Australian Open – Day 6 Preview

Ana Ivanovic and Madison Keys have a lot of similarities – both admire Roger Federer, both select Paris among their favourite cities, both have new coaches and both can hit the heck out of a forehand.

The 28-year-old Serb and the 20-year-old American meet in a Rod Laver Arena evening match featuring players with two of the sunniest dispositions on the WTA Tour.

Ivanovic is not quite ‘Aussie Kim’ as Kim Clijsters was known when she was spending time in Australia, but she does have family in Melbourne and has often trained in the city. Remarkably at her age, she is playing her 12th Australian Open.

Keys is a cheerful American who is making her fifth appearance at Melbourne Park, highlighted by a semifinal last year that included an upset of Venus Williams.

Ivanovic has reunited with former coach Nigel Sears while Keys has moved on from Lindsay Davenport to another retired American, former No. 69-ranked men’s pro Jesse Levine. He is fitting in well but there has been one minor bump in the road. “He hits super, super spinny,” Keys joked about their practices, “and I’m like ‘no one hits like that (on the women’s tour), please stop. It’s like ‘sorry, men’s ball is coming.’”

Keys is putting the accent on her mental game this year, trying to relax and have faith in her ability no matter what the situation on court.

The No. 23-ranked Ivanovic surprisingly calls herself “a work in progress.” She was a runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the 2008 Australian Open but feels as if that was a long time ago. “Like another life,” is how she put it.


Someone very much in the present is Shuai Zhang of China. Following 14 first-round losses at Grand Slam events, the qualifier is into the third round against 29-year-old American veteran Varvara Lepchenko this evening in Margaret Court Arena after winning on her 27th birthday on Thursday.

“I lost 14 times first round,” Zhang smiled. “Maybe because 14 times give me a lot more energy to work hard. I don’t want to stop now.”

Also hoping to move on is Andy Murray, back with coach Amelie Mauresmo after the birth of her five-month-old son Aaron. Murray plays Portugal’s Joao Sousa.


That’s at Margaret Court Arena on Saturday evening, meanwhile over at Rod Laver it’s the all-Aussie match-up of No.17-ranked Bernard Tomic and No.93 John Millman.

While Tomic may play his nuanced cat-and-mouse tennis against the 26-year-old from Brisbane, the Ivanovic-Keys clash will be the aforementioned wham-bam.

“Whoever gets to strike first is going to be the one to come out on top,” Keys said.

“She’s very dangerous – big game,” Ivanovic said of Keys. “It’s going to be about the first shot.”

No matter how heavy the hitting or intense the competition, Ivanovic still likes to remind herself, “it is also fun, you know, that’s why we are here.”

Shuai Zhang def. Varvara Lepchenko in three
The enterprising Chinese didn’t used to know how to win at Grand Slam events, but now she’s got the knack and makes it three in a row beating the veteran American.

Milos Raonic def. Viktor Troicki in four
The No. 23-ranked Serb claims he enjoys facing big servers like No. 14 Raonic. The 25-year-old Canadian has held serve 58 times in a row, dating back to the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International, so only time will tell if Troicki is able to really have fun or not.

Steve Johnson def. David Ferrer
These two played a thrilling final in Vienna last fall, won 4-6 6-4 7-5 by Ferrer. Johnson, a two-time American collegiate champion who is seeded No.31, is a solid competitor and turns the tables this time.

Garbine Muguruza v. Barbora Strycova
The 29-year-old Czech is a bundle of energy – and angst – on court. Her self-recriminations rank with the best in tennis. The third-seeded Muguruza has the firepower to offset the guile of Strycova, but it will take a concerted effort.

Gael Monfils is in a long dreadlocks phase in terms of his personal look. That created a problem when he discovered, before the Australian Open, that he had no headbands to reign in his hair. He made an emergency call to his clothing sponsor Asics and they were able to deliver some just in time.