Jan 16, 2022

2022 Australian Open Women's Round One Writeup

This tournament is going to be really good. Tons of players in great form, and just as many struggling to get it together. Throw in a bunch of qualifiers who are extemely sharp and this should be a fun two weeks. If you’re interested, DC is hosting their usual bracket competitions. You can find them here :


Women’s Singles :
Barty vs Tsurenko :

The WTA can sometimes leave us feeling confused. These are all tremendous athletes and players, but some of the struggles are really hard to explain. That just makes Ash Barty’s return to professional tennis even more exciting. Despite throwing in random losses and first round exits as often as she wins titles, Barty has actually been one of the most consistent performers on tour. She’s always fit, and she always has a good attitude (I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smash a racquet). Somehow, after choosing not to travel as much for the past season or so, she’s gotten better. She showed up in Adelaide looking physically stronger than we’ve seen her, and playing some extremely sharp tennis. Every shot is being hit with full execution and commitment to the right contact, and her forehand is looking faster than ever. I didn’t really expect it, and it’s a gentle reminder again that she’s only 25 years old. There is a very real chance that she’ll continue to improve over the next 5 years, and that’s scary and wonderful, like many things in Australia. While she was on her way to the title, she also managed to find time to win the doubles title with compatriot Storm Sanders.

Tsurenko kinda disappeared for a while but she was very steady in qualifying. She lost in three last time she played Barty, and they’ve played three times, so she won’t be overwhelmed by the moment or anything. Barty’s serve gives her a big edge though, and there’s no doubt/scar tissue emotionally coming into this event. Full disclosure, Barty is my pick to win this, but Krejcikova’s run last week is a bit scary since she tends to win 600 matches in a row sometimes. Barty in 2.

Gracheva vs Bronzetti :

Bronzetti is getting a lot of credit from oddsmakers, landing at just +130 here. Gracheva did begin the season by scoring 0,0 against Cirstea though, so this may be a great opportunity for Bronzetti, who’s play in qualifying was steady and composed. Gracheva is a very good baseliner when she’s playing well, but she hits a pretty flat ball so if her timing is off, she could have a hard time here with the qualifier. I’m not going to predict a stellar turnaround after a 0,0 performance, so I’d lean towards Bronzetti being the sharper player in the end. Bronzetti in 3.

Martincova vs Davis :

Tereza Martincova can really ball, but it seems like she lacks footwork sometimes. Her game reminds me of a heavier version of Polona Hercog, and I think it’s very draw dependent whether she’ll win on a given day. Last week she ran into Madison Keys during a week where she played some lights out tennis, including some lasers on her backhand down the line. If a player is hitting their backhand down the line for winners, it’s a sign they’re really in a good groove, and this really makes it impossible to cover the court which is why guys like Djokovic, peak Goffin, and Nishikori thrive from the baseline. Lauren Davis seemed like she’d fall over during her match with Teichmann. Teichmann looked nauseous and was bent over between points, and Davis was going and sitting on the chair next to her corner towel for as long as she could between points. The Australian heat is no joke, but somehow Davis came through that match and ran through Paolini in the next round anyway. Her game is really smooth and she covers the court well. She’s the type of player who’s rarely a favorite but always winds up in a third set, so this is a winnable match for her. Martincova has the power to break down her defenses but her own movement could end up being a liability. I’ll take the sharper player, because Davis looked really good last week. Davis in 3.

Potapova vs Giorgi :

Giorgi hasn’t played a match yet this year. Her high risk high reward game was pretty useful in 2021 and it’s always nice to think that someone has overcome their unforced errors. It still looks like she’s a bit impatient on the court and this can be a problem against a ballbeater like Potapova. Potapova has been an overpriced market for as long as I can remember but she seems like she’s finally healthy and starting to win matches. She beat Harmony Tan and Kucova last week, before losing in three to a resurgent Madison Brengle. She also played three sets with Kudermetova the week before. Her game isn’t really defined yet, but she hits big and covers the court well. This match is simply a matter of Giorgi’s overall level. If she’s sharp, she should be able to work the points and have an edge against Potapova, who’s a bit defensive yet still throws in errors. If she’s not ready to play, Potapova will run away with this. I’d lean Potapova in 3.

Bencic vs Mladenovic :

Bencic looked like she’d be doing some world class moping last week while down a set and a break against Oceane Dodin but a rain delay and some free swings got her out of trouble. She went down to Badosa in the next round but there’s no shame in that. Mladenovic made a good move and headed to Korea to play a challenger event, and made a finals which gave her a good chances to regain confidence for the season. This is a bad matchup, because Bencic moves well and hits with pace. It’ll take time away from the kinda tall Mladenovic, and Bencic’s aggressive returning is sure to pressure a player who is prone to double faults. Bencic in 2.

