Victoria Azarenka has made it to the third round of the Australian Open with relative ease but could be tested here as she faces young star Naomi Osaka, who will be very confident after coming through qualifying to get to this stage. This match is set to take place on the Rod Laver Arena at around 13:00 Melbourne time and the winner will face Barbora Strycova or 3rd seed Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round.
So Far In Melbourne
Former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka has been extremely impressive in Melbourne so far. Following a run to the title in Brisbane, Azarenka didn't concede a single game in the first round as she stormed past Alison Van Uytvanck in less than an hour. She was almost as ruthless in the second round, as she cruised past Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-2. The Belarussian will be hard to beat here.
Osaka may be worn out after having to have played more matches, though her confidence will be sky high. After beating Miyu Kato, Alexandra Panova and Zhang Kailin in qualifying without dropping a set, the Japanese star beat Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in the first round and then upset 18th seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4. She has been very impressive so far, and wouldn't be an easy match for anyone coming into this.
This will be the first meeting between the two. It will certainly be interesting to see how their respective games match up and it will be interesting to see how they both approach this match, especially Osaka in what is arguably the biggest match of her career.
If Azarenka plays at her best, it seems extremely unlikely that she will lose this match. The Belarussian has played extremely well this year and it doesn't seem like she will have a drop in form, though this is tennis; anything is possible. She should aim to put in a strong performance and try to finish it as soon a possible, though against someone of Osaka's confidence that may not be easy.
The biggest possible issues for Osaka could be nerves; this is the biggest match of her career on one of the biggest stages- will she be able to cope? The signs are promising as she has looked extremely calm and composed on court, and the fact that there will be very little pressure on her will also benefit her. However she should look to get the basic rights and will need to try to defend well; that could be useful for her.
It will certainly be interesting to see how both Azarenka and Osaka approach this match. Whilst this could be a close match Azarenka should be able to win this fairly comfortably, though we could get a further glimpse at the potential Naomi Osaka has.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka in three sets