Australian Open Day 6 Women’s Predictions Including Belinda Bencic vs Elise Mertens

Both Elise Mertens and Ekaterina Alexandrova are in red hot form at the 2021 Australian Open, but against Belinda Bencic and Ash Barty, they will face their toughest challenges thus far with a spot in the second week of a Grand Slam on the line. Our panel of Jim Smith, Fraser Learmonth and Damian Kust offer their predictions.

Ash Barty vs Ekaterina Alexandrova

Jim: Ash Barty may well be concerned by how long it took her to put away Daria Gavrilova in the second round, but that shouldn’t distract too much from what has been an excellent start to her season. Ekaterina Alexandrova too has looked sharp so far, but Barty’s variety should allow the Australian to keep her opponent from getting into a comfortable rhythm. Barty in 3

Fraser: Barty faces a stern third round test here in Ekaterina Alexandrova. The Russian possesses effortless power off both wings and hits winners for fun when is on her game and finding her mark. Barty has looked imperious so far in her return to the game however, and has the tools to make things uncomfortable for Alexandrova. Her backhand slice in particular should prove effective here. it should be close, but the Aussie is in great form and should edge it in front of her home crowd. Barty in 3

Damian: Ekaterina Alexandrova had a great run last week, taking out Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek at the Gippsland Trophy. The Russian is continuing that fine form and should be able to give Ashleigh Barty a real test. The 2019 Roland Garros champion still carries some rust after a long hiatus but we’ve seen her have the extra gear when needed as she clinched the title at the Yarra Valley Classic. I expect her to find a way through again. Barty in 3

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Jessica Pegula vs Kristina Mladenovic

Jim: Kristina Mladenovic looks to have rediscovered something akin to her best tennis, scoring impressive back-to-back wins over Maria Sakkari and Nao Hibino. But Jessica Pegula is playing what is surely the best tennis of her career and beat the Frenchwoman for the loss of only five games just over a week ago. She may not be that dominant again, but she should still be the player to reach the fourth round. Pegula in 3

Fraser: Pegula and Mladenovic have done well to make the most of kind draws and will now be hoping for a spot in the fourth round when they clash on Friday. Pegula has been more consistent in recent years but Mladenovic is far more talented when she is at her best. The Frenchwoman is infuriatingly inconsistent, but has looked solid so far in Melbourne. If she can play somewhere near her best she should win here. Mladenovic in 3

Damian: Jessica Pegula won their first meeting last week in a very comfortable fashion. The American is playing the best tennis of her career, while it seems like Kristina Mladenovic can go from fantastic to dreadful in a matter of minutes. The scoreline could be closer than in their previous clash but nothing has happened to suggest that the general outlook of this match should be any different to last week’s. Pegula in 3

Belinda Bencic vs Elise Mertens

Jim: Belinda Bencic has done well to negotiate two demanding matches against Lauren Davis and Svetlana Kuznetsova, but the fact that she has had to work so hard to reach the third round indicates that she has not yet found her best tennis. Against the in-form Elise Mertens, unless she can find it quickly, Bencic’s campaign looks destined to end in the third round. Mertens in 2

Fraser: A week ago I would have said Mertens would walk this match. However, Bencic now has two scrappy wins under her belt and looks to have shaken off the rust she was clearly feeling in her warmup event and the early stages of this tournament. Bencic at her best is a legitimate top ten player with one of the best backhands on the women’s tour. Mertens is solid, but hasn’t shown that truly elite level yet. This could be the year she does so, but I have a feeling Bencic is ready to make a statement at this tournament after a poor and frustrating 2020. Bencic in 2

Damian: Elise Mertens has only dropped a single set in seven matches this year (to Elina Svitolina). As always, the Belgian is going a bit under the radar but getting the job done. On the other hand, Belinda Bencic appears to be out of form and barely scraped through her first two matches. If Mertens can keep up her level, this could be rather one-sided. Mertens in 2

Jennifer Brady vs Kaja Juvan

Jim: Barring a very poor display at the French Open, Jennifer Brady’s recent efforts have been excellent, with the American having made the semifinals at three of the last five tournaments she has played, including the US Open. She may not reach the last four in Melbourne, but she should have the beating of Kaja Juvan. Brady in 2

Fraser: Juvan has done well to keep her level up after a huge win against Johanna Konta in the first round. She then came from a set down to beat rising star Sherif and book her place in the third round. For her troubles she must now face one of the in-form players of the tour over the last six months. brady has shrugged her upset at the hands of Ann li last week off well. She looks to be firing on all cylinders and will be hoping for another deep slam run here. Juvan has the talent to make it tricky, but Brady should have too much for the rising star at this stage in her career. Brady in 2

Damian: Kaja Juvan is one of the most talented 20-year-olds at the WTA right now and she started the year really well. She could have a shot at Jennifer Brady, who isn’t playing quite as great as at the US Open last year. Still, the American’s powerful serve and forehand combination should be able to grant her enough points to advance. Brady in 2

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