Hartono vs Anisimova :

Hartono won some really impressive matches to qualify, beating Bonaventure (who was coming off a title run), and Neimeier (who jumps in the air when she hits forehands). It sets up another contest where no one gives her a chance against last week’s title winner Anisimova. Amanda had a really strange match with Sasnovich where she was in complete control, injured her leg, looked completely finished, and then tore off the tape they added in the medical timeout and came back to win. It amounted to a strange and difficult L for Sasnovich, and another title for the talented young American. Anisimova’s downfall is errors, and Hartono is a very solid player defensively, who reminds me a bit of Hontama with her ability to outlast an opponent. This is a tricky opener for Anisimova, but the weight she hits the ball with is hard to overcome for someone new to it. Big step up for Hartono, who is disrespected with the +600 pricetag, but is still likely to come up a bit short. Anisimova in two.

Yastremska vs Brengle :

It’s nice to see Yastremska back on tour, but very little has changed about her approach. She just smashes away, and Brengle has been stealing wins left and right for the past six months. A late withdrawal last week is a concern that makes it tough to back Brengle, but Yastremska is not nearly consistent enough to beat a healthy Brengle. Brengle in 3.

Osorio vs Osaka :

Osorio-Serrano has a really solid game on clay, and can outlast a lot of players, but Osaka’s power should be a bit much in this one, and her serve will allow her to throw in the kind of errors she’s prone to in early rounds where the point is over and she just needs to execute. I don’t expect a deep run for Osaka here, but she has a decent draw in the early rounds for her gamestyle. Osaka in two.

Jabeur vs Parrizas Diaz :

I won’t like, I love Parrizas’ game. She works hard, she keeps the ball in play, and her opponents name doesn’t matter. She has a slight chance against the mid-level Jabeur, but Jabeur was motivated and sharp last week. She will have ample chances to control rallies and her forehand/serve combo is big enough to negate Parrizas’ solid defending. Jabeur in 1 close, and 1 lopsided set.

Zanevska vs Juvan :

I have to call uncle on this one. I’ve bet on Zanevska (against Martic a week ago the books priced Martic too low and Zanevska has some quality wins (albeit on clay)), but I’ve never seen her play. Kaja Juvan earned/was gifted a win against Sabalenka the other week, but overall her level has not been dominating in these early rounds matchups. It’s clear she has the game to compete against a higher level, but there’s not a ton to set her apart. Her game reminds me a bit of a slightly stronger but less accurate Kasatkina, and Zanevska will come into this as a relatively unknown commodity to her. Should be close, with Juvan perhaps having a slight edge in experience but some question marks since she withdrew last week after two sets against Hozumi. Zanevska in three.

Pera vs Alexandrova :

This is fair, since both are capable of great tennis but neither one has really rolled it out yet. Alexandrova’s best tennis always comes on fast courts, but indoors is her real specialty. Pera’s runs on tour are kinda hard to predict, and she’s a bit outmatched her in the power department. It’s always tough to decide how two struggling players will fare in a first round, but Ekaterina has won both their previous matchups. Alexandrova in 2.

Kalinina vs Pegula :

Kalinina’s game is beautiful, but her highlights tell a different story than her game. On clay, she’s dangerous and can hit people right off the court. On hardcourt, she looks tremendous one points, then makes three unforced errors. I haven’t seen her put it together yet, and I’m not sure she will here. What works in her favor is that Pegula started off the year looking very confused. She played okay, but lost both her matches and the expression on her face was very “where’s christmas?” I think given her defensive ability and solid ballstriking, this is the perfect chance for her to not really have to go for too much and win. Keeping it in the court is good enough against Kalinina right now, and since Pegula hits a solid ball it’ll be tough for the taller player to really create offense. Pegula in 2 but if this takes 3 she’s probably going to take a few events to get into her usual rhythm.

Kudermetova vs Liu :

Claire Liu has made great improvements in the offseason. She’s moving the ball well and seems poised to win any match against a struggling opponent. Kudermetova is not that opponent though. She’s fresh off a finals run and is a better version of what Liu is trying to be. It could be close since Liu doesn’t give anything away, and Kudermetova is a similar type of conservative baseliner, but Veronika will like her chances her. Kudermetova in 2-3.

