Serena Williams will play just her third match since the US Open on Tuesday when she faces Belinda Bencic on the Rod Laver Arena in the day session. Now outside the top 50, Bencic saw parts of her 2016 disrupted by injury. The former World No.7 has to be one of tougher non-seeds but is in danger of plummeting down the rankings if she loses this match, having made the last 16 last year. See the Williams vs Bencic Head to Head.
Having lost early in Auckland to Madison Brengle, Serena doesn’t come into the tournament with a run of matches or confidence from a title. The New Zealand weather was far from ideal conditions and Serena made her thoughts clear but can at least take solace that Melbourne will instead be providing very warm weather, especially around the time her match is scheduled for.
A loser in the final last year, Serena will want to go one better and make a statement early on against a tricky opponent and even more so after the defending champion Angelique Kerber was given a severe test in her three set win over Lesia Tsurenko.
The first meeting between Bencic and Serena came in Madrid when the World No.2 thrashed the then 17 year old Bencic 2 and 1 but second time round it was a different matter altogether. In the semi final of the Canadian Open, Bencic came from a set down to win on her way to the biggest title of her career as yet. “She’s had a good win over me. It’s never easy for me. So I always go out there, and all I can do is do my best.” said Serena.
For someone who is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2016, it is a torrid draw for Bencic even if she has shown she can beat Serena previously. More importantly, being back to full fitness will allow the Swiss youngster to make a great attempt at the rest of the year. “Physically I have nothing that bothers me, except this thing in Sydney (minor toe injury). I think I’m pretty close to 100%.” said Bencic.
Serena should likely make it through to round two with little trouble as she hunts for her seventh Australian Open and 23rd slam title in total. However, a fully fit Bencic has shown she has the game to take on Serena if she is below her best.
Serena Williams in two tight sets