An exciting Thursday is in store in Aukland with all eight second-round matches to be played due to rainouts earlier in the week. Top-seeded Coco Gauff is looking to make waves and build on her excellent 2022, where she entere dthe top-10 at just 18-years-old. Two other players are in action who have had success down under, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Karolina Muchova. All of the matches are previewed here at Last Word on Tennis, with four of them below and the other matches found here.
Lauren Davis vs Danka Kovinic
These two are fairly familiar with each other, playing twice in 2021 and splitting those matches, though Davis took their one match on a hard court. Both players looked impressive in their first matches of the year with quick straight-set victories. Kovinic is the high-ranked and seeded player but she is much more comfortable on clay courts. Davis plays well on all surfaces and has had fairly strong career results on hard. Kovinic is playing her first event on a hard court since the US Open in August, finishing her entire fall of last year on the clay. Her first round win over Nao Hibino snapped a five-match losing streak on the surface. Kovinic can be sneaky on hard court, reaching the third round at last year’s Australian Open, but Davis’ consistency makes her a tricky matchup. Davis is small and plays a grinding baseline game and will try to wear Kovinic down and limit errors. Kovinic does not have quite enough firepower on hard to hit through Davis, and she will grind through to win a battle.
Prediction: Davis in 3
Coco Gauff vs Sofia Kenin
Head-to-head: 1-0 Kenin
Kenin one the only prior meeting between the two Americans on her way to the Australian Open title. Both players are in vastly different forms, with Gauff now an experienced top-10 player while Kenin has struggled with incredibly poor form and injury troubles. Kenin won just four tour-level matches out of 17 all of last year and dropped to ITF events at the end of the season. Gauff had a tough end to 2022 after a great year, but she did have a highlight reaching the quarterfinal at the US Open. Kenin had a good first round matchup against Xinyu Wang and was able to win in straight sets. Gauff is a terrible matchup as she tries to return to form. She is solid from the baseline, plays with a lot of power, and punishes her opponents mistakes. Kenin has not shown many flashes of her old form, so this match should be all Gauff for a straightforward win.
Prediction: Gauff in 2
Karolina Muchova vs Elena-Gabriela Ruse
Head-to-head: first meeting
Muchova is looking to get back on track after a tough 2022 where she played just 16 matches due to injuries. She is great on hard courts with her lone career title coming on hard as well as being an Australian Open semifinalist in 2021. Ruse traditionally played her best tennis on clay but did win her first two grand slam matches in her career last year at the two hard court majors. She played well in the qualifying draw and fought through a tight first-round match lasting three and a half hours. Muchova has rest in her favor, winning her first match due to retirement after less than an hour. Muchova is a strong player who should win this match if she is 100%, though she has struggled to get there in the past. Coming out of the offseason and a fairly healthy fall should bode well for her condition. Ruse will also have to recover fully from a long match, so Muchova certainly has the advantage and will win with ease.
Prediction: Muchova in 2
Anna Blinkova vs Rebeka Masarova
Head-to-head: first meeting
Blinkova had a great bounce-back 2022 after a poor 2021 season, climbing back into the top-100 and capturing her first career tour-level title. Masarova has had good results on hard courts, though she is most comfortable on clay. She scored the biggest upset of the tournament by defeating #2 seed Sloane Stephens. While it was an impressive win, Stephens can struggle to be consistent and she had five double faults and made key errors to lose the match. Blinkova has a good serve and had nine aces in her first round match. Masarova has a good serve as well but will struggle to break Blinkova throughout the match. This will be an up-and-down battle that will be decided by serve consistency. Blinkova will edge it out and her experience will be key in the end.
Prediction: Blinkova in 3
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