Ruse vs Paolini :

Ruse is supposed to just be a claycourt player, but she’s had leads in sets in nearly every match she’s played on hardcourt. It seems to be only a matter of time for her, and she’ll have two hours of chances against Jasmine Paolini. Paolini is the player who’s more at home here, and she’s likely to be the one winning the longer rallies, but her short stature means she’s earning all her points in the rally, and Ruse has won both their previous meetings. Paolini had a winnable match against a fatigued Lauren Davis last week and went down, so there’s a chance that Ruse can come out on top here. Paolini’s level (started against Azarenka at the USO) has been high for quite some time now, so she starts out as a pretty decent favorite, but this could be very close. Paolini in 3.

Sasnovich vs Zheng :

This isn’t fun for either player, and I’m more excited to watch than sure of what to expect. Sasnovich was around the tour for quite some time and she’d always win a set as an underdog, but lose the match. She had a hard time staying consistent with her skilled offense, and I’d often see her getting outhit on the backhand side. She’s changed things a bit, and pulled some major upsets last year. The finals run last week was more of that, and she probably is a favorite here. The reason why I say probably is that her opponent seems like a future title winner. Qinwen Zheng is tall, has a great serve, and hits crisp and clean winners whenever she gets the chance. Errors don’t see to be a concern, and while she does get frustrated it doesn’t seem to stop her from swinging for the fences. Against Vandewedge in the opening round of qualifying she seemed very thrown off by the wind, but she righted the ship and cruised from there. Oddsmakers have this as a pickem, and given Zheng’s pricing has been astronomical the past few weeks it’s tough to tell if this is an indication that the match is even, or that they expect a lot of money to come in on Zheng. I’d go with the former, and expect that Sasnovich is more likely to navigate hardship, but Zheng is going to be the slightly bigger hitter for periods of this match. Her backhand is excellent, and she’s got that FAA style of hitting the same high level shot whether her opponent is standing there or not. Her and her team are aiming high, and they’ll probably get there. Sasnovich in 3.

Maria vs Sakkari :

Tatjana Maria has been around forever, and her slice heavy game has bothered a lot of players. Sakkari didn’t exactly start the year off great (a loss to the Shelbster), but she’s one of the few players in the draw that I think can challenge Barty physically from the baseline. The problem with Sakkari always seems to be her shot selection. Once she starts going to the dropshot, she can’t seem to stop, and if she just stayed in baseline rallies it would honestly be hard for her opponents to ever find their way out of them. Sakkari has a bigger forehand than most people, is in better shape than everyone on tour, and has a very good serve when it’s on. The problem lies somewhere between her coach, and her. This is a good match to start with, and she’ll have trouble in round two with the winner of Sanovich/Zheng so hopefully she gets some good reps here. Sakkari in 2.

Krejcikova vs Petkovic :

I always criticize Petkovic’s inconsistency but she played great to start the year, beating Samsonova and frustrating Burel before a loss to Osaka. Had Krejcikova not just found her game, there’d be a chance for an upset here. As it stands, Petkovic’s serving may extend the sets, but Krejcikova should be entirely too steady. Krejcikova in 2.

Kuzmova vs Wang :

Kuzmova was pretty reliable in qualifying, and Wang will probably lose this one. I always think the qualifiers are at a slight advantage against the lower tier players, just because their decision making is already automatic. Kuzmova in 3.

Vekic vs Riske :

Tricky spot and not worth really betting. I love the players who’ve played matches already, but Vekic ended her season with a title win, and her power/straightforward approach is very similar to Madison Keys approach. Riske was at her best this week. She served great, and covered the court well. There was a glimmer of hope that she’d win the title but when Keys is on, she wins the tournament. There isn’t another player who hits the ball that fast seemingly out of nowhere, and her backhand down the line was absurdly consistent. Riske was 3-8 in finals before that, and trailed the H2H something like 1-5, so she shouldn’t take the loss too hard. If Vekic is prepared to play (so many ifs in a first round), this should go three. If not, Riske should run away with it. Vekic in 3 or Riske in 2.

Schmiedlova vs Ostapenko :

Anna Schmiedlova is a likely candidate to beat the bad Ostapenko, and a likely victim for the good one. Ostapenko had a lead against Badosa before giving up, so there’s a good chance she mirrors her win against Schmiedlova again here. Ostapenko in 3.

Azarenka vs Udvardy :

Azarenka is a joy to watch. The tennis is always measured, controlled, and she doesn’t seem to be desparate to end the rally with any one shot. The rest is it’s very hard to pressure her into errors, and very difficult to cover the court. If you’ve ever played someone who didn’t seem to be doing anything crazy, but you constantly felt like you were hitting the ball right back to the them, this is the Azarenka effect. Panna Udvardy has done tremendous work on her game and was on a tear in South America on the clay circuit in the offseason (along with Kasintseva and Pigossi), but her hardcourt game isn’t there yet. This will have some great rallies because Udvardy is supremely skillful, but Azarenka in 2.

