A losing finalist in 2018, Simona Halep will look to go one better this year. She begins her chase for a first Australian Open and third slam with a match against Jennifer Brady, kicking off the night session on Margaret Court Arena.
Brady is a player on the up and arrives in Melbourne a top 50 player for the first time in her career. The American plays an aggressive game but will need to work on consistency if she is to continue her rise up the rankings. She made the second week of this event in 2017 but last year failed to qualify, falling at the final hurdle.
Halep is now half way to a career grand slam having picked up the most unlikely of the four with her shock Wimbledon title last year. The Romanian isn’t among the top tier of favourites but there is no reason why she could not be hoisting another title in a fortnight. She does remain vulnerable to the most aggressive of players as shown by her Adelaide loss to Aryna Sabalenka last week.
Having suffered defeat to an American in her last slam match, Halep will want to avoid going the same way as she did against Taylor Townsend at the US Open. It should be a bit more predictable for her on this occasion, with Brady unlikely to approach the net as much as her compatriot. This match should be a good test for the fourth seed to begin her event, but she should eventually edge through.
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets