Sunday, 15 January 2017

Aus Open 2017 - Day One Preview

Day One of the 2017 Australian Open tomorrow and matches from the top half of each of the Singles draws have been scheduled for courts across Melbourne Park.

Rod Laver Arena has its first tennis balls competitively struck by 4th seed Simona Halep and her initial opposition American Shelby Rogers.  
Rogers had a terrific run at Roland Garros last year, making the round of sixteen, but the rest of the year was ordinary.  This year she lost a close three setter in Brisbane to Svitolina and made the quarters in Hobart.
Halep made the 2016 US Open quarter finals, but her start to 2017 has been limited to two matches in China.
Halep should win but could be taken the distance in this one.

Venus Williams and Andy Murray have potentially easier first up tests to follow on RLA after the Halep match.
Federer and defending champion Kerber will attempt to delight at night, as will Wawrinka and Bouchard but the latter two on Margaret Court Arena.
Kyrgios fans will flock to HiSense Arena in the evening for the 14th seeds first match.

Other matches to watch:

Bernard Tomic (27) v Thomaz Bellucci  (Margaret Court Arena)

Seeded 27 but with a less than ideal preparation, Tomic enters the Aus Open with expectations of the home nation riding on his back.  Bernard has not won a match on the ATP Tour since Shenzhen in September 2016, and even then he lost his quarter final to Belluci, the player he faces in the first round tomorrow.
Thomaz hasn't exactly set the world on fire in 2017, losing his only match in Sydney, so with a leap of faith I'm selecting Tomic to give Australia a positive start to the AO.

Coco Vandeweghe v Roberta Vinci (15) (MCA)

Coco is a big hitter, and when she harnesses that power (that remains her problem) can cause a lot of damage for many top players, and Vinci is not immune, as evidenced by the American's victories over the Italian in the third round at Wimbledon last year and in Auckland a year previous.
However, after the Wimbledon success over Vinci, Coco won just two more matches for the year, and lost her last five in succession.
In 2017 her one win was over Vesnina, while Vinci's two losses have been to in form Czech players Pliskova and Strycova. 
Vinci may have enough composure and consistency to survive a Coco barrage.

Andrey Kuznetsov v Kei Nishikori (5) (HiSense Arena)

Andrey must believe there is a conspiracy of sorts, because he has had to play Kei Nishikori three out of the last four GS tournaments.
The fifth seed Japanese player defeated the Russian in the second round at Roland Garros and third round at Wimbledon last year, both in straight sets.
Now they meet again, but on a third different surface, and each in good touch.
Nishikori made the final in Brisbane, falling to Dimitrov, but having knocked over Wawrinka en route to his runner-up finish.
Kuznetsov made the semi finals in Sydney, and included the seeded Pablo Carreno Busta among his scalps along the way.

While Nishikori should win, and probably in three sets, four at a stretch, Kuznetsov will likely provide a solid contest sometimes not available to one of the top seeds in the opening round of a major.

Upsets ?

I can't see any of the top seeds in danger, and of the lower tier seeds possibly Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas (22) faces difficulty against Argentine Diego Schwartzman.  Could be a South American five setter.

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