No more seeds fell in the bottom half of the women’s draw on day 3 (Halep v Gajdosova still to play at time of writing) after a cull of the seeds on the first day of the 2015 Australian Open. This nearly wasn’t the case for Maria Sharapova who saved two match points to beat Alexandra Panova, 6-1 4-6 7-5. The bottom half would have been blown wide open if Maria had lost, but credit to her for once again showing her fighting spirit when she was teetering on the edge of an early exit. I was pleased to see many of the players who caused upsets on day one back it up: Lucie Hradecka (d. Ana Ivanovic), Julia Goerges (d. Belinda Bencic), Yanina Wickmayer (d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova), Carina Witthoeft (d. Carla Suarez Navarro), Irina-Camelia Begu (d. Angelique Kerber) and Yaroslava Shvedova (d. Lucie Safarova) all won on Wednesday.
In case you missed it, Thursday’s match of the day between Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki warranted it’s own special preview, which you can read HERE. There are plenty of interesting matches in the top half of the women’s draw, which is why i’ve focused on the WTA for day 4 at the Australian Open.
Fantasy Tennis Update: It’s been a disappointing week for Belinda Bencic fans, but FanofBencic has something to smile about with a good start in Racquet Rally, leading the way in the Moo’s Tennis Blog league (based on standings on Wednesday morning). PauLyearley_GameSetMatchWTA leads the way in the TFF DreamTeam game.
1. Serena Williams v Vera Zvonareva (AO, R2)
Serena Williams opened her tournament with a straight sets victory over Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-0 6-4. Much of the buzz was around Serena’s new dress, which did look great. Serena finished the match with a positive winner to unforced error differential (+4) and only faced one break point in the 61 minute contest. Next up for the world number one will be a fun match-up against former world number two, Vera Zvonareva. The Russian player has spent much of the last two years on the sidelines after having shoulder surgery in 2013. She made a brief comeback on tour in 2014, reaching the third round of Wimbledon. Even in 2015, Zvonareva’s two tournaments have been cut short a withdrawal (ITF Hong Kong at QF stage) and a retirement (WTA Shenzhen at the QF stage). In the first round of the Australian Open, Zvonareva defeated Ons Jabeur, 6-2 6-3. The last three matches between Serena and Vera have all been played on grass including the Wimbledon final in 2010. It’s unlikely that Zvonareva will trouble Serena, but it will be lovely to see Zvonareva back on the big stage whereshe belongs.
Prediction: S.Williams d. Zvonareva in 2 sets
2. Petra Kvitova v Mona Barthel (AO, R2)
The relief on Petra’s face was evident after she won her first round match at the Australian Open, defeating Richel Hogenkamp, 6-1 6-4. After falling in the first round last year to Luksika Kumkhum, Petra (thankfully!) did not suffer the same fate two years running as she began the tournament with a solid win. In the second round Kvitova takes on Mona Barthel, who won her first match of the season. Last week, Barthel suffered a horrible loss to Madison Brengle in Hobart where she served for the match on four separate occasions and had multiple match points. Barthel was a set down to Donna Vekic, but responded excellently to win in three sets, 3-6 6-4 6-2. Losses like the one last week can be absolute confidence crushers so this was a really big win for Barthel. The German player has also not been 100% fit (I don’t think so anyway) after damaging ligaments in her ankle in the off-season. Against Kvitova, she’s got absolutely nothing to lose, but I don’t think she will offer much resistance…
Prediction: Kvitova d. Barthel in 2 sets
3. Sam Stosur v Coco Vandeweghe (AO, R2)
Sam Stosur overcame what could have been an absolute MESS of a first round match against Monica Niculescu to win in straight sets. Stosur is a match-up kind of player and she can deal with Niculescu. This was her fifth consecutive win over the Romanian world number 49. In the second round, Stosur will play Coco Vandeweghe, who comfortably saw off Francesca Schiavone in straight sets, 6-2 6-2. Stosur’s woes in Australia are well documented, but falling to Ana Ivanovic in the third round last year was a respectable performance. Vandeweghe has become a much more reliable player in the last year. She enjoyed two good wins in Auckland over, on their day, tricky opponents in Roberta Vinci and Kirsten Flipkens. In their last match on tour, Vandeweghe beat Stosur in a tight three setter. I’m surprised in myself for this, but I fancy Coco to win this match.
