Preview: Australian Open day eight

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The start of week two at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne sees players vying for a spot in the top eight of the tournament.

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(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

One is a former men’s runner-up at the Australian Open, currently ranked 10th in the world and without a Grand Slam title to his name.

The other, a record-holding 17-time Grand Slam winner described as one of the greatest players of the tennis Open Era.

Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer met last year in the quarter-finals of the French Open, where Tsonga took his second ever win over the Swiss in straight sets.

Tsonga says in his fourth round clash against Federer today he’s out to take revenge for a quarter-finals loss to him in Melbourne Park twelve months ago.

Federer, who is known for his powerful and precise backhand, says he’s feeling good going into the match.

He explained to journalists in Melbourne what’s behind the successful single-handed shot that’s devastated so many of his opponents.

“Clearly it all starts with the footwork. Without footwork you’re not going to be able to hit a backhand, or you’re going to be stretched so much that you’re not going to be able to hit one. So, you’re just going to be able to react. It’s important to set yourself up so that you have multiple options and you’re most dangerous for your opponent. I think it’s important not to always hit it in the same spot. You can disguise it to some degree, but what you want to be able to do is show your opponent that you can hit it all, so that when it gets important he doesn’t know where it’s going to go.”

Also on court today are Bulgaria’s 22nd seed Grigor Dimitrov, who eliminated 11th seed Canadian Milos Raonic to reach the round of 16.

He’ll play unseeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut today.

Britain’s number four seed Andy Murray will go up against lucky loser* Stephane Robert of France for his chance to enter the quarter finals.

And world number one Rafael Nadal of Spain hopes to continue his winning record over Japan’s 16th seed Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

Nadal, who spent part of 2012 and 2013 away from competitive tennis due to illness and injury, says it’s a continuous challenge for players to rank well.

“What makes the mental part very hard is that we play a lot of months and a lot of players are ready to compete well for all [those] months. And that makes the competition very difficult. That makes you play at 100% [between] January to November if you want to keep having chances to be in the top positions of the ranking. But the most important thing is health. The mental part is something you can control. It is in your hands to be well mentally, to be fresh, to be [motivated]. But the injuries is something you cannot control. So, that’s the tougher thing.”

In the women’s draw, anticipating a physically demanding match against her round of 16 opponent is third seed Maria Sharapova.

The Russian four-time Grand Slam champion will play Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova – the two last met at Wimbledon in 2011.

The winner of that match goes into the quarter-finals against either Serbia’s eighth seed Jelena Jankovic or Simona Halep the 11th seed from Romania, who play their fourth round match today.

Also on court will be Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska versus unseeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain – ranked 208th in the world.

But all eyes will be on the match between American Sloane Stephens and defending champion at Melbourne Park, Victoria Azarenka.

The Belarusian was accused of abusing injury rules after she took an extended medical timeout in her semi-finals match against Stephens last year, which she went on to win.

This is their first meeting since, and Azarenka was full of only praise for her opponent in the lead-up.

“Sloane is a great player, a very tough competitor. She has a great record here, and I feel like she improved so much. So, I’m excited about that match. It’s going to be tough. And it only gets tougher from here, every round is more challenging.”

 

 

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