MELBOURNE - Rafa Nadal will hope to make it 19 wins in succession against seventh seed Tomas Berdych on Tuesday to book an Australian Open semi-final berth and continue his impressive comeback from injury and illness.
The third seeded Spaniard played only a handful of matches in the second half of 2014 but has grown in stature and confidence with every outing at Melbourne Park, the last a straight sets demolition of 14th seed Kevin Anderson.
Hard-hitting Czech Berdych, rated as one of the top male players yet to win a grand slam, will have to overcome the mental burden of having not beaten the 14-times major champion since 2006 in the third match at Rod Laver Arena.
Sixth seed Andy Murray, outstanding in his four-set win over Wimbledon nemesis Grigor Dimitrov, will need to battle the centre court crowd as well as local prodigy Nick Kyrgios in the prime-time evening slot.
Murray thrashed the teenager in straight sets in Toronto last year but 19-year-old Kyrgios, who upset Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon, has shown he has the shots and mettle to test the game's champions.
Women's second seed Maria Sharapova will also be on her guard against a member of 'Generation Next' when she plays Canada's Eugenie Bouchard in the second match at Rod Laver Arena, a rematch of their French Open semi-final last year.
Bouchard was overhauled in three sets by the eventual champion Sharapova at Roland Garros but believes she is better prepared for the Russian this time.
Another Russian, Ekaterina Makarova, will bid for her maiden semi-final at the year's first grand slam when she takes on the much-improved Romanian Simona Halep in the opening match.