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Three things to look out for on day nine of the Australian Open

| 25.01.2016

It’s crunch time Down Under as the quarter-finals begin at the Australian Open, and some thrilling matches await in both the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Andy Murray and Johanna Konta will be enjoying a well-earned day off after their straight sets victories ensured two Brits will participate in the last eight of a Slam for the first time since 1977.

But while they rest, the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will be going all out for a semi-final spot.

And there’s also the matter of a contest between the first and fifth women’s seeds…

Here’s what to look out for on what could be a dramatic day nine…

Fireworks between Serena and Sharapova

The lingering tension and animosity between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is one of sport’s worst-kept secrets, and fate has decried that last year’s Australian Open finalists must meet once again.

Since battling past Camilla Giorgi in the opening round, Serena has literally steamrolled her way to the quarters, dropping just eight games in her last three matches.

Sharapova dropped a set to Lauren Davis in Round Three and was pushed hard by Belinda Bencic last time out.

The Russian is the outsider here and for good reason. In the 20 meetings between the pair, Williams has won a staggering 18, including each of the last 17 clashes and all of the last six by two sets to love.

Sharapova hasn’t beaten Serena since 2004, and the 28-year-old has taken just three sets off her American rival in those last 17 meetings.

Federer won’t have it easy against Berdych

The one thing missing from Roger Federer’s gigantonormous trophy cabinet is an Olympic gold medal, and aside from Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych is largely responsible for that.

The then-18-year-old Berdych caused a shock in Athens in 2004 when he ditched heavy Gold favourite Federer out of the Olympics in Round Two.

R-Fed won the next eight meetings, but the score is only 7-4 to the Swiss maestro over the last 11 contests, and that shrinks again to 4-3 on hard courts.

Berdych has come through a couple of gutsy encounters against Nick Kyrgios and Roberto Bautista-Agut to reach the quarters, but the Czech is a battler and has a canny record of winning the duo’s last two meetings in Grand Slams…

Nishikori to be on the end of Djokovic backlash

You could be forgiven for not believing the statistic which said Novak Djokovic made over 100 unforced errors in his fourth round five-set win over Gilles Simon.

Nobody will have been more surprised or frustrated by that stat than Djoko himself, and there’s little doubt the Serbian will be more focused and determined than ever to produce a sublime performance against Kei Nishikori.

The Japanese was mightily impressive in dispatching Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three, but this could be the very worst time to play Djokovic, who is unstoppable at his best.

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.