Panelist Predictions Australian Open Women’s Day 2: Including Ashleigh Barty-Aryna Sabalenka

Ashleigh Barty

Day two from the Australian Open sees the conclusion of the first round matches. Last Word on Tennis writers, David Adair, James Cunningham, Sam Barker, and Vithun Illankovan give their predictions on five of the most intriguing contests on the second day in Melbourne including Ashleigh Barty against Aryna Sabalenka and Qiang Wang facing Madison Keys.

Ashleigh Barty vs Aryna Sabalenka

David: One of the tastiest ties of the round, it’s befitting of a quarter final encounter. Aussie, Ashleigh Barty has the home crowd’s hopes on her shoulders and comes here in great form.  Belorussian, Aryna Sabalenka is arguably one of the most exciting young talents on tour at the moment. A Fed Cup final victory over US Open Champion Sloane Stephens shows that Sabalenka, at the tender age of 19, has that big match belief already. This is going to be a power struggle, but I am afraid it will end in disappointment for the host nation.

Sabalenka in 3

James: Ashleigh Barty has carried her tremendous form on from last year, reaching the final in Sydney. She takes on Belorussian nineteen-year-old starlet Aryna Sabalenka, who in turn had good runs to the quarterfinals in Shenzhen and in Hobart. Experience of handling high-pressure points will decide here, and Barty has the edge over Sabalenka for now. Nonetheless, this will be a good learning curve for the young Belorussian, who we will probably be seeing much more of in years to come.

Barty in 3
Embed from Getty Images

Sam: A popcorn match for fans of potential future Grand Slam champions as two of tennis’ brightest talents meet. Ashleigh Barty is primed for a big run given her current form and will be too much for the powerful but raw Aryna Sabalenka.

Barty in 2

Vithun: Both are fast-rising young players and it’s a shame they have to meet in round one. However, Barty is just that bit better and playing at home will help her get the win.

Barty in 3

Lucie Safarova vs Alja Tomljanovic

David: A 2-0 head—to-head in Safarova’s favour includes a fairly recent hard court victory at the 2017 Miami Open. Safarova has only played one match this year, losing to Kerber in Sydney in three sets. That was not a bad first match effort, given that Kerber went on to win the tournament. Safarova improved towards the end of last season, reaching the last 16 of the US Open. She should make it through this one.

Safarova in 2

James: Neither of these two players has had a particularly good run of form leading up to the Australian Open, which should make this quite an interesting, and unpredictable, match-up. Time is running out for Safarova if she is to leave her mark on another Grand Slam singles tournament, and the hard courts at Melbourne favour the Czech. Tomljanovic has become a bit of a journey-woman in recent years, which is a shame for the Croatian, for she showed that she can take on the top seeds when she won the first set against Johanna Konta in Brisbane. Fine margins will decide this match-up, and Safarova has the edge in all departments, as things stand.

Safarova in 3
Embed from Getty Images

Sam: After her rotten luck with injuries, Alja Tomljanovic is due a string of results. It won’t come here though, as she faces the crafty left-hand of Lucie Safarova. Tomljanovic will put up a fight but ultimately Safarova should have enough to emerge victorious.

Safarova in 3

Vithun: I expect 2018 to be a good season for Safarova based on what I’ve seen of her so far. She will prove this with a straightforward win over this tricky opponent.

Safarova in 2

Kristyna Pliskova vs Agnieszka Radwanska

David: Interesting match this one as a few months ago there wouldn’t be much between these two. That said, Radwanska has started the season really well and her on court movement has improved. The Pole should prevail.

Radwanska in 2

James: Another close match up. Kristyna Pliskova claimed a big upset in Shenzhen, beating Jelena Ostapenko in the first round. She is going to have to produce some more of that kind of form if she has any chance of beating Radwanska in Melbourne. On the other hand, Radwanska is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017, one that saw her fall to No.35 in the rankings. At 28 years of age, she has the experience and consistency that Pliskova lacks, which I why I am giving her the edge.

Radwanska in 3
Embed from Getty Images

Sam: Agnieszka Radwanska is not the player she once was although does look refreshed at the start of this season. Kristyna Pliskova meanwhile, is not in particularly good form herself but with a serve of her quality, will cause Radwanska problems. Radwanska should just about scrape through but it won’t be easy.

Radwanska in 3

Vithun: Whilst Radwanska has slumped dramatically in the past 12 months, she has only lost in the 1st Round of a Slam once this decade. Therefore, I expect her to come through this match unscathed.

Radwanska in 2

Kristina Mladenovic vs Ana Bogdan

David: This match hinges on the French woman’s fitness as Mladenovic’s losing streak is currently at 14 matches. Bogdan herself is 1-2 this season and is largely inconsistent. A recent victory over the improving Camila Giorgi at Shenzen is the best recent result. The percentage call is to go for the Romanian in this one.

Bogdan in 3

James: Kristina Mladenovic is a frustrating player to follow because she has so much talent but seems to crumble at key moments. Since her French Open quarter-final defeat to Timea Bacsinszky last year, she has struggled to win a match and is still currently without a coach. Having said that, she is one of those players that just needs to put together a good run, and things will turn around very quickly. This could be that moment, or it could be the moment that she continues her miserable run of form. I am going for the former, even though I might live to regret it.

Mladenovic in 2
Embed from Getty Images

Sam: Where to even begin with this one. Mladenovic is just a mess at the moment and cannot buy a win. That said, Bogdan is not an overly dangerous player and could be just what Mladenovic needs to escape the rut. It won’t be fun and it won’t be pretty but it might end the streak.

Mladenovic in 3

Vithun: If Mladenovic continues her woeful form, her consecutive loss streak may soon equal (or even surpass) the 25 languages that Garbine Muguruza remarked she spoke in the Tennis quote of the 2017 season. The unlikeable Frenchwoman now has 14 consecutive losses to her name and here’s hoping she makes it 15 in Melbourne. Forza Kiki!

Bogdan in 3

Qiang Wang vs Madison Keys

David: Madison Keys’ return from injury resulted in a loss to an out of form Johanna Konta. Keys has not been right since the US Open final loss to Sloane Stephens. It will take a little while for her ring-rustiness to disappear this season. Sloane Stephens’ first match after the US Open was a loss to Qiang Wang and shock-seekers will seize upon this logic and circle this match. However, they may ultimately be disappointed as Keys, even though not 100 per cent fit, should still make it through.

Keys in 3

James: Since her US Open final appearance last year, Madison Keys has contested two matches, and lost them both. Granted, her last loss came at the hands of Johanna Konta, but still, the American will want to end her poor run of form. Keys’ game is suited to hard courts, and she comes up against Qiang Wang, a player who has never made it past the second round in Melbourne. Nonetheless, Wang had a good run to the semi-finals in Hong Kong last year, and she took Caroline Wozniacki to three sets in Beijing last year as well. If Keys makes too many errors, then Qiang has a chance. However, anything but a below-par performance from Keys, in combination with a fantastic performance from Qiang, will not be enough to sway the match in favour of the Chinese player.

Keys in 2
Embed from Getty Images

Sam: Qiang Wang has lost four matches in a row while Madison Keys has lost three. Something has got to give. Keys looked understandably rusty on her return from injury and Wang is perhaps more of a test than people realise. Something tells me this won’t be straightforward for Keys and that we might just have an upset on our hands.

Wang in 3

Vithun: Keys is my outside pick for the title. Wang is a good player but lacks the intimidation factor to ever be a serious threat to anyone in good form. I predict Keys to make a terrific start with a dominant display.

Keys in 2

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.