Date: 17 January 2022
Round: First round (Round of 128)
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor Hardcourt
Prize money: $75,000,000
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Eurosport | India - Sony Six, Sony Liv
Belinda Bencic vs Kristina Mladenovic preview
22nd seed Belinda Bencic will open her 2022 Australian Open campaign against World No. 91 Kristina Mladenovic on Monday.
The Swiss followed up her Tokyo Olympics gold medal last year with a series of quarterfinal finishes in Cincinnati, US Open, Luxembourg, Ostrava and Chicago. However, she suffered a knee injury during her quarterfinal clash with Elena Rybakina in Chicago, which forced her to wrap up her season early.
Bencic did turn out for Switzerland at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, where she won three of her four matches.
The 24-year-old began her 2022 season in Sydney this week, suffering yet another quarterfinal defeat, this time at the hands of eventual champion Paula Badosa.
The fact that she was able to push the gritty Badosa to a third set in their duel was a good indicator that her fitness levels haven't been hampered by a recent COVID-19 infection.
Bencic's opponent, Kristina Mladenovic, a former World No. 10, has suffered a steep ranking slide in singles in the past few years. She is currently languishing at No. 91 after a mediocre 2021 season in which she advanced beyond the quarterfinals just once. That was at the WTA 125 Hana Bank Open, where the Frenchwoman finished as the runner-up.
She hasn't played a single match this year and could be pretty rusty heading into the Australian Open.
Belinda Bencic vs Kristina Mladenovic head-to-head
Kristina Mladenovic leads Belinda Bencic 4-3 in the head-to-head.
They split their two meetings in 2021; while Bencic prevailed 6-4, 6-2 in Madrid, Mladenovic exacted revenge in Rome with a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Belinda Bencic vs Kristina Mladenovic prediction
Although Bencic is the higher-ranked player, Mladenovic has historically proven to be a tough opponent for the Swiss.
Mladenovic has a big first serve and a powerful forehand. Her time on the doubles court has also sharpened her volleys, which comes in handy against baseliners like Bencic. However, Mladenovic's second serve is a cause for concern and she tends to leak plenty of double faults under pressure.
The Swiss, meanwhile, is great at redirecting pace and has intelligent shot placement. But she is highly inconsistent and prone to meltdowns.
Ultimately, this could prove to be quite a scrappy contest, with Bencic having the edge solely due to the fact that she has played more matches recently.
Prediction: Bencic to win in three sets.