The first Grand Slam of the season gets underway in Melbourne tomorrow and, as usual, there a bunch of first round matches to look out for in each draw. The women’s draw features several unseeded players who can beat the best on a given day – making for some interesting opening round matches. With the season just kicking off, and the scorching heat in Melbourne, several of the seeded players could be susceptible to an early upset. Here is our pick of the five first round matches to watch out for in the women’s draw.
Caroline Wozniacki (10) vs. Sabine Lisicki – Head to Head, Lisicki leads 2-1.
Hard to believe that Wozniacki was world no. 1 just twelve months ago. The Dane has fallen on hard times since and could fall further if she fails to defend her quarter final points from 2012. She’s tried changing coaches and has now gone back to working with her dad but won only one match in two warm-up events in Australia. And her opponent is just the kind of player who can trouble her. Lisicki owns one of the biggest serves in the game and when she is on, she can beat anyone in the game. The problem with Lisicki is that she seems destined to be one of those players prone to injuries. Lisicki went 1-6 after reaching the quarters at Wimbledon in June but played well in a straight sets loss to top ranked Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane last week. This is going to be a power vs. perseverance battle.
Prediction – Lisicki wins a tight straight setter
Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Francesca Schiavone – Head to Head, Kvitova leads 3-1 .
Also hard to believe that one year ago, Kvitova was just a couple of matches away from becoming world no. 1. The Czech is still in the midst of her sophomore slump (she went 1-2 in warm up events this month) and has always struggled in the outdoors hardcourts which affects her breathing and asthma. While Schiavone is not exactly in French-Open-championships-
Prediction- Schiavone to win in three sets
Nadia Petrova (12) vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm – Head to Head, 1-1.
Anytime 42 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm plays a top player, it’s certainly a match to look forward to. The Japanese wonder woman is currently ranked no. 100 and has won 19 of her last 23 matches (although most of those wins came in the WTA qualifying and ITF events). Petrova has been ranked as high as no. 3 in the world before and won 2 titles at the end of last season to re-emerge into the top 15. The Russian should win this one but for a throwback to tennis from another time, watch Date-Krumm any time you get a chance.
Prediction – Petrova wins in three sets
Dominika Cibulkova (15) vs. Ashleigh Barty – First Meeting.
Cibulkova may be short but the she sure packs a punch with her groundstrokes. The recently engaged Slovak made the finals in Sydney which should have been a morale booster for her heading into Melbourne. But she lost in the finals there to Agnieszka Radwanska without winning a game – the kind of loss that can send players into a tailspin for months. Her first round opponent is a 16-year-old local hope who many predict will win a Grand Slam title in the years ahead. Ashleigh Barty beat Francesca Schiavone in the Hopman Cup last week and moved up more than 500 spots in the rankings last year. She is one of only two 16-year-olds in the top 200 and with the crowd backing her, Barty could give Cibulkova plenty of fits.
Prediction – Asheligh Barty wins in straight sets
Laura Robson vs. Melanie Oudin – Robson leads 1-0.
Laura Robson is 18 years old and coming off her best result in a Grand Slam at the US Open where she reached the fourth round last year. Robson is now inside the top 50 and many predict she will be in the top 10 soon. All that hype must seem painfully familiar to 21 -year-old Melanie Oudin. The American was in the same spot a few years ago after her breakthrough quarter final run at the US Open at the age of 17. But Oudin found it tough to meet others expectations of her and soon her game and confidence went southward. Now let’s hope Robson doesn’t go that same way. Robson will try to hit powerful winners across the court while Oudin will scamper around and counterpunch. If both play to the best of their abilities, this match should be better than their first round meeting here last year which Robson won in straight sets.
Prediction – Laura Robson wins in straight sets