by: Ben Stevens

If there’s one thing you certainly can’t say about the Australian Open so far, you can’t say it’s been boring. The big-names have yet to collide and still there’s been plenty of action – case-in-point, day 3. Wednesday saw some stars unusually tested (Angelique Kerber, Roger Federer), some sent packing (Marin Cilic, Carla Suarez-Navarro, John Isner), and one have a straight-up implosion (so much for Kyrgios giving a stuff) – it was wild, it was unpredictable, it was grand slam tennis at its best.

Day 4 in Melbourne might not deliver quite the same amount of crazy as day 3 did, but there’s still plenty of action to go around, so read on for a look at the three to see for Thursday.

Gael Monfils (FRA) [6] v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) – 3rd on Hisense Arena (Not before 3:30 PM local)

If the inventor of the tiebreak, John William Tiebreak (citation needed) were still alive today, Monfils and Dolgopolov would be his dream matchup. Having played each other three times previously, the pair have ended five out of a total eight sets in a breaker, and there’s every reason to hope for more here. A late-season back injury may have Dolgopolov far removed from the rankings heights he once occupied, but he showed in his first round match with Borna Coric much of his familiar explosiveness, which can only bode well for this matchup with Monfils. The Frenchman will be stretched – both literally and figuratively – in keeping up with the heavy-hitting Ukrainian, but that will do little to perturb Monfils’ own high-wire act. Expect multiple tiebreaks and plenty of exciting tennis.

Alexander Zverev (GER) [24] v Frances Tiafoe (USA) – 4th on Show Court 2

Hopefully the start of the game’s next epic rivalry, this match will see two of the most highly touted youngsters face-off for the right to be salivated over for the foreseeable future. At 19 Zverev has already established himself as a dark-horse title pick and comes in the clear favourite, but his first round match showed that like all teenagers, he’s susceptible to bouts of instability. The 18-year-old Tiafoe (who turns 19 on Friday) looked the much more impressive of the two in his 1st-round victory over Mikhail Kukushkin, and already has another three matches in AO qualifying under his belt to back it up. With both teenagers having plenty to prove, this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the tournament so far.

Daria Gavrilova (AUS) [22] v Ana Konjuh (CRO) – 4th on Hisense (Not before 6:30 PM local)

The latest torch bearer in the storied Aussie tradition of home favourites constantly stumbling into dramatic three-setters, Gavrilova can probably add her second-round match against Konjuh to the list. The 19-year-old Konjuh is coming in off the back of a comfortable victory over Kristina Mladenovic, showing the form that led to her run to the Auckland final two weeks ago, and should have plenty of opportunities to be the aggressor. Wite Gavrilova not the type to really hit anyone off the court, Konjuh should be able to dictate by hitting along her favoured diagonals, but the Aussie is right at home on the defensive and will look to simply grind the Croat down. It’s a toss-up either way, and could come down to who can Konjuh (I’m so sorry) something special when they need it most.


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