Women’s Australian Open, First Round Previews for Day 1: Mladenovic v Cibulkova, Vinci v Paszek

The first day of the 2016 Australian Open will cover the top half of the women’s draw with the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Belinda Bencic all in action. A first round preview of Serena’s first round match against Camila Giorgi can be found HERE. This post focuses on two matches from the second quarter of the draw.

1. Kristina Mladenovic v Dominika Cibulkova (AO, R1)

Dominika Cibulkova

As first round matches go at this year’s Australian Open, you can’t get much more brutal than the number 28 seed, Kristina Mladenovic, going head-to-head with Dominika Cibulkova. Just seven places separate the pair in the rankings. Cibulkova fell out of the world’s top ten at the start of 2015 following a spell on the sidelines for an achilles injury which needed surgery. The Slovak player has been on the comeback trail since then and started the year with a tough three set victory over Yanina Wickmayer in Brisbane. Optimism was soon swiped away with a crushing 1-6 1-6 defeat to Roberta Vinci. Cibulkova improved in Hobart and was digging out wins, beating Johanna Konta, Kimberly Birrell and Kiki Bertens all in straight sets before losing out to Eugenie Bouchard in the semi-finals.

Mladenovic is yet to win a singles match in 2016. The Frenchwoman has been on the end of some rough draws, playing fellow compatriots in both Brisbane and Sydney. Mladenovic was unable to win a set, going down in straight sets to Alizé Cornet, 3-6 4-6 and Caroline Garcia, 6-7(4) 4-6. The 22-year-old spent much of her off-season playing the IPTL and after a breakthrough 2015 season in singles, needs a good result to kick-start her 2016 season.

Head-to-head record: Cibulkova has never lost to Mladenovic, racking up five consecutive wins between 2012 and 2015. Their last match was their closest to date with Cibulkova coming from a set down in New Haven last year, eventually surviving, 2-6 7-6(1) 7-5.

Analysis: This is such a tough match-up, particularly compared to some of the other first round matches in the draw. Cibulkova has had more matches and while not playing at her best level, has been slowly playing her way into form. Mladenovic has the bigger serve and strokes, but there’s also more that can go wrong! Cibulkova has the edge in the head-to-head and has had a couple of superb Australian Open campaigns, reaching the final in 2014 and the quarter-finals in 2015. In this one, i’m edging towards Domi.

Prediction: Cibulkova d. Mladenovic in 3 sets

2. Roberta Vinci v Tamira Paszek (AO, R1)

Paszek 3

It’s wonderful to see Tamira Paszek, fit and healthy and picking up wins again on the WTA tour. Ranked as high as world number 26 and a two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, Paszek was sidelined for much of 2014 and has struggled to get back to the level she achieved in 2013. She has finished the last three years ranked outside of the world’s top 100 and is currently ranked at number 126 in the world. Spending much of 2015 on the ITF circuit, Paszek had an encouraging result last October in Poitiers where she came through qualifying and won a total of six matches en route to reaching the semi-finals.

Paszek has continued that decent form with a promising start to 2016. In her first tournament of the year, she successfully progressed through three rounds of qualifying in Auckland and went all the way to the semi-finals, beating Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kirsten Flipkens. Paszek’s 7-6(3) 4-6 6-3 victory over Schiavone in the second round was probably my favourite WTA match of the year so far, a blast from the past, and a welcome one at that.

Paszek notched up three more wins in successfully qualifying for the Australian Open main draw, beating Kateryna Kozlova, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Barbora Krejcikova all in straight sets. Paszek’s reward is a first round match against the number 13 seed, Roberta Vinci. The Italian player made a strong start to her final year on the tour, beating Jelena Jankovic and Dominika Cibulkova en route to the Brisbane quarter-finals. In Sydney, she lost out in the first round to Sam Stosur in an entertaining three setter.

Head-to-head record: Paszek leads the head-to-head against Vinci, 2-0, with straight set wins in Hobart (6-4 6-3, 2010) and Wimbledon (6-2 6-2, 2012).