Martic vs Teichmman :

Teichmann looked exhauted against Davis, but the rallies in this one won’t be as grueling. I like Martic to beat most defensive minded players, but Teichmann’s speed around the court and her being lefty means Martic is going to have a lot of work to do and her habit of slicing the ball when she gets moved to her backhand side means Teichmann will get a lot of chances to choose a shot with her forehand. Teichmann in 3.

Putintseva vs Tan :

Putintseva is the best pusher on the WTA. I’d have given this title to Tormo, but to call the way she works a point pushing is offensive. Putintseva though, will hit the same defensive shot 30 times if it gets her an error. She hasn’t played a match yet this year, but Harmony Tan hasn’t really won this level of match yet. She can, but hasn’t. Risky to back anyone who’s just showing up for the season, but Putintseva in 2 is the most likely outcome.

Ferro vs Svitolina :

Ferro isn’t really the hardcourt threat that she is on clay, but given Svitolina’s losses to Gasanova and Keys, this is a doable thing. When someone is slumping, their losses can keep them from really executing in a key moment, but Ferro’s inconsistency may keep her from getting to those key moments. Something’s up with Svitolina, but it isn’t clear yet what. She has a new coach, and Monfils and her seem really happy, so we’ll find out soon. For now, Svitolina should outlast the challenger, who is as likely to lose a set 6-1 as she is to lose one by the same score. Svitolina in 3.

Keys vs Kenin :

Keys played so well in her title run that it’s nearly impossible to pick against her, but Kenin is the ideal player to keep the ball in play until she earns errors. Tennis shouldn’t be so simplistic, but Keys is unplayable when her shots land in, yet fans will know only too well the tense feeling that you get every time she swings and you sit there willing the ball not to hit the net. Her serve was pretty reliable this past week, and Kenin hasn’t really gotten started yet this year, losing quickly to Kasatkina and Barty. Not bad losses, but with Keys leading the H2H 3-1 she should feel comfortable here. Keys in 2.

Minnen vs Cristian :

This draw has afforded some straightforward spots, so i can appreciate a tough one. Jacqueline Cristian has been close in some matches in the past, but she’s starting to actually put wins together on tour. She played a close second set last week with Krejcikova despite getting thumped in the first, and being a young player means she’s always improving. I’d make her a slight underdog here except that Greetje Minnen has lost her last two matches to Rakhimova and Gracheva. The best thing about Minnen is her serve and her forehand can manufacture instant points, but she doesn’t cover the court the best and slight errors have abounded against the more steady players. If Cristian can remain steady, this goes to three and she has a good chance. If she gives up break advantages though as she has been prone to early in sets, Minnen will run away with it. Cristian in 3 or Minnen in 2. I’d love to back Cristian here but Rakhimova is a cut above Cristian in consistency and in power and she only just edged past Minnen.

Van Uytvanck vs Bucsa :

AVA has a huge serve, and lasers for groundstrokes. She’s as close to the “servebot” moniker as you can get on the WTA, and comes with all the same problems. Her unforced error count can be high, and she’s really only at her best indoors. Bucsa really hasn’t beaten too many names on tour though, so Alison will like her chances here. With any young player the ceiling is always in question, and Bucsa has a chance to get off to a quick start here. Van Uytvanck in 3.

Wang vs Gauff :

It’s so easy to forget that Gauff is 17 years old. I’ve criticized her conservative a play a bit, especially since her serve and offense were her best attributes when she first made a splash on tour during the grass season. She’s playing well to start the year, and the loss to Keys isn’t so bad when you consider she left Riske on 1,2. Wang is the sort of player who’d challenge Gauff on a normal day, but there’s reason to believe that another year of growing and experiencing tour life has Gauff leveled up. Gauff in 2.

Sorribes Tormo vs Flipkens :

Flipkens is a really cool name. Her success on tour hinges at this point on moving the ball carefully and utilizing slices to frustrate big hitters. This won’t really work against Sorribes Tormo, who does the exact same thing but at a much higher tier. It could be an entertaining contest, but Tormo should advance. Tormo in 2.

Parry vs Kostyuk :

Marta Kostyuk has a bad attitude, but her game eclipses it most of the time. Diane Parry should go in that group with Pigossi and Udvardy and Kasintseva because she’s played some excellent clay on tour. Aside from Golubic,she probably has the best one-handed backhand on the WTA at this point and she’s likely to land around the 50-60 mark in the next season or so. This is a big ask though, and there’s nothing in her past performances to indicate she can hang with this type of firepower. Kostyuk should be able to control rallies here, and if she’s patient she’ll get by . Kostyuk in 2.

