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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday January 19, 2022

Third round action begins in earnest on Day 5 at the Australian Open and there are plenty of top-half matchups to die for.

Tennis Express

Here's the Day 5 schedule:

Here’s what we’ll be watching…

Alcaraz to Challenge Berrettini?

Identified the moment the draw came out as a potential third-round popcorn tilt we now find ourselves drooling in anticipation over the second career meeting between Matteo Berrettini and Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard, still just 18 years of age, defeated Berrettini last year at Vienna, and he’ll look to spoil Berrettini’s party again on a grander stage.

Berrettini has had to battle to get through his first two matches, needing four sets to get past Americans Brandon Nakashima and Stefan Kozlov, while Alcaraz has run roughshod over his two opponents, only dropping more than three games in a set once. .

Alcaraz may be green – he’s playing in his fifth Grand Slam main draw – but the precocious Spaniard has already proven that he's playing far beyond his years. As the youngest US Open singles quarterfinalist in history, he’s just become the youngest player to reach the third round in Melbourne in ten years. Based on the way he has burst out of the gates in week one, he’s in there with a fighting chance against his Italian counterpart.

Osaka’s task gets tougher with Anisimova

Nearly all the third-round matches on the top half of the women’s draw are pure fire, but the first-time meeting between Naomi Osaka, the defending champion and No.13 seed, and Amanda Anisimova, unseeded, sticks out as a potential barnburner.

Two of the purest ball strikers on tour will look to step out and take matters in their own hands against one another. Osaka, the two-time champion with a lifetime record of 24-4 in Melbourne will be the obvious favorite but don’t sleep on Anisimova. She has reeled off seven straight wins and appears to be hitting her stride under the tutelage of Aussie coaching legend Darren Cahill.

Rafael Nadal v Karen Khachanov

Get your popcorn popping and your triple latte steaming because Rafael Nadal is working the late shift in Rod Laver Arena on Day 5. And the legendary Spaniard could have his hands full with Russia’s Karen Khachanov, a player that has been in exceptional form thus far in 2021.

Nadal has the 7-0 lifetime edge over the hard-hitting Russian, but Khachanov has played Nadal tough at a Slam on a hard court before. He took Nadal to four sets in 2018, the last two of which went to tiebreaks. Khachanov has played well in 2022, winning six of eight matches and playing a final at Adelaide – Nadal is in for his toughest test thus far.

Other popcorn worthy matchups

Ash Barty looks to keep things rolling against Italy’s Camila Giorgi, a thunderous baseliner that the Aussie will look to cleverly defuse… Gael Monfils will try to get back in the second week of a Slam for the first time since before the pandemic (2020 Australian Open) against the talented Cristian GarinReilly Opelka will try to take the racquet out of Denis Shapovalov’s hands in a first-time meeting… A pair of great friends will do battle as Spain’s surging Paula Badosa faces 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk… Two-time Aussie Open champion Victoria Azarenka will face Elina Svitolina in high-stakes a battle of tried-and-true veterans.


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