1. Can Sam Stosur take out both Zie Jheng and her Aussie jinx? Nope! Stosur fell to Jheng like she often does in slams: with errors, a slow start and unsustainable periods of domination. When she lost to Sara Errani in last year's French Open semis, she dropped the first set (7-5), dominated the second (6-1) and fell in a rather tight third (6-3). When she lost to Arantxa Rus at Wimbledon, it was the same (2-6, 6-0, 4-6). It was even approximately the same pattern when she lost to No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open quarterfinals (1-6, 6-4, 6-7). Sure enough, Stosur dropped a 6-4 first set to Zheng, blazed through the second at 6-1, and fell late, plagued by 21 third-set errors and a faulty serve.
Despite decent career success, Stosur has now fallen before the fourth round for three straight years at the Australian Open and has only advanced to even the fourth round just twice in 10 tries.
2. Which American males survive? Sam Querrey, and that's it. Querrey dropped the first set to Brian Baker in a tiebreaker but advanced when the injury-prone Baker tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee and was forced to retire early in the second set. Tim Smyczek took a set from David Ferrer but fell in four sets, and poor Ryan Harrison ran into an absolute buzzsaw against Novak Djokovic, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. Harrison really didn't play too badly, but for two sets Djokovic played at as high a level as I can remember seeing recently. Often content to play defensively (and get away with it because he is one of the two or three best defensive players in tennis), Djokovic was assertive, aggressive and merciless.
Really, though, the story was Baker. Anytime you watch a player come back from an unfair number of injuries and play at a high level, you feel a combination of a warm heart and fear. You really, really don't want to see that player get hurt again. It's never fun to watch a player hobble around and finish a match in a chair, but its doubly painful to watch when it happens to a player like Baker, who missed years of a promising career because of an endless string of injuries and now faces at least four months on the sidelines. Yuck.
3. Does Madison Keys' run continue? Yep! For all the poor fortune for Americans in the men's draw, the U.S. women are looking great, at least assuming Serena Williams' rolled ankle ends up okay. Young Jamie Hampton upset Urszula Radwanksa in the first round, Serena and Venus Williams have cruised, Sloane Stephens looked magnificent in a surprisingly easy first-round battle, and on Day 3, Madison Keys destroyed No. 30 Tamira Paszek, 6-2, 6-1. The 17-year old has looked incredible through most of January, but she'll have to look even better in the third round against No. 5 Angelique Kerber.
Now, for the Day 4 questions:
1. Does Federer-Tomic come to fruition?
Men: No. 2 Roger Federer v. Nikolay Davydenko (Match No. 4, Rod Laver Arena)
Men: Bernard Tomic v. Daniel Brands (Match No. 3, Rod Laver Arena)
When the Aussie men's draw was released, one of the most interesting potential matchups was a third rounder between No. 2 Roger Federer and Bernard Tomic, the brash, oft-flaky 20-year old Aussie who made more headlines off the court than on it in 2012 (can I interest you in a spa fight?). Tomic fell from 27th to 64th in the ATP rankings, but he has looked fantastic in January, first winning last week's Sydney tournament, then plowing through Leonardo Mayer in straight sets in the first round. He has been playing a fun, passive-aggressive game of press conference smack with Federer for days (Are you looking forward to facing Federer in the third round? "Well, if he gets that far."), and ... yeah, this match really, really needs to happen.
First, though, Tomic needs to get past Daniel Brands, who took down No. 27 Martin Klizan in the first round, and Federer has to conquer veteran Nikolay Davydenko. Federer and Davydenko, both 31, have faced off 19 times, and while Federer has won 17 of those battles (including four-set wins at the 2006 and 2010 Australian Opens), that does mean that Davydenko has won twice. It took Federer three sets to get past Davydenko in Rotterdam last year, and it is likely this match won't exactly be a cakewalk. But yeah, this match really needs to happen.
2. Can Kimiko Date-Krumm keep it up?
Women: Kimiko Date-Krumm v. Shahar Pe'er (Match No. 3, Court 6)
In January 1994, the Three Musketeers-based "All for Love" by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting overtook Mariah Carey's "Hero" for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts, Madison Keys was minus-1 years old, and Kimiko Date-Krumm (then just Date) reached the Australian Open semifinals. She took out players like Ginger Nielson (retired in 1998) and Conchita Martinez (retired in 2006) before falling in straight sets to perhaps the greatest women's player of all-time, Steffi Graf (retired in 1999). Date herself retired in 1997, then re-emerged in 2007, at age 37. At 39, she won a match at the French Open. At 40, she won a match at Wimbledon. And on Tuesday, she obliterated No. 12 Nadia Petrova, 6-2, 6-0 in the Aussie first round. Now she takes on Shahar Pe'er, 25-year old from Israel. If Date-Krumm can take out Pe'er, it will be her first trip to a slam third round since 1996. We probably aren't talking enough about this; this is a pretty awesome story.
3. How's Serena's ankle?
Women: No. 3 Serena Williams v. Garbine Muguruza (Match No. 2, Rod Laver Arena)
In her first-round victory over Edina Gallovits-Hall, Serena Williams rolled her ankle, limped around ... and won, 6-0, 6-0. Her form is good enough right now that she can pretty easily win matches with iffy mobility. And by all means, Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who has struggled to stay in the Top 100 and needed a 14-12 third-set win over Magdalena Rybarikova just to reach the second round, might not be able to hang with a one-legged Serena for too long. But with a potential semifinal versus No. 1 Victoria Azarenka looming in just a week, Serena will need that ankle to heal relatively quickly. Is she at 100 percent mobility against Muguruza?