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Australian Open 2014: Most Compelling Matchups Set for Day 8 in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Roger Federer of Switzerland and  Jo-Wilfred Tsonga of France shake hands after Federer won their Quarterfinal match during day ten of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2014

After Ana Ivanovic knocked off Serena Williams, it's clear anyone can lose at the 2014 Australian Open. Some interesting matches are set for Day 8 in Melbourne, and Williams probably won't be the only top player to bow out early.

Many of the world's most recognizable players will take the court on Monday, Jan. 20, including Victoria Azarenka (No. 2), Maria Sharapova (No. 3), Rafael Nadal (No. 1), Andy Murray (No. 4) and Roger Federer (No. 6). 

Here's a look at the schedule for Day 8, followed by a closer examination of a few intriguing matches that could go either way. 

CourtTime (Local)Matchup
Rod Laver Arena11 a.m. (First)No. 3 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova
Rod Laver Arena11 a.m. (Second)No. 2 Victoria Azarenka vs. No. 13 Sloane Stephens
Rod Laver Arena11 a.m. (Third)No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 16 Kei Nishikori
Hisense Arena1 p.m.No. 8 Jelena Jankovic vs. No. 11 Simona Halep
Margaret Court Arena1 p.m.No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
Hisense Arena4:30 p.m.No. 4 Andy Murray vs. Stephane Robert
Rod Laver Arena7 p.m. (First)No. 6 Roger Federer vs. No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Rod Laver Arena7 p.m. (Second)No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Garbine Muguruza
AusOpen.com

  

No. 2 Victoria Azarenka vs. No. 13 Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens will be looking for revenge against Azarenka, who beat the American in the semifinals a year ago. She had the lead but ended up falling after Azarenka took a controversial medical timeout.

That said, Stephens refuses to let last year's frustrations stand in the way of the task at hand. "Last year has nothing to do with this year," she said, as noted by ESPN.com. "It's a new match."

She'll need every ounce of concentration and every shred of skill to beat Azarenka, who barely broke a sweat while pulverizing Yvonne Meusburger 6-1, 6-0 in Round 3.

 

No. 8 Jelena Jankovic vs. No. 11 Simona Halep

This is going to be a competitive match because Jelana Jankovic and Simona Halep compare favorably to each other, as their rankings indicate.

They have faced off three times in the past, with Halep taking the 2-1 series lead. However, it's worth noting that both of her wins came on clay surfaces, while Jankovic won their only hard-court match—at the 2010 U.S. Open, no less.

In all three matches, these two tough competitors have taken each other to the limit, as tennis fan James Peeling pointed out:

It's tough to pick a winner, but Hannah Wilks of LiveTennis.com made a case for taking Halep in this one:

Halep has looked in stronger form than Jankovic, particularly in the last round, with the Serb making heavy weather of her defeat of Nara. It’s certain to be a tight match, but Halep is playing with such confidence these days and if she can play with measured aggression she could well edge the more experienced Jankovic.

 

No. 6 Roger Federer vs. No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Nobody should be surprised if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes down Federer in this one.

While few would ever besmirch Federer's place as one of the all-time greats in tennis history, there's no doubt his skills have declined in recent years. Meanwhile, Tsonga—in the prime of his career at the age of 28—has improved his game over the same period of time.

So, while Federer's 9-4 overall record against Tsonga may appear to make him the favorite (along with his higher world ranking), Tsonga's 2-1 record in recent matches should give you pause about taking the Swiss legend to win. 

The talented Frenchman took Federer to five sets in the quarterfinals of last year's Australian Open in a losing cause, and he appears poised to take the win in the rematch on Monday. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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