A match-up between a former champion and a first-timer would look wildly mismatched to many, but the second round encounter between Angelique Kerber and Priscilla Hon at the 2020 Australian Open is far more balanced than it might seem on first glance.
The Brisbane native Hon had never previously won a main draw match at her home slam, but that changed on Tuesday when she got the better of Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova in convincing fashion.
Her reward, you ask? It is a match-up with the 2016 champion, and a chance to notch up the biggest win of her career on a show court in fort of her home crowd. It does not get any bigger for the 21-year-old.
Let's get one thing straight; Angelique Kerber is a champion no matter what, and you would not want to play her in the early stages of any tournament on any given day.
That said, the German no. 1 has not been in the best shape for quite some time now. In fact, she has been on a downward spiral of sorts since her 2018 Wimbledon Championships and has succumbed to surprise losses far too often in the last 12 months.
Kerber did show flashes of brilliance that got her to the top of the world rankings and three Grand Slam titles in her opening match at Melbourne Park, but whether she can maintain that level throughout the two weeks remains to be seen.
Her inconsistent performances in the recent past leave the door wide open for someone like Hon, who has gathered a little experience playing on the senior tour these past couple of years, and is now looking for her big breakthrough.
The Australian was solid from the back court in her opening match against Kozlova, and showed that she is capable of generating good pace on her groundstrokes off both wings.
That is the kind of play that troubles Kerber a lot, if someone can maintain their level for prolonged periods. The German is master at the defending and redirecting pace at her opponents, but she tends to lose touch a little if the fast balls keep coming.
It is not going to be easy for Hon, but she will have to be in overdrive through most of the match if she wants to stand any chance against Kerber. Otherwise, the German will just brush her away using her own strengths against her.
Prediction: Kerber to win in three sets.
Published 23 Jan 2020, 04:04 IST