Analysis: I always have high hopes for the qualifiers in the draw with three matches under their belt and confidence obviously high. The Australian Open hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for Vinci as she has never made it past the third round in ten previous attempts. Vinci can be a difficult player to come up against but the fact that Paszek has secured wins against her, even if the last one was over three years ago, is a promising sign for the Austrian player. Furthermore, she’s already come to terms with the varied games of Schiavone and Flipkens this year so she should be up for this one. I’m throwing caution to the wind and going for the upset…

Prediction: Paszek d. Vinci in 3 sets

Photos in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography and mootennis.com

19 thoughts on “Women’s Australian Open, First Round Previews for Day 1: Mladenovic v Cibulkova, Vinci v Paszek

  1. Vinci vs Tamira depends on whether Tamira can keep up with ground strokes to send the balls consistently to two corners of the court preventing Vinci from playing volleys. If she can, she will win. Mladenovic’s mental strength is weak. Pome should win.

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  2. Domi herself said in an interview recently that apart from Serena, whom she regards as being in a class of her own (she referred to Serena as a “legend”), all the top 100 “play each other,” meaning that any player can beat another one if the first has a good day by her standards and the second one has a bad one.

    I think Domi will most likely win tomorrow though, she’s been to the final of this tournament and has more experience than Kiki.

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    • She’s not totally wrong. Although players like Kuznetsova, Muguruza, Kvitova, Halep, Sharapova and a few others having a good day are difficult for the vast majority of players to beat even when they’re playing their best.

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    • At this pace, Serena’s path may both get easier and harder with the culling of top seeds in her section. Harder because she is often not shocked by top seeds but by the lower ranked opponents playing out of their skin. I guess we’ll know if she makes the quarters from the look of the draw.

      Ms Stephens was blindsided, simple.

      The court speed, the atmosphere, all came together for Mladenovic. You must really want these slams to win it this year. Game on!

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      • Agreed on Serena, this is a blessing and a curse for her as she prefers to scrap through tough encounters than head into a match unexcited and then lose.
        Im really pleased Kuznetsova marched on. Though she made comments yesterday that she has never dreamt of winning a slam, she just goes into them enjoying herself. Its admirable but likely also the reason she only won 2…

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      • Yeah just hoping she doesn’t randomly drop the ball because Im salivating over potential Bencic & Serena matchups

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      • I agree about Serena. While I don’t anticipate Hsieh to cause too many problems, either Kasatkina or Konjuh might be a bit of a test, particularly Kasatkina.

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  3. Was expecting upsets but not these ones….Sloane was in such a good form (beating woz in Aukland) and Domi had also started this year in a great from but then both have doomed….Sloane was more shocking…..
    Wozniacki was not that surprising…..Yulia was all over her in that 3rd set….the best match of the day for me…

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    • I don’t know about Sloane’s opponent, but Domi was playing someone who is currently ranked higher than she is so it was not altogether unexpected. OK, the head to head was in Domi’s favour, but there’s a four year age difference between her and Kiki so that shouldn’t be taken too seriously IMO.

      I think Domi’s been unlucky with her draws in slams since coming back from injury – she got Ana Ivanovic in the first round of the US Open, though she managed to win that one.

      Not withstanding this, it seems clear that Kiki played very well and deserved her win.

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      • BTW – yes I know I predicted otherwise lol. I also didn’t expect Nastia Pavly to go out in the first round considering how well she’s been playing recently; but as a classmate of mine at school was wont to say, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

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      • Just when I thought Pavs had turned a corner :-S Pavs hit a hugeeee error long to gift the first match point. Davis absorbed all the pace and did really well to be fair.

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      • Fair point. I had this weird feeling that Kiki might win just because everything was pointing to Domi… H2H, early form and record at this tournament. But Kiki is still quality, despite two early losses.

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    • Yup, I had a weird feeling last night about Domi-Kiki even though I thought Domi would win but the Sloane one didn’t see coming at all. From the end of the second set, I wasn’t at all convinced by Woz. She’s become a really shaky front runner in matches and Poots deserved the win.

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