In one of just two all-seeded third round encounters, Ana Ivanovic and Madison Keys get centre stage on Saturday at the Australian Open on Saturday. Considering both players came into Melbourne without a match win, it’s somewhat surprising that both have progressed through unscathed. Ivanovic had a turbulent start to the year, suffering straight set losses to Naomi Broady, 5-7 4-6 in Auckland and Karolina Pliskova, 4-6 2-6 in Sydney. Up against two big servers, Ivanovic struggled to find answers and looked way off her best. However, treated with a very reasonable draw in Melbourne, Ivanovic has been given time to play herself into the tournament with wins over Tammi Patterson (6-2 6-3) and Anastasija Sevastova (6-3 6-3).
Keys came into the Australian Open with no matches under her belt after a forearm injury forced her to pull out of Sydney. Keys saved a set point to get off to a winning start against Zarina Diyas in the first round, 7-6(5) 6-1. She faced a much sterner test in the second round, coming from a set down to defeat the dangerous, Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3. I was really impressed with the way that Keys reacted to losing the first set; she was hitting big, making some errors but playing generally smart tennis. Keys was aided by her serve which improved as the match wore on. She spoke in her press conference about focussing on her mental game and changing her perspective. This definitely came across in the final two sets.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Ivanovic defeated Keys, 6-1 7-6(4) in Madrid in 2014.
Interesting stat: Keys has always played her best tennis at the Slams and has now made five consecutive third rounds at the Grand Slams. For Ivanovic, this is only the second time in the last six Slams that she has reached this stage.
Analysis: This is a huge match for both players because the winner will fancy their chances of progressing much deeper in the draw. Ivanovic is gaining points having lost in the first round last year, while Keys is defending semi-final points and she could very well get close to repeating that feat. Ivanovic hasn’t looked in vintage form although she has improved in every match this year. Her ball toss has looked even more wayward this year although she doesn’t let it affect her as much these days. There isn’t much data to go on for Keys in 2016 but she was impressive against Shvedova, particularly with her mental application in coming back and front-running in the third set when she got the first break. If Keys can get that serve going again, I think she could win this relatively comfortably.
Prediction: Keys d. Ivanovic in 2 sets