Oh boy.

A day that saw Dominic Thiem sent packing, tough tests for Simona Halep and Sascha Zverev, epics for Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, another exceptionally late finish… and yet the biggest story of day 4 by far had nothing to do with the on-court action.

No, unfortunately the real headline-grabber was the ongoing war-of-words between Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt, which was taken to a new level on Thursday as the two-time major winner and Aussie Davis Cup captain alleged Tomic had made blackmail and physical threats against him and his family.

If even an ounce of what Hewitt alleges is true, you would have to think this spells the end of Tomic’s relationship with Tennis Australia and the Aussie tennis community. Even if there is a valid reason for him to have a grievance with Hewitt/TA (and certainly Hewitt’s no saint), this simply crosses every line of professional and human decency.

Considering all his past transgressions, maybe it was always going to end this way, but that doesn’t make it any less of a shame. A two-time junior grand slam titlist, Tomic was an immense talent, and after his run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals as a 19-year-old, there was every reason to hope he could overcome his attitude issues and leave his mark on the ATP tour. Maybe that still happens – he is only 26 after all – but if it does, it won’t be with Australia behind him.

Here’s your three to see on Day 5 in Melbourne:

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) [15] v Maria Sakkari (GRE) – First on Rod Laver Arena (11:00am start)

A match as much about what happens around the court as on it, Ash Barty and Maria Sakkari square off in a battle for both tennis and fan supremacy in this third round encounter. Possessing the largest Greek population outside their homeland, Sakkari can be sure to enjoy plenty of support from the Melbourne locals, and you can be sure they’ll try their best to drown out an otherwise very pro-Australian crowd. Fans aside, the tennis shouldn’t be too bad either, with the career head-to-head standing at one apiece, and a fun contrast between the slice and constant variation of Barty’s game with Sakkari’s preference to out-muscle her opponents, which should lead to some serious back-and-forth exchanges. Perhaps more than anything, how both players manage their composure as the tension builds and the fans grow louder will be the deciding factor, but either way it should be a raucous three sets.

Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Diego Schwartzman (ARG) [18] – First on Melbourne Arena

There’s always a fun time to be had when a tall matches up with a small, and that certainly applies when 6’5 Tomas Berdych and 5’7 Diego Schwartzman face off, with the added bonus that they’re both actually, you know… good at tennis. Their first career meeting, each should present some interesting problems to solve for the other, as Berdych will want to flatten the ball out and hit through the court while Schwartzman will look to blunt his opponent’s pace, wear him down and create the occasional offense by using every angle possible. With that in mind, we’re likely to see more than a few epic rallies, constant momentum shifts, and multiple sets of very hard fought tennis.

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [3] v Maria Sharapova (RUS) [30] – Third on Rod Laver

Having enjoyed a relatively quiet start to her title defence campaign so far in Melbourne, things are about to go from 0 to 100 real quick when Caroline Wozniacki squares off against Maria Sharapova. Their first meeting in nearly four years, Sharapova comes in with a 6-4 head-to-head advantage over Wozniacki, but considering the Dane leads 4-3 on hard courts and their contrasting fortunes in the interim, this is an especially tough match to predict. Of course, there’s no doubting Sharapova’s ability to simply muscle Wozniacki off the court, but more than most the latter has an ability to use that aggression against her, and stay in rallies until she gets an angle from which she can completely turn the tables. Give Wozniacki the edge if only for her recent AO track record, but if her depth and variety isn’t good enough this could easily turn into a Sharapova laugher, either way, it should be an interesting match with a winner you have to give an outside shot for the title.


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