2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Saturday Night
how to see: 6 to 9 pm Eastern on Tennis Channel and 9 to 7 pm on ESPN2 in the United States; Streaming on ESPN + and ESPN3 app.
When four governing Grand Slam champions appear in a sequence of games, you expect at least one of them to be a clear favorite to advance. In the 16 rounds of the Australian Open on Saturday, it is not so. Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem, Inga Swotek and especially Novak Djokovic all face significant challenges.
Djokovic struggled with an injured side muscle during his third-round win over Taylor Fritz and will need to recover quickly to challenge Milos Raonic. But for others, the threat of elimination is less about their own issues and more about their opponents’ ability to play at higher levels.
Here are some matches to keep an eye on.
Due to the number of matches cycling through the courts, the timing for individual matchups is the best estimate and fluctuations based on when the first game is completed are certain. All times are eastern.
Rod Laver Arena | Saturday at 7 pm
Naomi Osaka vs Garbani Muguruza
Osaka’s control of his third round match against the creative and entertaining Ones Jabre was exemplary. Although Osaka struggled to win points in his second serve, his first serve was enough to earn eight aces during a two-set win.
Garbini Muguruza, a finalist at last year’s Australian Open, has won only 10 games in the round of 16. Muguruza scored early points in each match, using his powerful groundstrokes to score points and create a relatively easy winner.
This matchup between the two hardcourt experts could easily have been a Grand Slam final, and speaks of the quality of tennis being played on the WTA tour. Tonight’s match should be a great rap by the first week of action.
Margaret Court Arena | Friday night at 9 o’clock
Felix Auger-Alisime vs Aslan Karsev
Aslan Kartsev, a qualifier, is playing a draw in a big match for the first time and has not lost a set, even troubling eighth seed Diego Schwartzman. Karbasev’s powerful, well-placed actions have a distinct advantage, forcing his opponents to court fast in Backbone Park.
A 2017 knee injury sidelined him, in 2017 Karatsev was a promising young player. He did not hold the ATP level for three years. After his performance in Australia, Karthsev is guaranteed to be ranked in the top 100, and we will get to see more of the Russians without the need to contend through the qualifying rounds.
In the third round, 20th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliasim finally managed to defeat his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov. Auster-Alisem reached the round of 16 at the US Open before losing to Thier and now aiming to advance to their first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Rod Lover Arena | Saturday night
Dominic Thiem vs Grigor Dimitrov
The third seed, Thiem, came in the third round Friday night against Nick Kyrgios by two sets. Thiam wins United States Open In September and reached the finals of the ATP Finals, finishing their best season on the tour.
The 18th seed and 2017 ATP Finals winner Grigor Dimitrov never reached the final of the Grand Slam tournament. He had a relatively easy run to the round of 16, beating the 2014 US Open champion, Marin Cilic in three sets, playing only seven games in the first seven rounds ahead of his rival Pablo Carreno Busta.
Dimitrov has won most of his matches against Thiem, but the two last faced each other at the 2019 Paris Masters. Although Thiem is now in better form, Dimitrov is well rested and can wear Thiem down with aggressive baseline play.
Rod Laver Arena | Sunday at 3 am
Inga Swotek vs Simona Halep
The 15th seed Swatek won its first Grand Slam title at the French Open in October. At the age of 19, Simona Halep will meet again for the second time at the age of 19. In Paris, Swatek devastated Halep, as he used a variety of powerful rally balls and cleverly used short shots to wander the opponent. This was in stark contrast to their meeting at the French Open in 2019, when Svetek won just one game.
Two-time major champion Hallep was a semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open. His aggressive baseline play favors Hardcore, but not much. Svotek’s mental fortitude and continuity can allow him to stay in the points for a long time even while on the hind legs.
Here are some more matches to keep an eye on.
Hsieh Su-wei vs Marketa Wondrosuva – 7 PM
Arya Sablenka vs Serena Williams – 9 PM
Alexander Zverev vs Dusan Lajovic – 2:30 AM
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic – 5 AM