Zheng vs Trevisan :

Zheng hasn’t begun her season yet, and Trevisan showed up in much better shape than I’ve ever seen her. She looks sharp, and she played better in each round of qualifying. She’s the pick here, but Zheng is a simlar style of baseliner who tries to win by defending. Trevisan in 2.

Tomljanovic vs Badosa :

There are a lot of decent players who can gripe about their draws. This is probably as bad as it gets for Tomljanovic. She’s been hinting at reaching a new level, and her power is really a problem for many opponents. She doesn’t really hit clean winners though, and Badosa is currently the best defensive baseliner in women’s tennis. Coming off an easy title win, I’d expect Badosa to have a very good result in this event. Badosa in 2.

Kontaveit vs Siniakova :

These two have played a lot recently, at least it feels that way. Siniakova is in the Tomljanovic camp where she’s still making slight improvements, but needs some help with the draw to really get rewarded. Kontaveit is one of the sharpest players on tour right now, and I think her and Tauson will be a great matchup in the second round to gauge where Tauson’s ceiling is for this season. Kontaveit in 2.

Tauson vs Sharma :

I’m a frequent doubter of Sharma’s game, but she does seem to do well in her second set surges. She has a good serve, and can hit huge and take people right out of their game. It’s clear why she gets the opportunities on tour she does, but she hasn’t put it all together too often. Tennis is mostly a game of playing as aggressive as you can without ever missing, and she’s willing to go for every offensive shot at any time. The result is lot of early losses. Tauson is a higher profile junior, and has done more with her early chances on tour. She should roll here. Tauson in 2.

Konjuh vs Rogers :

Rogers showed up for this season looking to be in much better shape than she has in the past. It’s a good sign and it’s likely connected to some of her more high profile performances in 2021. A hint of going deep in big events can really motivate a player, and she’s already notched a nice win against Sakkari this season. Konjuh has been similarly productive, beating Voundrousova, Martincova, and Kanepi. This should be a very good match with little to separate the two. Both are decent movers, but play a very linear and powerful game. Rogers probably has the better serve, but it’s hard to say who will garner momentum in the match when it matters most. Whichever way I lean I start to think I’ll be wrong, so I’ll expect a surprise. I’d guess Rogers fitness will be a key, but it’s hard for me to confidently pick either.

Dolehide vs Collins :

Interesting matchup here. Dolehide was a player I expected to make a big impact on tour, but she never really got there. This year she looks physically stronger, and that hard work paid off immediately, as she raced through the qualifier. Caroline has one of the biggest serves outside the top 100 on the women’s tour, and the boost to her movement and fitness means she gets a chance to use her heavy forehand to better effect here as well. Collins hasn’t played this year, and withdrew from her last match in 2021, so Caroline will have hope here. If Collins is healthy, Dolehide’s best bet is to get to a tiebreaker, because Collins’ backhand will be able to dominate rallies and her serving in early rounds tends to be solid. The risk with majors is that the prize money is so high that players will hide an injury just to come pick up the check, so it’s not 100% that anyone who hasn’t played yet is ready to be at their best. A healthy Collins in 2.

Mertens vs Zvonareva :

Elise Mertens is my traditional sleeper pick to win any given major. Thus far, it hasn’t really happened. She has a complete game, but not really anything to clear her from having to earn her points. This means more fatigue in later rounds, and she’s lost some third sets where she had a 50/50 shot. This is a difficult opener because despite being past her prime, Zvonareva plays a very high octane baseline game. Her backhand is excellent at going down the line, and her defending reminds me a bit of Azarenka. Mertens should be able to garner control, but a quick loss to Kasatkina last week doesn’t make me overly confident. Mertens in 3.

Dodin vs Begu :

The main problem Oceane Dodin has faced on tour is getting her power to land in the court. She can hit a clean winner from anywhere, and has a tremendous serve, but tennis requires a lot of rallies and her errors can come in bunches. Against Bencic last week, she played her best tennis and almost had the win. This is actually the perfect result coming into this match, because she’s not overly tired, and has a reason to believe that her game is almost there. Begu was resplendent in the first week out, beating Pegula dna Paolini before falling in a close one to eventual champion Anisimova. This will be a server’s duel, and if I were Begu I’d be reasonably concerned about this matchup since Dodin’s power and serve is a bit too strong for her relative lack of movement. Begu in 3.

