By Jake Davies
- Johanna Konta  vs Agnieszka Radwanska
- Heather Watson [Q] vs Sorana Cirstea 
SYDNEY & HOBART – With just one week away from the Australian Open, Johanna Konta and Heather Watson fly the flag in Sydney and Hobart.
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Johanna Konta  vs Agnieszka Radwanska H2H: Radwanska leads 2-1
Johanna Konta makes her return to Sydney this week, where she has some very fond memories. Last year, the British No.1 cruised through the event, winning the title without dropping a single set in the process and she will be hoping for more of the same after getting some positive match-wins and performances against some top players in Brisbane last week.
The 2018 season could not have started better. She looked very good in her exhibition matches in Hua Hin, but she stepped up her game even more against Madison Keys in her Brisbane opener, before toughing out a struggle of a match with Ajla Tomljanovic. The week ended in disappointment, agony and serious concern as Konta injured her right hip during the big quarter-final clash against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, but Konta is set for her Sydney title defence after taking her time to recuperate for the second week of competitive action of the season.
Her first opponent will be the player she beat to win the title 12 months ago – Agnieszka Radwanska. Konta played some of her best tennis. She took serious cracks and cover off the ball and red-lined her game from start to finish, where her opponent struggled to find the answers to the ball-striking coming from the other side of the net. I think it is a good match for Konta to start with.
Radwanska hasn’t been in her best form for quite some time, but Konta will recognise what Radwanska is capable of and what sort of tennis she can produce.
2017 marked the first time that Radwanska had not won a single title in a WTA season since 2010 and her year-end ranking was the worst it had been since 2007, so she has everything to gain and has big points to defend this week. It’s a tough start for Konta, but a good test against a former Australian Open semi-finalist.
Prediction: Konta in two sets
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Heather Watson vs Sorana Cirstea  H2H: Watson leads 2-1
Heather Watson features in a tournament she knows so well having won the event back in 2015, defeating Madison Brengle in that final. Watson has already got some match-wins to her advantage after beating Nao Hibino and Kimberly Birrell in her Hobart qualifying matches. Her opening main draw encounter will be against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea – a former Top 25 player that has achieved a lot in the game, but she struggles enormously with consistency and winning matches ugly.
She has to be feeling confident and reassured about the status of her game in order to get those necessary confidence-building match-wins, but she has experienced a considerable ranking resurgence in 2017 after two years of disappearing from the top of the game.
I think a lot of it depends on how Cirstea plays. She can be difficult to withstand and contain when she is firing close to the lines and striking a high percentage of winners, but Watson will be looking to weather the storm and hopefully give a good account of herself in a tournament she loves dearly.
Prediction: Cirstea in three sets
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