Monday, 2 January 2017

Novak + others dusting off their racquets

While it officially began yesterday, with some matches in Brisbane and Shenzhen, today sees main draw action in earnest in all 6 tournaments - 3 ATP and 3 WTA.

In Doha, the top 2 players in the world are seeded to meet each other in the final for bragging rights even before the Aus Open, but first Novak Djokovic has an opening round match against 63rd ranked German Jan-Lennard Struff.
Potential semi final opponent for Djokovic is David Goffin, and the Belgian fourth seed has Robin Haase from The Netherlands to negotiate initially.

The top four seeds in Chennai have first round byes, including top seed and world number six Marin Cilic.  The only seeded player in first round play today is fellow Croatian Borna Coric who should have too many weapons for South Korean qualifier Hyeon Chung.  Both are only 20, but Coric has been ranked as high as 33 and has made two ATP finals, including Chennai last year.

First round winners in Shenzhen included seventh seed Romanian Monica Niculescu, although she needed to come from a set down against China's own Kai-Lin Zhang.  Eighth seeded American Alison Riske also found solid opposition from a Chinese wildcard, delivering victory via a pair of tie breaks.

Today top seed and world number three Aga Radwanska opens her campaign, yet another wild card from China, Ying-Ying Duan her first hurdle.  Little chance of this one going beyond two sets.
Far more problematic for second seed Simona Halep, whose first round task is to conquer former world number one Jelena Jankovic.  Despite the Serbian having fallen to 55, she still has the potential to match it with the top players, especially early in the season when everyone is short of match practice.

An interesting clash will feature the veteran Shuai Peng, who at 30 will have the experience and the crowd support when facing 20 year old promising Czech player Katerina Siniakova, who broke back into the top 100, then for the first time the top 50 in 2016.

Auckland has the Williams sisters this week, in addition to Caroline Wozniacki, and Serena is on court this evening, the top seed clashing with French player Pauline Parmentier, currently sitting at 71 in the world.

Earlier in the day, former Roland Garros finalist Lucie Safarova takes on fellow Czech player Denisa Allertova.  Lucie is 62 in the world but poses a danger far more potent than the ranking suggests.  Should she win, her second round opponent will likely be fourth seed and another Czech mate, Fed Cup star Barbora Strycova.

Brisbane results from yesterday included Shelby Rogers knocking out Eugenie Bouchard 6-1 in the third, Alize Cornet upsetting seventh seed Elena Vesnina in a third set tie break, after dropping the opening set, and Ekaterina Makarova joining her doubles partner on the scrap heap courtesy of Japanese player Misaki Doi in straight sets.

Russia had some reason to smile though with teenager Daria Kasatkina continuing her rise up the charts, defeating Begu in two convincing sets.  A challenging second round awaits - probably Garbine Muguruza.

Third seed Karolina Pliskova was in no mood to stick around, taking just over an hour to dismiss Putintseva for the loss of just four games.  Ominous form from the big serving Czech.

Today there are more women's matches and the men introduce themselves further. Last year's semi finalist Bernard Tomic has a tough ask with perennial nuisance David Ferrer (8th seed) his first match up.
7th seed Grigor Dimitrov has drawn accomplished American Steve Johnson and will need to be on his game to avoid leaving early.

More Aussies are scheduled today and surprise surprise they have centre court (Pat Rafter Arena) allocated for their first matches.
Ash Barty, continuing her comeback to serious tennis, is still only 20, but ranked 275 is relying on wild cards for tournaments like these.
Her first round encounter is against a qualifier, 149th ranked Serbian Aleksandra Krunic.  A chance for Barty to win and then be given a lesson by Kerber.

Samantha Stosur was treated more harshly by the draw, and would need several moons and stars to align, and her tennis game to improve markedly before realistically standing a chance of overcoming Garbine Muguruza.

Fifth seed Sveta Kuznetsova and sixth seed Elina Svitolina will play today, as will eighth seed Roberta Vinci.  Young American Louisa Chirico, Olympic Gold Medalist Monica Puig, and Ukranian Kateryna Bondarenko are the respective opponents who all should be collecting first round losers cheques in a number of hours.

The all French clash between Nicolas Mahut and Stephane Robert is planned for Court One, followed later by promising Brit Kyle Edmund against American qualifier Ernesto Escobedo.  The first named in each to win those.

Tomorrow we expect to see the big guns - Milos Raonic (reigning champ), Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem and Rafa Nadal.

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