Tennis is back! I’ve been away this weekend and Internet-less for the last day so I’m already playing catch-up just two days into the new season. All first round matches in Brisbane have been concluded and I have just finished watching the most anticipated first round match between Victoria Azarenka and Karolina Pliskova. It’s always great when a match like this delivers and boy did it deliver. Azarenka played a pretty decent match, but i’m surprised she was unable to close it out with the opportunities that she had. I think this comes down to the lack of matches she has had over the past years. Pliskova played an excellent match and grew in confidence during the third set, producing some really impressive shotmaking in the crucial moments of the match. On Tuesday’s order of play, four of the second round matches from the WTA tournament will be played.
Poll Results: 37% correctly predicted that Karolina Pliskova would beat Azarenka and 65% correctly predicted that Keys would beat Cibulkova
1. Angelique Kerber v Daria Gavrilova (WTA Brisbane, R2)
The number three seed, Angelique Kerber made a confident start to the year with a 6-4 6-3 victory over the dangerous, Caroline Garcia. Kerber dropped just two points on her serve in the first set. Her serving statistics weren’t as good in the second set, but she was still able to break serve three more times to seal her first win of 2015 in 88 minutes. In the second round Kerber will play Daria Gavrilova, who has made a great start to the year. Gavrilova won the Australian Open wildcard play-off before Christmas and in her first tournament of 2015 in Brisbane, has yet to drop a set in four matches. Gavrilova won three qualifying matches and defeated Alison Riske in the first round. Expect Gavrilova to not go down without a fight, but Kerber’s experience to pull her through in the end.
Prediction: Kerber d. Gavrilova in 2 tight sets
2. Ajla Tomljanovic v Elina Svitolina (WTA Brisbane, R2)
Three seeds have fallen so far in Brisbane; in the first main draw match of the 2015 season, Ajla Tomljanovic upset the number six seed, Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, 7-6(6) 6-0. Jankovic later revealed in a press conference that her off-season had been severely hampered by a serious back injury. It was an excellent win for Tomljanovic who showed flutters of promise during 2014, but stuttered after Wimbledon finishing the year with a 5-11 W-L record. She will play another of the WTA’s hot prospects in the second round, Elina Svitolina. It was Svitolina who won their only previous encounter at Indian Wells in 2013. Tomljanovic has the bigger strokes, but Svitolina has proven her consistency over the last few years and was very dominant in 6-0 6-2 first round win over Magdalena Rybarikova.
Prediction: Svitolina d. Tomljanovic in 3 sets
3. Varvara Lepchenko v Madison Keys (WTA Brisbane, R2)
The most high-profile result on Sunday saw Varvara Lepchenko defeat Sam Stosur in three sets, saving a match point and coming from 5-1 down to win the last six games of the match. It was another disappointing loss for Stosur in Australia, but I didn’t enjoy reading some of the negative comments on Twitter. I have no doubt Sam will bounce back, perhaps not in Australia, but definitely this year! Lepchenko snapped a three match losing streak against Stosur and will now play fellow American, Madison Keys, who started the year in fine form. Keys defeated the number 4 seed, Dominika Cibulkova, 7-5 6-2, hitting 36 winners to just 16 unforced errors…
Lepchenko is a much better player than most give her credit for. She played some lovely points against Stosur, but the lapses in concentration remain her biggest issue. On the fast hard courts of Brisbane, I’m backing Keys to pick up another win.
Prediction: Keys d. Lepchenko in 3 sets
4. Maria Sharapova v Yaroslava Shvedova (WTA Brisbane, R2)
Maria Sharapova plays her first match of 2015 in the first of Tuesday’s night matches on the Pat Rafter Arena. The Russian world number two takes on Yaroslava Shvedova, who defeated Sabine Lisicki in the first round. It was one of those baffling WTA scorelines that only the WTA could produce… 0-6 7-5 6-4. Shvedova has won four matches in Brisbane after coming through three rounds of qualifying. She will be confident, but is unlikely to be able to stave off the mental jitters long enough to take out Sharapova.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Shvedova in 2 tight sets
WTA Shenzhen 2nd Round Predictions
Saisai Zheng d. Polona Hercog in 3 sets
Zarina Diyas d. Timea Babos in 2 sets
Petra Kvitova d. Bojana Jovanovski in 3 sets
I’m back to work tomorrow, but as ever, I’ll be here all week with previews and posting anything of interest. Polls will return tomorrow as I’m a bit late tonight with my preview. The first week of the tennis season is the busiest week of the year and it’s hard to follow everything! For Lucie fans, Safarova began her year with a 6-0 6-4 victory against Eugenie Bouchard in her first match at the Hopman Cup. I’ll be continuing to follow and report about my favourite players on tour including Lucie, Petra, Mona, Belinda, Taylor and DelPo!