The first slam of the year gets under way in less than 12 hours. We take a look at some of the must see matches for the opening day in Melbourne. These matches will all be on TV Courts.
(17) Samantha Stosur vs Klara Zakapalova Third match, Rod Laver Arena, Stosur leads H2H 3-2
Stosur’s troubles in her home country are well documented with just two 4R performances her best run since she first played the singles event in 2002. Losses to Sorana Cirstea and Jie Zheng saw her out in the first and second rounds in 2012 and 2013 respectively and she begins here against an opponent who made very light work of her this past week in Hobart. Zakapalova was a convincing winner in straight sets 6-3 6-2 against Stosur in her run to the Hobart final. Despite this, Stosur still has a winning record against the Czech in Australia after wins in Melbourne in 2007 and 2009.
(WC) Jordan Thompson vs Jerzy Janowicz (20) NB 5pm local, Hisense Arena
Australian youngster Jordan Thompson earned his wildcard through the playoff tournament in December, knocking off more fancied players John Patrick Smith and Benjamin Mitchell in the process. He is yet to play a main tour match so will open his account in front of a big Hisense Arena crowd on Monday evening. Although only an exhibition, Thompson impressed in Kooyong. He would serve for the match against Richard Gasquet before eventually being defeated but would pick up a convincing win over Juan Monaco. Janowicz had injury concerns to begin the season and could be vulnerable if he is still feeling the effects. He was defeated 6-2 6-2 in his only match this year by Alexandr Dolgopolov – the worst loss of his career by games won.
(4) Na Li vs Ana Konjuh (Q) Second match, Hisense Arena
After her junior exploits in 2013, Konjuh is justifiably being hyped and marked as one to watch in the future. She picked up titles at the Australian and US Open Girls’ events as well as her first ITF title at the age of 15, defeating another Junior slam winner in Irina Khromocheva in the final. Sadly for the Croatian, this event will be her last for a while as she intends to undergo surgery upon her exit from the event. In defeating Roberta Vinci and going three sets with Lauren Davis in Auckland this year, Konjuh looked like she fitted in on the tour from the start but will have to wait for her inevitable charge up the rankings. Playing the losing finalist from 2013 and a player 15 years her senior in Li will be a great experience.
Marcos Baghdatis vs Denis Istomin 7pm local, Margaret Court Arena, Baghdatis leads H2H 2-0
Many of the men’s matches on Day 1 of the event suggest blowout potential so it seems a sensible idea from the tournament to schedule the 2006 finalist in the night session on Margaret Court Arena. Baghdatis appears on the decline – an awful run of 7 straight losses in 2013 over the clay and grass swing was far from usual for the Cypriot. However, he is still capable of bringing it on occasions and made the third round last year. Istomin is 0-2 against Baghdatis but will probably have his best chance to get a win against a vulnerable opponent. This match should at least bring some excitement and drama to a night session, something that Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams’ likely demolition jobs of their opponents will not.
Kimiko Date-Krumm vs Belinda Bencic (Q) 11am local, Court 6
The age gap between Na Li and Ana Konjuh is nothing compared to this matchup which kicks off the action on Court 6. 16 year old Bencic is 27 years younger than her Japanese opponent who continues to amaze with her ability to hold her own on the tour into her 40s. Date-Krumm made the third round of two slams last year including the Australian but it appears unlikely she will repeat that this year. She takes on a talented opponent who won two Junior slams last year and is ready to make the move on to the main tour. Wins in straight sets over Sharon Fichman, Nastassja Burnett and Marta Sirotkina in qualifying were impressive.
Most Likely To Go 5 – Ivo Karlovic vs Ivan Dodig, Marcos Baghdatis vs Denis Istomin
Upset Alert – Fabio Fognini (vs Alex Bogomolov Jr.), Kevin Anderson (vs Jiri Vesely)
Most Likely To Go Into Extras In The 3rd – Roberta Vinci vs Jie Zheng
Upset Alert – Daniela Hantuchova (vs Heather Watson), Elena Vesnina (vs Alison Riske)