Having seen a relatively straightforward start to this year’s Australian Open, it’s safe to say the women’s draw exploded into life on Friday.
Seeing both current 17-year-old phenom Amanda Anisimova and former 17-year-old phenom Maria Sharapova make waves with wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Caroline Wozniacki respectively, the field may have lost a popular title pick and its defending champ, but it gained two players even more worthy of serious championship consideration in the process.
Sharapova played some of the best tennis we’ve seen from her since her suspension, while Anisimova simply obliterated a player who most expected to do the obliterating. In both cases, they sent a very strong warning that the rest of the field should take note of.
Of course, being in the same quarter, their shared run can only last for two more matches at best, but if one of them does emerge, they can be sure no player in the half can match them for sheer firepower, and that makes them a very large threat indeed.
Here’s your three to see on day 6 in Melbourne:
Dayana Yastremska (UKR) v Serena Williams (USA)  – Second on Rod Laver Arena
I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous: that Serena Williams is still playing – and playing well – at the age of 37, or that her opponent, Dayana Yastremska wasn’t even born when the American won her first major at the 1999 US Open. Either way, this is an intriguing match, with the 18-year-old Yastremska coming in having downed 23rd seed Carla Suarez Navarro, displaying the sort of baseline power tennis Serena herself would be proud of. The question here is whether Yastremska will be able to maintain the same depth of shot when the ball is coming back as fast as it’s going, but don’t be surprised if even Serena is left flat-footed occasionally by her cannon of a forehand. Will it be enough to cause an upset? Probably not, but we should get a healthy dose of ball-bashing fun, and a solid chance to compare one of the sport’s potential stars against its biggest one in the present.
Denis Shapovalov (CAN)  v Novak Djokovic (SRB)  – Third on Rod Laver
On the day that attracts the biggest annual crowds in Melbourne, it’s only fitting we get a real crowd pleaser, which is exactly what you can expect when “The Joker” and “El Shapo” square off. Their first career meeting, Djokovic obviously comes in a strong favourite, but few players on tour are possess both the Canadian’s attacking mentality and the shotmaking to back it up, and that means the Serb will have to be at his rubber-burning, body-contorting, rabbit-out-of-a-hat-pulling best defensively. Considering Djokovic is still yet to round into top form this year, don’t be surprised if Shapovalov takes him by surprise, and if that doesn’t spell five sets, it should at least make it very entertaining.
Simona Halep (ROU)  v Venus Williams (USA) – First Match, Night Session on Margaret Court Arena (7:00pm start)
Two players who have already been made to seriously work this tournament, both Simona Halep and Venus Williams come in having played only three-setters, so why not another together? Having played five times previously, Venus leads the head-to-head 3-2 – albeit with her last win coming in September 2013 – and while there’s no denying her fortunes have gone in the opposite direction to Halep’s in recent times, the Romanian’s early returns this AO would indicate she’s very susceptible to an upset. That said, this could be the match Halep turns the corner, but even so she’ll have a hard time completely denying Venus opportunities to take big cuts at the ball, and if the American can build pressure with quick service games, this might turn out to be an exceptionally difficult evening.