Stay tuned to Nick's Pick throughout the 2010 Australian Open for in-depth coverage of the tournament!
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
Serena has cruised through her first two wins, losing a total of six games. As the defending champion, the pressure is on her to it again, but that has never been a problem for her and I don't think it will this year either.
Suarez Navarro seems to play much better in the Grand Slams than she does throughout the rest of the year. She went to the quarters last year, where she upset Venus Williams in the second round before losing to Elena Dementieva. Could she pull off another Williams-sister upset?
This is the first career meeting between these two fierce competitors. Suarez Navarro may be short in stature (5'4â), but she makes up for that in heart and hustle. She covers the court extremely well, hits the one-handed backhand like Federer or Haas, and will take chances whenever she has the opportunity. The problem here is that with Serena's relentless groundstrokes, the one-handed backhand has a great chance of breaking down. Serena needs to be careful about drifting too far behind the baseline, but she will be ready to attack and will pounce on any defensive return. Look for the Williams express to continue into the next round!
Nick's Pick - S. Williams in 2 sets
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs. Shahar Peer (ISR)
Wozniacki comes into the tournament ranked a career high of #4 in the world, and for the first time in her career she is being considered as a legitimate title contender. That hasn't affected her in the opening rounds, but now as she gets deeper into the tournament you might see some of that creep up in her game.
I thought Peer was on the track to stardom a couple of years ago, but it just hasn't panned out for her. She is still only 22 years old and has time to develop, but at some point she is going to have to have a big breakthrough. Could 2010 be her year? We will have to wait and see.
Wozniacki is 2-0 against Peer, with both of those wins coming last year. Everyone loves to watch Wozniacki play. She has the charm, the good looks, the beautiful smile and her ability cover the court makes her fantastic to watch. Peer brings discipline and tenacity to the tennis court, but right now she doesn't have the weapons to really hurt Wozniacki and that will be the difference in this match. I think this one will go the distance, but in the end Wozniacki just has too much.
Nick's Pick - Wozniacki in 3 sets
Justine Henin (BEL) vs. Alisa Kleybanova (RUS)
Henin passed a major test with a tough straight-set win over Elena Dementieva in the second round. Now that she has that match behind her, she is a real threat to make a deep run. Every time I watch Henin play I get even more impressed by her grit, determination and passion. She is truly a warrior out on the court and we have definitely missed her for the last couple of years.
Kleybanova is an alumnus of the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program. She picked up a nice win over Jelena Dokic in the opening round and then beat Sorana Cirstea in the second. If she wins here it will be only the third time she has reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam.
Henin is 1-0 against Kleybanova with that win coming back in 2008 at Antwerp. Kleybanova knows how to play one way: hit the tar out of the ball. She isn't built to play long points and will not try to. She goes for winners and will look to keep Henin pinned back behind the baseline. Henin will not see many soft balls in this match and will try to neutralize Kleybanova's power with her ability to change the pace. Henin has so much variety and her movement has been excellent thus far. One thing to watch out for here is if Henin's serve falters at all, Kleybanova will pounce on it. I look for Henin to move on, but Kleybanova will give her a match.
Nick's Pick - Henin in 2 or 3 sets
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Alona Bondarenko (UKR)
Jankovic has looked great in the first two rounds, losing a total of eight games in four sets. A former semifinalist down under, Jankovic is looking to climb back into the top five with a solid showing here. She is determined to make 2010 a great year, and having worked with her at the Academy during the off-season I think she is ready to do it.
Bondarenko knocked off Polona Hercog in the second round in straight sets and is into the third round of the Aussie Open for the third time in her career. Bondarenko has never been to the fourth round of any Grand Slam, so this would be a big win for her.
Jankovic knows Bondarenko's game extremely well. The two have met nine times previously with Jankovic winning all nine of those matches. Their most recent encounter came back in 2008 at Stuttgart with Jankovic winning easily. I honestly don't think much will change now. Jankovic is moving brilliantly, is full of confidence and knows how to win. She tweaked a couple of things on her forehand and backhand when she was at the Academy, and it looks to be paying off right now. Bondarenko covers the court well and is solid from the baseline, but she doesn't have any weapons that can really hurt Jankovic. I look for the Serb to advance.
Nick's Pick - Jankovic in 2 sets