Second round action will begin at the Brisbane International on Tuesday with the match of the day adorning the night session as the number four seed, Garbiñe Muguruza will play Daria Kasatkina. The winner will advance to a first ever quarter-final in Brisbane.
Muguruza opened her 2017 campaign with a gritty win over Sam Stosur, 7-5 6-7(2) 7-5. Stosur led 4-2 in the third set and even had a pair of break points for the double break at 3-1. Stosur looked sharp, a significant improvement on the way she had ended 2016, and was winning a lot of free points on her serve. Muguruza knucked down midway through the third set and actually seemed to take on board the advice from her coach, Sam Sumyk on the changeover by hitting a little more cross-court to drag Stosur out wide. All in all, it was an encouraging result for Muguruza.
Kasatkina earnt her first win of 2017 on Sunday with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu. It was an excellent start against a dangerous opponent; Kasatkina was serving well and constructing the points with intelligence, winning many of the longer rallies. Begu didn’t have her best day though, missing a handful of sitters and looking a little sluggish on the move. Kasatkina needed just the one break of serve in the first set as she broke through in a seven deuce game where Begu had saved numerous break points with some clutch play.
The Romanian player did have a brief resurgence in the second set as she recovered an early break to win three games on the trot. Kasatkina had been up *40-0 in the game where she was broken and had her coach, Vladmir Platenik on the court. Kasatkina refocused and won the last three games of the match to wrap up the win in 90 minutes.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Muguruza beat Kasatkina on the clay courts of Marrakech in 2015, 6-4 6-1.
Interesting stat: Both players served well during their first round matches; Kasatkina won 87% of her first serve points against Begu and dropped just four points behind it, while Muguruza hit 11 aces and was broken just twice by Stosur in 18 service games.
Final thoughts: I’m loving this match-up and it will be a good early-season test for both players. Kasatkina has been vulnerable against big hitters who can take the game away from her so it will be interesting to see what type of gameplan she implements to counter that. Muguruza likes to come forward and although it has been an approach with varied success, it’s one of the reasons why I am leaning towards the Spaniard in what I think will be a closely contested match.