Golubic vs Zhang :

Golubic played one of the best contests with Halep a week ago but now she’s only -225 against Zhang. It’s a testament to her inconsistency, and to how she tends to play to the level of her opponents. Their previous meeting went 3 sets, with Golubic coming out on top. This one is likely to be somewhat similar, but Zhang is going on 5 losses in a row if she drops this so it’s not 100% that she’ll compete even. Golubic in 3.

Diyas vs Rybakina :

Zarina Diyas is good, but this is too tough of a match right now. Rybakina would have won the Adelaide event against anyone other than Barty, and she didn’t seem that bothered by the loss overall, competing hard til the end. Rybakina’s game and height make me wonder if she’ll win a major at some point, and there’s still room for improvement in her serving accuracy. Rybakina in 2.

Halep vs Frech :

Nice that Frech has worked her way back on tour, but this is a bad time to be playing Simona Halep. She wasn’t just solid defensively in her title run in Melbourne, she also hit a number of bigtime winners on returns and changed the flow of the ball in very creative ways (a few of the winners made me flinch at home). Halep rounding into form right before a major is a great thing for tennis, and Frech has a pretty crisp offense at times but Halep should navigate this. Halep in 2.

Volynets vs Haddad Maia :

Volynets is through qualifying nicely, and this is a winnable first round. There aren’t a ton of big names to her resume, but Bjorklund was playing some great ball and she beat her in straight sets in the finals. Haddad Maia was off tour a while, but it seems like she’s back. Their previous matchup was a straight sets win for Volynets, and given her current form it’s likely she gets the job done again. Volynets in 2.

Jang vs Kovinic :

Jang scored a huge win in the finals of qualifying, besting Masarova and getting into her first major on tour. For a player ranked 212, that’s a dream come true. The dream keeps getting better too, because Danka Kovinic has really been struggling to find form following a leg injury midway thru the 2021 season. She’s lost to Inglis, and Watson so far this year and there’s a good chance that Jang will be the sharper player in this. For Kovinic, she’s likely to need a good clay season or she’ll likely end up outside the top 100. Jang in 2.

Stephens vs Raducanu :

I’m not sure how to gauge this one. Stephens has just gotten married and generally hasn’t been that great on tour. She plays well here and there at a big event, but mostly seems like she isn’t play enough tennis. Raducanu seems like she had a similar experience to Stephens, with a sudden infusion of wealth leading her to relax a bit and take some time off tennis. It seems odd to me that players don’t express more that this is a real phenomenon. If you win a life-changing amount of money, it’s really hard not to want to enjoy it. Raducanu is still tremendous at tennis, but her game is going to be a bit subdued for a while now that opposing coaches have footage to review and gameplan against. I think Stephens is the stronger base average game here, but she hasn’tplayed. Raducanu managed 0,0 against Rybakina, but this is sort of okay since Elena was playing so well. Whoever wants this more will get it, and I’m sure Jang will be excited to possibly get gifted into a third round by two players who aren’t quite as motivated. Raducanu in 3, simply because she’s played an extra match this year.

Zidansek vs Rus :

Tamara Zidansek can be written off as a clay specialist, but her hardcourt results are starting to appear. She beat Inglis, Watson, and Davis last week, and unfortunately had to withdraw against Riske. Her opponent is mostly a grass specialist, but Aranxta played well against Kvitova last week and beat Zidansek in their previous meeting in two. I think given the withdrawal and Rus’ quality and the H2H, there’s something to the idea that Rus will win here despite having had a subdued season last year and having opened up this one with a loss. Rus in 3.

Watson vs Sherif :

This is a classic offense defense matchup. Heather Watson has an excellent serve and does well for 2-3 weeks each season. She’s not really the type to pull huge upsets, but if her opponent isn’t the best defensively she can thrive. This is a spot where Sherif can play her normal game and expect to experience decent success. The Egyptian, whose primary results come on clay, hits a solid ball and plays a very conservative game. The plan will be to keep the ball in here and frustrate Watson into errors. If the unforced are higher than winners, Sherif can win. Someone in 3 is the most likely result, since Watson is playing okay and Sherif hasn’t won a ton on hardcourt.

Cornet vs Tomova :

This is a strange line. Cornet is -300 here. Let’s review the facts. Cornet has 3 losses in a row. Tomova has 3 wins in a row. Tomova won their only previous meeting. Seems straightforward, but Cornet is a very tough out and did just play a close match against Osaka. This should be a close match, and Tomova will have a good chance since Cornet’s attitude is very score-dependent. Cornet is a tremendous defender though and will look to wear Tomova down even if she has a lead. Hard to point to an outright win for the qualifier, Cornet in 3.

