Melbourne Park, 18 December 2010 | Tim Rose
After a rest day on Friday, the Australian Open Play-off continues on Saturday, with four evenly-matched semifinals providing what promises to be an enthralling day’s tennis.
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The women’s draw has gone relatively to plan, with the final four coming from the top five seeds. All players were undefeated in the round-robin matches, although not always entirely convincingly. With the top two seeds locked into opposite sides of the draw, the two remaining players were drawn at random to decide who they would face. In a fascinating result, pre-tournament favourites Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic have been drawn to meet one match earlier than each would have hoped, meaning only one will have the opportunity to win a guaranteed Australian Open wildcard.
The men’s side too sees three of the top four seeds present; Adam Feeney, the unseedeed bolter this week, defeated third seed Carsten Ball early in the week, throwing a spanner in the works. The top two seeds, Peter Luczak and Marinko Matosevic, have reached the semis without drama and Matt Ebden continues to go about his business in his usual unobtrusive way.
Here we preview the semifinals, match by match, player by player.
 Sophie Ferguson (NSW) v  Olivia Rogowska (Vic)
Despite her second seeding and her place as the second highest ranked woman in the draw behind Molik, Feguson seems to have flown under the radar with all the talk focusing on the other semifinallists. The 24 year old from New South Wales is currently inside the world’s top 125 players and defeated the talented Monika Wejnert and Isabella Holland in her pool to reach this stage. Her run has been unassuming but that she was able to win yesterday with a semifinal spot up for grabs was impressive.
Olivia Rogowska was a finalist last year, when she held match points before allowing Casey Dellacqua to storm back into contention and eventually to victory. After some poor results leading into the event – including a 6-0 6-0 loss in Bendigo -her early form has been impressive, being the only player of the last four not to lose a set to date.
Her win yesterday over fourth seed Jess Moore was an ominous sign, with her ball-striking reaching almost unstoppable levels at times. She seems determined to go one better than last year but, as always with her, the question remains: which Rogowska will turn up?
 Alicia Molik (Vic) v  Jelena Dokic (NSW)
The two biggest names in the women’s draw, the pair have a rivalry dating back to their junior years. Molik won her first two matches of the week in straight sets before falling behind against Alison Bai in her final round-robin match. After dropping the first set, she stormed home and in doing so found her powerful forehand getting closer to its best.
After the match, Molik admitted that having to face pressure situations would hold her in good stead for tougher matches like this. All week she has been consistent in reaffirming her strong desire to win the wildcard and will easily pose Dokic’s toughest test yet.
After a disappointing start to 2010, Dokic took the second half of the year off to switch coaches from Borna Bikic to Dutchman Glenn Schaap, who has increased the focus on her fitness. Her famous ball-striking ability remains her biggest strength as she powered through her early matches.
Pushed to three sets by Tammi Patterson yesterday, Dokic nonetheless remains a daunting opponent. The two haven’t played since 2003, but each recalled their junior battles this week and spoke only of respect for one another.
 Peter Luczak (Vic) v  Matt Ebden (WA)
A disappointing year at tour level means that even after seven main draw appearances, Luczak will have to win a wildcard to play in his home grand slam. He has lived up to his top seeding so far, showing too much experience to defeat promising youngsters Luke Saville and James Lemke. Although pushed in each match, Luczak was able to ease up a gear when needed in each win.
In a rematch of the recent Commonwealth Games bronze medal match, won by Ebden, the semifinal sees two in-form players each with reason to believe they can win. South-African born Ebden defeated the huge serving Sam Groth in his quarterfinal, recovering from a set down to win in three.
A strong all-court player, Ebden has only kind words for his idol Luczak, whom he describes as “friend and mentor.”
The veteran Luczak describes his opponent as “a great mover on the court, [who] forces a lot of balls back. He can be aggressive, but tends to be more of a counter-puncher.”
There should be no surprises between old friends Luczak and Ebden; they have committed to pairing each other in the Australian Open 2011 doubles.
 Marinko Matosevic v Adam Feeney
The charismatic Marinko Matosevic is worth watching on court for his antics alone. The flamboyant Melburnian will talk to himself, gesture to no one in particular and throw in the odd outrageous winner; it comes as no surprise that his tennis hero is Marat Safin. A prodigious talent, Matosevic was recently the Australian No.2 behind Lleyton Hewitt, and currently sits one ranking position behind Luczak. He has also done the hard yards to get to where he is now, with the late-blooming 25 year old touring relentlessly to improve his ranking. He looks as the most likely to break the top 100 next, and was comprehensive in disposing of seventh seed Greg Jones in the quarterfinals.
Regular serve-volleyer Feeney is the bolter in the field, having stunned Carsten Ball in the third seed’s opening match for the tournament. The unseeded Feeney is another 25 year old, and is looking to make his maiden grand slam main debut with a wildcard win here. Feeney has a career high ranking of No.248, and is riding a handy wave of form.
Matches will live streamed at live.tennis.com.au from 9:30am (AEST) and viewers can join the conversation via Facebook Connect and on Twitter at #aoplayoff.
The men’s and women’s finals, which will decide which two players receive the first wildcards into Australian Open 2011, will be held on Sunday from 10 am (AEST).