By Jake Davies

  • Simona Halep [1] vs Destanee Aiava [WC]
  • Tomas Berdych [19] vs Alex De Minaur [WC]
  • Novak Djokovic [14] vs Donald Young
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The Australian Open is well under way and we have already seen some shockers! What are our picks for Day Two?

 

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Simona Halep [1] vs Destanee Aiava [WC] H2H: First meeting

The pick of the matches on the WTA side of things is the No.1 seed Simona Halep going up against the Australian teen Destanee Aiava. Not many people will know an awful lot about the Australian, but she earned her place into the event by winning the Australian Open wildcard playoff tournament in December and has some serious heavy weaponry that can really expose the defensive frailties of most players on tour. The problem for Aiava is that Halep is one of the best players at covering every step of the court from deep behind the baseline, so it really is going to be a game of offence vs defence. The real question is whether Aiava can keep the percentages in her favour, remain aggressive while playing to safe targets. Halep forces even the very best attacking players to go for that little bit extra.

Aiava has a bright future. Her serve is as good as anyone’s at that age, but she is far from the finished article, so I expect Halep, who is playing a Grand Slam as a No.1 seed for the first time, to get the job done in straight sets.

Prediction: Halep in two sets

 

Tomas Berdych [19] vs Alex De Minaur [WC] H2H: First meeting

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This is a potential banana skin for the former Wimbledon finalist. The Australian wildcard Alex De Minaur has been one of the stories of the 2018 season so far. He made his first ATP semi-final in Brisbane, where he beat the likes of Milos Raonic and Steve Johnson and backed that week up by reaching his first final at ATP level in Sydney. The kid has a real never-say-die attitude, which will take him very high in the years to come and stand him in good stead for the grind of the ATP tour.

We know more about De Minaur’s level than Tomas Berdych’s level right now. The Czech won the Tiebreak Tens exhibition last week, but lost in his first competitive match of the season in Doha the week before. Berdych still is very much adamant that he can gain that elusive Grand Slam title, but time really is passing him by as he approaches 33.

Although De Minaur is in the form of his life, he talked about the accumulation of big matches that have taken its toll from a physical and mental perspective, so I do expect Berdych to manage his game well enough to cause the young Australian a lot of problems.

Prediction: Berdych in five sets

 

Novak Djokovic [14] vs Donald Young H2H: Djokovic leads 2-0

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Novak Djokovic also returns to a competitive setting this week as he takes on Donald Young of America in his first round match. It is a tricky match to come back to after months of inactivity. The Serb did play in Kooyong and in the Tiebreak Tens event, but nothing can replicate a best-of-five format at a Grand Slam, so it will be interesting to see how Djokovic responds from a physical standpoint. Will his elbow react well? Will his confidence return to him quicker than many might anticipate?

Djokovic obviously hopes that he can grow into a tournament. He recognises and admits that he is not at 100% but also realises that every top professional tennis player find a way to play their best tennis as they reach the latter stages of a Grand Slam and try not to peak in the first round. That is something that Djokovic will be thinking and will also be hoping for.

Young is a difficult opponent, but I think this matchup suits Djokovic more than Young. The American likes to whip his left-handed serves out wide, but in this particular matchup that goes straight into Djokovic’s strength – his backhand return, which is one of the best Djokovic shots. The key is for the American to find a rhythm on serve, but I just do not think Djokovic will allow it and should progress in this match.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets

 

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