Simona Halep has a tough task on her hands in the opening round of the Australian Open. She will face one of the strongest unseeded players in Kaia Kanepi. The big hitting Estonian has a strong pedigree at grand slams and is no stranger to shock wins. It’s a repeat of the 2018 US Open first round, where Kanepi was outstanding in a 6-2 6-4 victory.
It has not been a great time for Halep recently with that loss forming part of a five match losing streak that began in the Cincinnati final with the most recent loss coming in Sydney to Ashleigh Barty. She was a losing finalist here last year before eventually breaking her slam duck in her fourth final. “I’m happy. I’m enjoying the time. Everything I’ve done last year made me be more relaxed. I try just to improve more in my game and seeing how good I can be in the future.” Halep said. There is still the concern that she can be outhit by low ranked players on her bad days but the Romanian had a great 2018 overall, ending the year at No.1
Kanepi’s win over Halep in New York showcased how well she can play at her very best. The aggressive game style can trouble some of the top players and has seen her make 6 slam quarter finals in her career. However, the one tournament she has yet to do that in is the Australian Open. She will have been disappointed in her failure to do so last year, departing at the third round stage to Carla Suarez Navarro.
A busy 2018 led to Halep reducing her schedule in the buildup to this event. “I took the risk of staying home a little bit longer. I rested because I felt like I’m exhausted after those tournaments and also the year that I had. I enjoyed the time home a lot. Now I feel refreshed to start the year, but still I am a little bit back with everything, preparation and matches.” she said. That could well backfire on her with the draw not being the most generous for the Romanian. An early loss could see fall from the No.1 spot, with many players out to take that spot.
Prediction – Simona Halep in three sets