By Jake Davies

  • Serena Williams [2] vs Lucie Safarova H2H:9-0
  • Karolina Pliskova [5] vs Anna Blinkova H2H: First meeting
  • Oceane Dodin vs Caroline Garcia [21] H2H: First meeting
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – six-time champion Serena Williams looked in great form in her opener – can she keep that up?

 

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Serena Williams [2] vs Lucie Safarova H2H: Williams leads 9-0

The match that heads our WTA Three to See is a rematch of the 2015 Roland Garros as the No.2 seed Serena Williams goes up against Lucie Safarova on Rod Laver Arena.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion looked in convincing form in her first round match as she faced Belinda Bencic. Williams has her sights firmly set on holding the record for the most Grand Slams won in the Open Era and needs that one elusive major in order to achieve that. The draw has not been kind on her in the slightest though with Safarova awaiting in the second round.

A lot has changed in Safarova’s tennis life since her first and only Grand Slam singles final. She split with longtime coach Rob Steckley, spent a lot of time off court with a bacterial infection, and found a lot more success on the doubles court with partner Bethanie Mattek Sands.

Safarova could still prove to be a threat to Williams with her awkward left-handed playing style, as it is very rare to face a player like the Czech on a regular basis, so Williams really has to adapt in order to feel comfortable with what the Czech brings to a tennis court.

Williams will be feeling fresh. She did not use up too much energy in the first round and I anticipate she will get through this match and progress into another third round of a major.

Prediction: Williams in two sets

 

Karolina Pliskova [5] vs Anna Blinkova H2H: First meeting

Karolina Pliskova, last year’s US Open finalist, faces Anna Blinkova in the second round of the Australian Open and there are a lot of reasons to be excited in the next crop of Russian tennis players emerging in the WTA tour. Blinkova, who is just eighteen years of age, made the 2015 Wimbledon juniors final where she lost to another talented Russian Sofya Zhuk in that final. Since then, Blinkova has won her first match on the WTA Tour and now features in her first Women’s Grand Slam at this year’s Australian Open.

Blinkova got past experienced WTA player Monica Niculescu in a long first round match which is very impressive considering Niculescu was a finalist in Hobart the week prior to the event. The Russian can cause Pliskova a lot of problems in this encounter. The key to being successful against the No.5 seed is similar to most tall players. Blinkova has to keep the Czech off balance, while also utilising the low, sliced groundstrokes. Pliskova becomes a lot less effective when she is trying to pick up tennis balls from her foot rather than from a greater height.

The big advantage that Pliskova has is that it will be played on Margaret Court Arena. The Czech understands the dimensions of the big courts at majors now, whereas it will be a first experience for Blinkova playing in this particular arena. That makes a huge difference in this particular match up. Blinkova crumbled under the spotlight at the Wimbledon Juniors final and after the match admitted to finding it hard to deal with being on a big court. The question is whether she is better prepared almost two years forward from that match.

Prediction: Pliskova in two sets

 

Oceane Dodin vs Caroline Garcia [21] H2H: First meeting

The next generation of a long list of talented French players in the women’s game includes Caroline Garcia and Oceane Dodin as the two will square off in the second round in Melbourne. Dodin is a very flat, aggressive hitter of the ball that tries to take advantage of the lethal, fast-paced serves she can produce. Dodin plays her best tennis on an indoor hard court, which was evident in her results last year as she won her first WTA title in Quebec and did very well in Linz later on in the year, where she made the quarter-finals before losing to Madison Keys.

Garcia definitely has the advantage on an outdoor hard court. I think Garcia will handle the brutal conditions in Australia much better than Dodin will. Dodin found it extremely taxing in her first round match against Cagla Buyukakcay, where she took a lot of time between points to recover. If Garcia can make this a physical contest and plays to her strengths then she should win this second round match.

Prediction: Garcia in three sets

 

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