Prediction: Vandeweghe d. Stosur in 3 sets
4. Casey Dellacqua v Madison Keys (AO, R2)
Casey Dellacqua took advantage of a good first round draw against Yvonne Meusburger, who officially retired after losing 6-4 6-0 to the Aussie. There was a lovely exchange at the net between the pair. Dellacqua’s second round draw isn’t so kind as she plays one of the dangerous floaters in the draw, Madison Keys. In her first round, Keys beat Lesia Tsurenko, 6-3 7-5. I really like Keys, but she has only managed to show her potential in flashes on the tour. If / when she becomes more consistent, she is going to be lethal. I do get Petra vibes in the sense when she puts it altogether, she will win Slams. Dellacqua has proven she is a very competent player and I think this will be a close match with Keys. In their only previous match in 2013, Keys prevailed in two tight sets at this same tournament. Despite being the unseeded player, Keys will go in as the favourite. These are the type of matches that Keys needs to prove herself in. I’d take Keys.
Prediction: Keys d. Dellacqua in 3 sets
5. Garbine Muguruza v Daniela Hantuchova (AO, R2)
In a neat section of the draw for Garbine Muguruza, the Spaniard will look to take advantage of the early exit of Jelena Jankovic. Muguruza won her first match in Australian against Marina Erakovic, 7-5 6-0 to set up a second round match against Daniela Hantuchova. Now coached by Li Na’s former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, this feels like the last swansong for Hantuchova. In the first two weeks of the year, Hantuchova began the year with a straight sets win over Sara Errani, but didn’t progress past the second round in either Auckland or Hobart. In their only previous match, Muguruza defeated Hantuchova, 6-4 6-4 on the hard courts in Stanford. Both have the tendency to be erratic, but I have more belief in Muguruza right now.
Prediction: Muguruza d. Hantuchova in 2 tight sets
WTA AO 2nd Round Predictions
Elina Svitolina d. Nicole Gibbs in 2 sets
Timea Bacsinszky d. Anna Tatishvili in 2 sets
Alize Cornet d. Denisa Allertova in 3 sets
Dominika Cibulkova d. Tsvetana Pironkova in 3 sets
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova d. Kai-Chen Chang in 2 sets
Madison Brengle d. Irina Falconi in 3 sets
Tereza Smitkova d. Camila Giorgi in 3 sets
Venus Williams d. Lauren Davis in 2 sets
Varvara Lepchenko d. Ajla Tomljanovic in 2 tight sets
Agnieszka Radwanska d. Johanna Larsson in 2 sets
ATP AO 2nd Round Predictions
Novak Djokovic d. Andrey Kuznetsov in 3 sets
Fernando Verdasco d. Go Soeda in 3 sets
John Isner d. Andreas Haider-Maurer in 3 sets
Roberto Bautista Agut d. Gilles Muller in 5 sets
Feliciano Lopez d. Adrian Mannarino in 4 sets
Gael Monfils v Jerzy Janowicz in 4 sets
Lleyton Hewitt d. Benny Becker in 5 sets
Milos Raonic d. Donald Young in 3 sets
Stan Wawrinka d. Marius Copil in 3 sets
Jarkko Nieminen d. Matthias Bachinger in 5 sets
Vasek Pospisil d. Paolo Lorenzi in 3 sets
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez d. Alejandro Gonzalez in 5 sets
David Ferrer d. Sergiy Stakhovsky in 3 sets
Gilles Simon d. Marcel Granollers in 4 sets
Steve Johnson d. Santiago Giraldo in 4 sets
Kei Nishikori d. Ivan Dodig in 4 sets