Bencic has had to go three sets in each of her first two matches, defeating American Lauren Davis 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 and two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. Mertens defeated up-and-coming Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-1, 6-3 in the first round followed by a 7-6 (8), 6-1 victory over Lin Zhu in round two.
This is the first career meeting between Bencic and Mertens. The match will be played on Friday and is scheduled to be the third match of the day session in Rod Laver Arena with the winner facing either 25th seed Karolina Muchova or sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round.
Both players have variety in their game, but Bencic will be the one looking to attack as she likes to take the ball early and on the rise. Mertens is one of the best defenders in tennis, but can also play offensive, attacking tennis when she needs to.
How the Belgian deals with the Swiss re-directing her cross-court shots, her favored pattern of play, will be key. Bencic can also turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye. She may want to pick on Mertens' forehand as that is the shot the 18th seed can struggle with at times.
Both players have decent serves that aren't too powerful with Mertens having a slight edge. Bencic is more likely to come forward and finish points at the net while each woman is a fine mover around the court. There may be a feeling out process with this being their first meeting.
This appears to be an even matchup as both players have similar styles of play. The quicker courts will encourage each of them to attack and try to take control of the baseline and whoever can impose their game first will likely come out on top.
Mertens is in better form, having won the Gippsland Trophy last week on these very same courts and was the tour leader in match wins last season while Bencic could use a win like this to kick-start her year. A former semifinalist in Melbourne, I think the Belgian emerges in what should be a fun three-setter.
Prediction: Elise Mertens in three sets