Serena Williams opens her Australian Open title defence against the world number 35, Camila Giorgi. In terms of rankings, it is the toughest possible match that Serena could have faced with Giorgi the first player to miss out on a seeding. Furthermore, Giorgi’s ultra-agressive and fast-paced game will put Serena’s level under the microscope right from the get-go.
Serena has played just one completed set so far this year, eventually retiring from her singles match at the Hopman Cup against Jarmila Wolfe, down 5-7 1-2. In a piece with the New York Times, Patrick Mouratoglou revealed that Serena had experienced swelling of her knee after receiving treatment before the Hopman Cup. It would seem that this has now cleared up and Serena has been practising in Melbourne all week.
Giorgi lost her first match of the year in Brisbane to Angelique Kerber, but did have break points to lead by a set and a break; a rain delay seemed to disrupt Giorgi’s rhythm as Kerber won the last ten games of the match to prevail, 5-7 6-3 6-0. Giorgi fared better in Hobart where she won two matches against Zarina Diyas (6-4 1-6 6-1) and Nao Hibino (6-2 6-3) before falling in straight sets to Eugenie Bouchard.
Head-to-head record: Serena leads the head-to-head, 2-0 with wins in Charleston (6-2 6-3, 2013) and Brindisi in Fed Cup (7-6(5) 6-2, 2015). The most recent of those matches featured a high quality first set which had no breaks of serve.
Analysis: This should be a fascinating match and will tell us a lot about Serena’s form. I’d expect the world number one to face an early onslaught from Giorgi who will come out of the blocks firing. I’d fancy the Italian player to take the opening set and put an upset alert on this match. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Serena start slow considering she hasn’t played a competitive match since August. While Giorgi has had some huge wins, she’s also struggled to close matches out and to maintain her level. An example of this is her third round match with Venus Williams at the Australian Open last year where she was on the verge of the upset win, but couldn’t serve it out with Venus seizing on a Giorgi lull and coming through to win the match, 4-6 7-6(3) 6-1. I think Giorgi will cause some problems, but Serena will weather an early storm to progress to the second round.
Prediction: S.Williams d. Giorgi in 3 sets