By Alessandro Mastroluca
- Nick Kyrgios  v Gilles Simon
- Belinda Bencic  v Jelena Ostapenko
- Karolina Muchova  v Catherine Bellis
MELBOURNE, Australia – Nick Kyrgios will meet Gilles Simon in one of the intriguing second-round clashes of the Day Four.
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Nick Kyrgios  v Gilles Simon | Kyrgios leads H2H 1-0
Nick Kyrgios will face French veteran Gilles Simon to reach the Australian Open third round for the first time since 2017. The Australian won their only previous clash in Washington, on outdoor hard-courts, last summer.
The No.23 seed looks particularly focused since the beginning of the season, and he received a warm reaction from the crowd in the ATP Cup and in Melbourne. One of the first players to launch fund-raising initiatives for bushfire relief, Kyrgios played solid and returned well in the second and third set tie-breaks against Italian Lorenzo Sonego who lived and died by the sword.
A former Australian Open quarter-finalist in 2015, Kyrgios will probably aim to go for his shots immediately after serve, and after return, against the Frenchman.
Simon, who reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2009, his best performance here, hit 26 winners to just 16 unforced errors in his comfortable first-round win against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, in a match finishes after midnight. Whoever succeeds in settling the match on his own terms, will have huge chances to move to the next round.
Prediction: Kyrgios in straight sets
Belinda Bencic  v Jelena Ostapenko | Ostapenko leads H2H 1-0
Belinda Bencic, enjoying her highest seeding at a Slam, meets former World No.5 Jelena Ostapenko. The 2017 French Open champion defeated the Swiss in their only previous meeting at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The Latvian won that clash 6-3 3-6 6-1 breezing through the final set behind four breaks and 74% of return points.
In the first round, Ostapenko offered an outstandingly focused performance against Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova, despite she had to withdraw from Auckland two weeks ago due to her father’s death. Particularly impressive on serve, she registered 27 winners to 22 unforced errors to set up a second-round matchup against the No.6 seed.
Bencic, making her seventh main draw appearance at Australian Open, has never moved past the fourth round, reached in 2016 when she became the first Swiss woman to reach the round 16 here since 2007. She made her debut this year beating World No.202 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia, who has entered on a special ranking of No.93, improving her win-loss record in Grand Slam events to 35-20.
Prediction: Bencic in three sets
Karolina Muchova  v Catherine Bellis | No H2H
Watching Karolina Muchova, the late-bloomer among a streak of talented Czech players, is a fulfilling experience. The No.20 seed will meet for the first time the 20-year-old American Catherine Bellis, who posted her first Grand Slam win since 2017 Roland Garros dismissing 6-0 6-2 dismissal Tatjana Maria, hitting just five unforced errors.
Muchova received an example of fighting spirit through her father Josef, a technically gifted footballer who became a sort of an icon playing as a midfielder for SK Sigma Olomouc. He also six goals in UEFA competitions.
Muchova took an unusual road to reach the tennis elite. She developed a complete all-court game, based on an unpredictable serve and a very reliable forehand. She likes to dictate play and shorten the points, wrong-footing her opponents with drop-shots and volleys.
The Czech can become much more vulnerable off the backhand side, but her power should be enough to defeat Bellis, whose most significant success is being on court again after her nightmare series of career-threatening elbow and wrist injuries she had suffered since 2018. When she beat Alexa Glatch in the opening qualifying-round match in Houston, she hadn’t played a match in 20 months. Her presence testifies she has the greatest quality for a tennis player, the ability to be in the moment and persevere.
Prediction: Muchova in straight sets
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