While Serena Williams’s eighth of the draw has been left without any seeds, her third round opponent should not be overlooked; Serena plays the 18-year-old, Daria Kasatkina. The young Russian is playing just her second Grand Slam main draw and for the second time, has reached the third round. Kasatkina upset Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round with a 6-3 6-3 victory and backed that up with another convincing performance, defeating Ana Konjuh, 6-4 6-3. Kasatkina had already opened her year with a three set victory over the defending champion in Auckland, Venus Williams and has been showing plenty of promise over the past year.
In 2015, Kasatkina won five ITF titles, her biggest towards the end of the year, winning Saint-Malo with victories over Kaia Kanepi and Laura Siegemund. Kasatkina also had a fluttering of appearances at WTA tournaments where she more than held her own; she qualified for the main draw of Bucharest, losing to Julia Goerges in the first round. One week later in Bad Gastein, she qualified for the main draw once more and this time, beat Goerges in the second round to advance to the quarter-finals where she pushed Sara Errani to three sets on clay. Kasatkina had a slice of luck in getting into the US Open main draw as a lucky loser but grabbed her opportunity with both hands, beating Daria Gavrilova and Konjuh to reach the third round. She finished her year with a super run in Moscow, coming through qualifying and dismantling a nervous, Carla Suárez Navarro en route to the semi-finals.
Serena has looked decent through two rounds of the Australian Open. Camila Giorgi was a dangerous first round opponent but she raised her level up for the occasion, edging through in two tight sets, 6-4 7-5. In the second round, she powered past Su-Wei Hsieh, 6-1 6-2. While Hsieh played some neat angles, her serve was not up to scratch and Serena didn’t drop serve once, saving three break points.
Head-to-head record: Unsurprisingly, this will be a first career match-up between Serena and Daria.
Analysis: I’d fancy this to be Serena’s toughest match of the tournament so far. Kasatkina has looked in good form and has adapted well to the big stage with her jump up to playing at WTA level. She has a really sound game and what appears to be a good head on her shoulders. While I wouldn’t put this match on upset alert, I would give Kasatkina a set. Serena often has one or two matches in a Slam run where she struggles and with Kasatkina very much an unknown quantity, my hunch is that this could be that match.
Prediction: S.Williams d. Kasatkina in 3 sets