For the third consecutive year on the tour, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens will cross paths at the season-opening Grand Slam tournament. It is the only time of year that the two competitors meet on circuit and has always brought about Stephens’ exit from the tournament. Azarenka leads the head-to-head series 3-0. However, while their first meeting was in the semi-final stage of the event, and their second was in the fourth round, their respective drops in the rankings means they will meet in the opening round of the tournament this season.
After taking part in a tempestuous 2014 season on the tour, Victoria Azarenka hoped for a brighter start to 2015, but was awarded with a premature exit from the Brisbane International instead. The defending champion, who spent most of last season on the sidelines, lost to Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 after leading by a set.
However, she told Tennis.com that she was prepared to regain her ranking position this season.
“For me, in my mind, I skipped the whole season,” she said. “I was never healthy, I was never prepared. I was never training full time the way I wanted to train. I wasn’t … mentally there. … But I am prepared to be ready again.”
The Belarusian will look to set herself on the path to redemption with a strong start against Sloane Stephens, the American whom she has never lost to previously. Stephens had a slightly better start to her season, as she defeated Sílvia Soler-Espinosa before losing to Lauren Davis in the second round of the ASB Classic.
This marks the third consecutive time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour – also the third time at the Australian Open. Azarenka leads the head-to-head series 2-0 and, with some dedication and confidence, will be able to stay undefeated against the young, flaky American.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka in Three Sets