For the second year in a row, 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova takes on 9th seed Johanna Konta for a place in the quarterfinal at the Australian Open, though a lot has changed since then; the Brit has risen almost forty spots in the rankings, whilst the Russian has fallen down from her 21st seeding last year.
It is Konta who has won all three previous meetings between the two, with two wins at Eastbourne alongside her 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 triumph at this stage last year, though Makarova has now made the fourth round in Melbourne in every year since 2011 and always plays some of her best tennis here; furthermore, she beat her third round opponent, Dominika Cibulkova, despite trailing 0-3 in the head to head.
This will be the second match on the Margaret Court Arena, and the winner will face 16th seed Barbora Strycova or second seed Serena Williams in the last eight.
So far in Melbourne
Despite a difficult draw, Konta has eased through to the second week. The Brit started against Kirsten Flipkens, surviving a tough first set to beat the Belgian 7-5, 6-2, and then eased past young talent Naomi Osaka in the second round. Her best performance, however, was in the third round, losing just four games to 17th seed Caroline Wozniacki; she will be tough to beat.
Things haven’t been as easy for Makarova, though she has still impressed. She started against Ekaterina Alexandrova, bouncing back from a second-set wobble to beat her fellow Russian 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. Following that, the Russian was easing to victory before Sara Errani retired in the second set before Makarova stunned sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova in three sets; the Russian played well in that match and is playing well in Melbourne once again.
Konta has impressed massively this week and has a strong chance of winning if she can keep this level up, though this could be a test against another former semifinalist here. The Brit will need to serve well, considering how well Makarova returned in her match against Cibulkova and must be aggressive; if she gets the Russian moving, she could be at a big advantage.
Though she is not the greatest mover, Makarova is a powerful player and should look to attack as much as possible, though must be wary of the amount of errors she can make against a very consistent opponent. Furthermore, the Russian should also look to serve well against a strong returner. One advantage for the 30th seed is that whilst Konta is good at the net, she is arguably better, and should look to finish points off early by coming in.
Makarova and Konta each know how to win in Melbourne (both are in the top five in terms of win percentage for active players at this tournament) and it could be fairly tight if both are playing well. Though Makarova has played well so far, Konta’s three previous wins and great form seem to suggest she’ll make her second consecutive Australian Open quarterfinal.
Prediction: Johanna Konta in straight sets