Date: 12 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Round: Third round (Round of 32)
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: AUD $80 million
Live Telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six
Simona Halep vs Veronika Kudermetova preview
World No. 2 Simona Halep has been one of the most consistent performers on the WTA tour in recent years.
Halep is eighth on the list of most consecutive weeks inside the top 10 of the WTA rankings. The Romanian has spent 346 consecutive weeks in the top 10, a number that has been surpassed only by Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Pam Shriver, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Hana Mandlikova.
That said, Halep would have been hugely disappointed by her early exit at the French Open after she decided to skip the US Open. She was also sent packing early at last week's event in Melbourne, where she was beaten in straight sets by Ekaterina Alexandrova.
The 29-year-old is a two-time Grand Slam champion, and will be very keen to put those underwhelming results in the rearview mirror as she tries to improve upon her runner-up finish at Melbourne in 2018.
Her next opponent, the 23-year-old Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, has established herself as a solid top 40 singles player and a top 30 player in doubles. Kudermetova reached the final in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, but suffered an early exit in Melbourne last week.
Simona Halep vs Veronika Kudermetova head-to-head
This will be the first meeting between Simona Halep and Veronika Kudermetova on the WTA Tour, so their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Simona Halep vs Veronika Kudermetova prediction
Seeded 32nd this fortnight, Veronika Kudermetova scored a straight-sets win over Marta Kostyuk in the first round. She followed that up with a three-set win over Varvara Gracheva in the second round.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep started her tournament with a straight-sets win over Lizette Cabrera. But on Wednesday, Halep needed all her resilience to overcome a spirited challenge from Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round.
The Romanian came back from 2-5 down in the final set to come through 4-6 6-4 7-5 and book her spot in the last 32.
Getting through such a tough match could lead to one of two outcomes for Halep. It could spur her on to make a spirited run this fortnight, but given the difficult and unusual build-up to the tournament, it could also affect her physically.
Halep's fitness level will be a big factor in deciding the outcome on Friday. However, her vast experience of playing on the big stage should help her reach the last 16 even if she's a little fatigued.
Prediction: Simona Halep to win in straight sets.