropping sets to countryman Vasek Pospisil and Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, and climbing out of a two-sets-to-love deficit for only the second time in his career against Alex Molcan. 

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

But Auger-Aliassime posted a tour-leading 45 wins on hard court last year, and at 22, could still very well become the youngest AO champion since a 20-year-old Novak Djokovic broke through in 2008.

Auger-Aliassime's run to the fourth round hasn't been plain sailing (Getty Images)
Hubert Hurkacz [10] v Sebastian Korda [29]

Head-to-head: 1-0

Hurkacz, the Polish 25-year-old, is attempting to become the first player from his European nation to reach the final eight Down Under. The 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist, perhaps best known for defeating eight-time champion Roger Federer on the hallowed lawns, has a breadth of Grand Slam experience compared to 22-year-old Korda, but should be wary of the American young gun.

Under the Friday night lights, the lean right-hander scored his first top 10 win at a major with a resounding straight-sets upset of two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev. The son of AO 1998 champion Petr Korda was in touching distance of a quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon 2021, but it will be even more poetic if he earns a final-eight debut in Melbourne.

Hurkacz could create history for Poland in Australia on Sunday (Getty Images)
Yoshihito Nishioka [31] v Karen Khachanov [18]

Head-to-head: 1-2

As far as 2023 goals go, the Japanese 27-year-old is doing better than the rest of us: he made his debut in the last 16 at a major. Helpfully, Nishioka knows he has the weapons to go even further, thanks to a 7-6(2) 7-6(1) career-first win over Khachanov at last August's Citi Open.

At 170cm, Nishioka is unperturbed by Khachanov's height advantage of 28cm, or the 26-year-old's big serve and booming forehand. "For sure [he's] going to try to overpower me, so [the] important thing is how much I can pressure [him]," said Nishioka.

But Khachanov, who has never featured in the final eight in Melbourne, is chasing his own piece of history. 

Saving six set points in a gutsy upset over fellow US Open semifinalist Frances Tiafoe provides the statuesque right-hander with increased reason to believe.