Burel vs Muguruza :

Clara Burel will establish herself as one of the top 50 on tour, but it may take a while with draws like this. Muguruza was starting to become a flight risk at minor events, and was struggling with her confidence a bit. Somehow she played a perfect stretch of tennis to start last year though, and won the WTA Finals seemingly out of nowhere with some excellent play and a fortuitous advantage in her matchup against Kontaveit (she seems to thrive on Kontaveit’s particular shot pattern and her weight of shot began to cause errors almost immediately). This is far from a gimme, as Muguruza lost to Kasatkina a week ago and Burel plays a very decent game, but Muguruza should have an edge in the power department that Petkovic was able to exploit Burel with last week in a similar way. Muguruza in 2.

Swiatek vs Dart :

Harriet Dart played great in qualifying, and honestly this was (on the ATP side as well) the strongest qualifying draw in a very long time. No reward because she plays Swiatek, and Iga put some exclamation points on people last week, beating Azarenka and Fernandez. The Leylah Swiatek match had some implications since Swiatek’s hardcourt results have lagged behind a bit, but Swiatek was motivated from start to finish. It was a thorough beating from Barty, but everyone got their turn with that in Melbourne. I think Dart will have some decent stretches, but Swiatek is way ahead of her at this stage of their career and seems in good form to start the year. Swiatek in 2.

Saville vs Peterson :

Saville has won some impressive matches recently, including such names as Minnen, Boulter, McNally, Sanders, and Tormo. Not the biggest names, but these are all mid-level tour players that require a solid performance to edge past. Getting a wild card here is great for Saville, and despite Peterson’s win against Sabalenka last week, she is generally around the mid-tier of the tour as well. In that third set, the ref admonished Sabalenka for serving underhand after too many double faults, and she almost pulled back momentum from Peterson. I haven’t watched enough of Saville play to really understand why she’s only +125 here, so I’d go with the established tour veteran. Peterson in 3.

Linette vs Sevastova :

Linette has a great serve and tends to play her best in the first set. This will help her since Sevastova is very much a flow player and can throw sets away quickly if she’s making errors. She’s got Murray’s “this is my box’s fault” habits, but when she’s on she makes the court seem twice as big as it is. Her backhand cross can create sharp angles, and she utilizes a lot of slices and dropshots. For now, Iwould say that neither player has a huge edge, but Sevastova won their previous meeting so I’d give her a slight edge, but I doubt she’ll roll Linette. Sevastova in 3.

Voegele vs Kasatkina :

Voegele had to battle back a few times in her final round of qualifying against Indy De Vroome, a new player who has a really good serve and seemed to have the match locked up before a string of errors. Voegele will have her hands full with Kasatkina, as she’s fresh off a finals run and beat Kenin, Mertens, and Muguruza without dropping a set. For a baseliner like Voegele, this is a tough ask. Kasatkina in 2.

Kvitova vs Cirstea :

Sorana Cirstea and Kvitova have played 8 times already, and this is expected to be another close contest. Cirstea losing to Kalinina isn’t a great sign, but the familiarity of playing Kvitova means she’s likely to get into a rhythm regardless of her early season struggles. The problem I think is that Kvitova started off poorly against Priscilla Hon but found a pretty good level to overcome Aranxta Rus. The Melbourne courts are pretty fast and Cirstea had trouble holding serve against Kalinina. She’ll need to sharpen that up quickly or Kvitova will run away with the match. Kvitova in 2.

Doi vs Kucova :

These two just played and Doi won in three. Both are exceptionally consistent, but Doi seems to be implementing her offense better so far this year. A repeat performance makes sense. Doi in 3.

Anderson vs Stosur :

Robin Anderson has a lot of wins in her recent history, and Stosur is enjoying an extended retirement tour. Despite not winning too many matches, Stosur has the ability to push anyone in a single set, so this may take the youngster 3, or even 4. Maybe even 5! Could be 6!! 7’s ALWAYS POSSIBLE. Sorry. I’m getting, a little bit tired. Anderson in 3.

Bondar vs Pavlyuchenkova :

Anna Bondar besting Siniakova gives her a slight chance to win this, but it’s only because Pavs tested positive for COVID and hasn’t had a match to warm up. Bondar has a great serve, so if Pavlyuchenkova loses confidence in her game (which she can) and decelerates her swings (which she does) this could be close. Same kinda story as the match above; one player needs to serve and needs their opponent to make errors. Pavlyuchenkova in 3.

Kerber vs Kanepi :

Apparently Kerber has contracted symptomatic COVID, and hasn’t gotten started yet this year. This makes this a very tricky opener, despite her world class pedigree. Kanepi has a big serve, and the kind of game that makes her a constant terror in the big tournaments. Players get tight, and Kanepi plays so infrequently that most aren’t really used to her shot patterns. I think the upset is probable here, and the -200 price for Kerber reflects this. Kanepi in 2.

