Once again, Simona Halep is set to play her first match of 2016; after pulling out of the Brisbane International last week with an achilles injury, the world number two will now play Caroline Garcia in Sydney.
In an all-French first rounder, Garcia edged past her doubles partner, Kristina Mladenovic in a tight two setter, 7-6(4) 6-4. It was a close match but in the end, the key difference was that Garcia served better in the important moments. Mladenovic failed to serve out the first set at *5-4 and played a poor tiebreak, losing multiple points after a missed volley. She narrowed the deficit but Garcia still came through to win the first set tiebreak. Garcia has struggled to close out matches before but after a succession of breaks midway through the second serve, served out the match with an ace. Garcia has made a bright start to the year having won all three of her singles matches at the Hopman Cup, defeating Heather Watson (6-3 5-7 6-3), Sabine Lisicki (6-2 7-6(5)) and Daria Gavrilova (6-4 7-6(7)).
Head-to-head record: The pair have never played each other before on the WTA tour.
Interesting stat: In singles matches (including the Hopman Cup), Garcia has actually won her last nine matches. At the end of 2015 in November, Garcia won the $125k event in Limoges.
Analysis: As openers go, this is a tough match-up for Halep. Garcia is all about confidence and she’s toughed out a number of tight sets at the start of 2016. A fully fit Halep wins this, but i’m concerned about the achilles injury. Furthermore, coming in cold, she will be at a disadvantage playing against an aggressive opponent who will give her little rhythm. Halep has overcome injury concerns before to go on dazzling draw runs, but i’d fancy Garcia to have a fair shot at the upset if she doesn’t overthink matters… by no means, a foregone conclusion!
Prediction: Garcia d. Halep in 2 sets (or retirement)