There have been no upsets overnight in Melbourne for the women; one seed did fall in Casey Dellacqua, but she always faced an uphill struggle against Madison Keys. Dellacqua started great, but Keys found her game to fly through the final two sets. Petra Kvitova had another solid win against Mona Barthel, who put up more resistance than I was expecting in a competitive second set. Kvitova won, 6-2 6-4. Third round action kicks off on Friday and unlike the slate of second round matches from the bottom half, there are some real gems in this line-up. It was great to see so many of the players who scored upsets on the first day back them up. I’m feeling a bit more positive with the bottom half and there are still some quality players residing in place of the seeds.
Poll Results: 81% (!) of readers correctly predicted that Halep would beat Gajdosova, 58% correctly predicted that Tomic would beat Kohlschreiber, 78% correctly predicted that Williams would beat Zvonareva, 79% correctly predicted that Kvitova would beat Barthel, 57% correctly predicted that Keys would beat Dellacqua and 70% correctly predicted that Muguruza would beat Hantuchova.
1. Eugenie Bouchard v Caroline Garcia (AO, R3)
Eugenie Bouchard will face her toughest test of the tournament so far as she goes up against Caroline Garcia in the third round of the Australian Open. Bouchard’s performances this week have been solid with straight set victories over Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-2 6-4 and Kiki Bertens, 6-0 6-3. Garcia also hasn’t dropped a set; she knocked out the number 27 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round and backed it up by beating Stefanie Voegele in the second round. Garcia was sensational through parts of the second set against Voegele as the difference in quality between the two players was vast. Garcia did get nervous at the end as she missed four match points (three in a row at 6-2 *5-2 *40-0) and then committed back-to-back double faults. At the second time of asking, Garcia served it out.
In their only previous match, Garcia defeated Bouchard in Acapulco last year, 3-6 6-4 6-1. Bouchard has really excelled with her mentality on her court and this is what has set her apart in terms of results compared to players around her age like Garcia. The Frenchwoman has a wonderful game to watch when she’s confident, but her game does have the tendency to break down quite spectacularly. Garcia began to shine during the clay court season last year when she won her first title in Bogota and reached the quarter-finals of the Premier Mandatory event in Madrid. She went quiet for much of the second half of the year, waking up from her slumber to beat Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska in back-to-back third set tiebreak wins in Wuhan, executing an ultra-aggressive gameplan which worked like a dream. There have been some encouraging signs from Garcia, but she hasn’t yet been able to put it all together on a consistent basis.
Garcia’s got a real shot in this one IF she plays a clean match. Technically, she’s a better player than Bouchard, but mentally, is second best. The little wobble against Voegele was concerning and against a player like Bouchard, she won’t get away with it. I nearly, nearly, NEARLY went for the upset, but i’m sticking safe with Bouchard.
Prediction: Bouchard d. Garcia in 3 sets
2. Ekaterina Makarova v Karolina Pliskova (AO, R3)
In an Ana Ivanovic-less section, the winner of this highly intriguing third round match between Ekaterina Makarova and Karolina Pliskova will be the favourite to reach the quarter-finals. Out of all the “rising stars” on tour, it was Pliskova who made the most impression in the first two weeks of the 2015 season. A victory over Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane and a run to the final in Sydney consolidated the claim that Pliskova is set for big things this year. She dropped a set against the equally big-hitting, Oceane Dodin in the second round, but survived to progress to the third round at a Grand Slam for just the second time in her career. On a sidenote, Dodin is a player I haven’t had the fortune to watch yet, but is definitely one to keep an eye on. There was a strange moment in the second set when Dodin dropped her racquet after serving down break point…
As ever, Makarova has quietly gone about her business attracting few headlines with straight set wins over An-Sophie Mestach and Roberta Vinci. Makarova lost her last match against Vinci in Beijing at the end of 2014, but recovered from a 0-2 first set deficit to win reasonably comfortably, 6-2 6-4. Makarova has always done well in Melbourne (Bourne-GOAT) and is bidding to make the second week at the Australian Open for the fifth consecutive year. Makarova reached the semi-finals at the US Open, but i’d still regard her as very underrated and often overlooked. She was a consistent performer throughout 2014 and didn’t lose to a player ranked below her in the rankings until September. Makarova leads the head-to-head with Pliskova 1-0 after a victory in the final of Pattaya City last year. This is likely to be a really tight match and it’s a coin flip in deciding who will come through. I’m fully on board the Pliskova bandwagon, but I think Makarova will prevail in this one.
Prediction: Makarova d. Pliskova in 3 sets
3. Maria Sharapova v Zarina Diyas (AO, R3)
Maria Sharapova had a huge scare on Wednesday as she was forced to save two match points in her second round match against Alexandra Panova. Sharapova was a double break down in the third set before displaying her customary fighting spirit to come through and win, 6-1 4-6 7-5 in two hours and 32 minutes. A short clip of Sharapova’s press conference is provided above by AudioBoom. Sharapova’s level was obviously not there, but coming through matches like this is always great for the confidence and it’s likely to have improved her focus going forward. As long as you get through the first week of a Grand Slam, it really doesn’t matter how you do it. In 2013, Sharapova cruised through the draw only get to thumped by Li Na in the semi-finals, 6-2 6-2. In that case, a lack of competitive matches went against her.
Sharapova’s third round opponent is Zarina Diyas. Sneaking in as the number 31 seed, Diyas has earnt two hard fought wins against Urszula Radwanska (3-6 6-4 6-2) and Anna Schmiedlova (3-6 6-2 8-6). Diyas has risen up the rankings without people taking much notice. This is largely thanks to some solid results at the Grand Slams in 2014. She also finished the year with an appearance in her first WTA final in Osaka. As the year draws on, it’s likely that Diyas will face more of the top players on tour and gain more coverage. In a first career match-up, i’m intrigued to see how Diyas gets on in this one. After the struggle in the second round, i’d fancy a major improvement from Sharapova.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Diyas in 2 sets
WTA AO 3rd Round Predictions
Julia Goerges d. Lucie Hradecka in 2 tight sets
Sara Errani d. Yanina Wickmayer in 3 tight sets
Simona Halep d. Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2 sets
Irina-Camelia Begu d. Carina Witthoeft in 2 sets
Peng Shuai d. Yaroslava Shvedova in 3 sets