Bouzkova vs Marino :

Rakhimova was the best player in the qualifiers, and Marino beat her fair and square. Her groundstrokes are hit with great power, and her serve is a legit weapon. It makes this a close match, and one I think she can win. Marino was supposed to be a tour stalwart at one point, but had some injury issues and had kinda given up on her professional tennis career. It’s great to see her back, and Bouzkova will have her hands full here, as her and Rakhimova is an even prospect most of the time. Marino in 3.

Baptiste vs Garcia :

Hailey’s qualifying run has earned her one of the biggest names that she can possibly beat, as Garcia’s unforced error count makes her the type of player that everyone should compete their hardest against. When she connects, it’s scary since her power is top 10 level stuff, but it’s very easy for her to lose her timing and the courts are playing pretty quick. Baptiste has a chance to get off to a quick start, but this would be her biggest win on tour so it’ll be tough. Garcia in 2-3.

Inglis vs Fernandez :

Fernandez suffered a tough defeat against Swiatek, but she fought hard throughout the match. Her run at the USO was the less likely one to repeat itself, but she has elevated her ballstriking since then and now sits in a higher tier than she did. The confidence is warranted, and she looks stronger on serve every time she takes the court. I don’t mean to disparage her game at all, and have been a fan for a long time, it’s just that as a baseliner prone to being outhit, most of her wins came via outlasting her opponent, and in the 2/3 structure it’s tough to wear down the top hitters. Her losses on tour were mainly against players with power, and if I’d compare her to another player ceiling-wise it would have been De Minaur. Anyway, it seems like the win has transformed her approach, and I love it. Fernandez in 2.

Vondourosova vs Hon :

Hon snagged Kvitova to start the season and it was an exceptional result for her. She played well in patches against Azarenka, but lost to Cristian the following week and has a very tough matchup here. Vondrousova isn’t at her sharpest, but she plays at a higher level and one of the things she does best is keep the ball in difficult spots for her opponents. Being lefty and using height on the forehand is a tough problem to solve, and Hon is likely to exit early here. Vondousova in 2.

Samsonova vs Bektas :

Emina Bektas is worth watching here. She was able to outlast McHale in qualifying, but dominated the match for most of the first and third. She has a very sharp backhand and a good attitude. Her demeanor reminds me a bit of Kasatkina where you can see she’s thinking a lot but isn’t really taking any of it too personally. Samsonova is a player I was high on initially but who I don’t really do well predicting outcomes for. She’ll win a few matches 6-1, 6-2 then struggle against the same caliber of player. Her power is undeniable, and her serve is tremendous. For a taller player, she moves extremely well. This is a match I’d expect her to dominate. Bektas moves the ball great, but is a little prone to error patches, simply because she’s not very experienced on tour. Samsonova in 2.

Li vs Wang :

Ann Li started out the year playing some great tennis, but Sasnovich ended her run. It felt bad at the time, since Li had the match controlled (up 5-2 in both the first and the second), but Sasnovich’s tennis has improved and it’s okay to admit that I didn’t see that coming. The announcers are going to discuss Li’s newfound love of David Goggins, who’s lauded as a philosopher but mostly just sees results via hard work. Hard work does yield results, and it couldn’t hurt for Li to get a bit stronger. She could have a good run here, especially since Sabalenka seems a bit off to start the year. Li in 2.

Sabalenka vs Sanders :

Storm Sanders. Honestly, it’s a cool name. I can see the finish line, but Sabalenka’s last two matches should be discussed. Against Juvan and Peterson she struck a combined 39 double faults. Against Juvan she was somewhat outplayed, but with Peterson she seemed to just be giving up. She was barely swinging on her first serve, and began serving underhand in the third. It wasn’t the usual slice underhand approach that most take (McDonald famously used this and still defeated Polansky in a match), it was a topspin offering like you’d hit to a junior player you were training. Peterson took advantage, and the ref interjected herself in the match to tell Sabalenka to make more of an effort. I understand that players must compete, but in a third set if you’ve emotionally defeated your opponent, the ref giving them a pep talk seems like overstepping. Sabalenka came back and served hard, notched a few unreturned serves, and might have won the match had she not hit some sitters right into the net with Peterson off the court. Sanders has never won a match like this, but Sabalenka is the master of her own destiny here. Idk if I’d hand the win to Sanders considering she was just outhit by Paolini, but Sabalenka is a “wait and see” situation at best. Sabalenka in 2 or Sanders in 3.