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Top 5 matches to look forward to on Day 2 of the Australian Open

Jai Prakash
SENIOR ANALYST
2.40K   //    19 Jan 2015, 21:03 IST

Day 1 saw plenty of upsets in the women’s draw, as several seeded players were shown the door by less fancied opponents. We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting start to the first Grand Slam of 2015!

The second day features players from top half of the draw in both the men’s and women’s sections. There are plenty of interesting matches lined up, with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska taking to the court for their first round matches.

Reminder: You can watch all the action live on Sony Liv Sports here.

Here are five matches that you cannot afford to miss on what promises to be an action-packed day at Melbourne Park.:

1. Caroline Wozniacki vs Taylor Townsend

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki opens her campaign against American teenager Taylor Townsend. Wozniacki has a few injury worries coming into the first Grand Slam of the year; she withdrew from her match against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round of the Sydney International owing to a wrist problem. It will be interesting to see how the former World No. 1 copes against Townsend, who has the offensive tools to challenge anyone on the tour. 

The two players played in Auckland recently and it was Wozniacki who came out on top in straight sets. But they were close sets, and Townsend showed that she could dictate points from the back of the court and play the occasional drop shot with precision. The No. 8 seed would be ill advised to take her opponent lightly come Tuesday. 

Match time: Around 7:30 am IST.

2. Dominic Thiem vs Roberto Bautista Agut

Dominic Thiem has improved tremendously over the last couple of seasons; the Austrian attained his best result at a Grand Slam at the US Open last year where he reached the fourth round. He beat the likes of Lukas Rosol, Ernests Gulbis and Feliciano Lopez on his way to a place in the last 16. 

Roberto Bautista Agut was upset by qualifier Aljaz Bedene in the semifinals of the Chennai Open. Moreover, the Spaniard retired from his match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino at the Heineken Open last week, and he is short on match practice at the moment. Needless to say, he could scarcely have asked for a tougher first round match-up than the talented Austrian.

This will be the first meeting between the two. It looks likely to be a close contest, and don’t be surprised if the No. 13 seed fails to progress to the next round.

Match time: Around 7 am IST.

3. Victoria Azarenka vs Sloane Stephens

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka finds herself unseeded in Melbourne after a disappointing 2014 season. She is up against American Sloane Stephens in the first round, and the match will be far from a cakewalk for the Belarussian. Stephens took out Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open two years ago, and no top player would want to face her in the initial stages of the tournament.

Incidentally, Azarenka and Stephens have met twice so far, and both times at the Australian Open. The Belarussian won both their encounters, but today it can be anybody’s match given the kind of form they are carrying into Melbourne. While Stephens lost to Lauren Davis in Auckland, Azarenka was handed a tough three set defeat by Karolina Pliskova in Brisbane.

Match time: 5:30 am IST.

4. Kei Nishikori vs Nicolas Almagro

US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori has a tough opening match against Nicolas Almagro. The two have split their two meetings on the tour so far, and the last time they faced off against each other was at the 2013 Tokyo Open.

Almagro is coming off a defeat at the hands of Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas in Sydney, while the Japanese star lost to Milos Raonic in the semifinals of the Brisbane Open in three tie-break sets. Nishikori’s serve wasn’t broken during the entire tournament, but he still failed to reach the final.

Almagro can certainly challenge Nishikori with his blistering groundstrokes, but the World No. 5 is capable of thwarting the Spaniard’s power with his exceptional movement and first-strike mentality. If Nishikori can get a good start in the first set, it would be difficult for Almagro to stop him.

Match time: 5:30 am IST.

5. Novak Djokovic vs Aljaz Bedene

World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic starts his bid for a record fifth title in Melbourne against qualifier Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. Bedene had an impressive run in Chennai, where he reached his first final on the ATP tour. His run to the summit clash included wins over Lukas Lacko, Feliciano Lopez, Guillermo Garcia Lopez and Roberto Bautista Agut, and he gamely lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Djokovic on the other hand hasn’t had much match practice after his loss against big-serving Ivo Karlovic in Doha. He has been camping in Melbourne for over a week and he trained with Wawrinka as coach Boris Becker kept a keen eye on his charge’s game.

Djokovic and Bedene have never faced other before, and it will be interesting to see if the Slovenian can continue his giant-killing spree Down Under.

Match time: Around 9 am IST.

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Jai Prakash
SENIOR ANALYST
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