• Naomi Osaka [3] v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  • Serena Williams [10] v Laura Siegemund
  • Denis Shapovalov [11] v Jannik Sinner
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The first Slam of the year is about to start and after a hectic few weeks on and off the court, we pick three must-see matches for Day 1 of the Australian Open.

 

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Naomi Osaka [3] v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova H2H & Match Fundamentals

Naomi Osaka [3] v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova H2H: Tied at 1-1
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$100,000
Scheduled first on Rod Laver Arena at 11am (Midnight GMT) Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

Setting aside the Hopman cup, the two tour-level matches between Naomi Osaka and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have been pretty straight forward affairs, straight sets and comfortable wins. The little yellow fluffies can expect to be battered to within an inch of their furry little lives as two very efficient aggressive players look to dominate with heavy groundstrokes.

Pavlyuchenkova has a good all-court game and will look to attack any serves that don’t pass muster. Osaka’s serve has improved since the start of the year, and she took the precaution of pulling out of her WTA Gippsland Trophy semi-final to protect an injury niggle ahead of the Australian Open.

The Russian is a way off her career best of World No. 13 and looked good in her first couple of rounds at the WTA Yarra Valley Classic but was effectively dismantled by Garbiñe Muguruza.

It is not the easiest of starts for Osaka, but she still takes the edge.

Prediction: Osaka in straight sets.

 

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Serena Williams [10] v Laura Siegemund H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Serena Williams [10] v Laura Siegemund H2H: Williams leads 2-0
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$100,000
Scheduled second on Rod Laver Arena not before 12:30pm  (1:30am GMT) Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

The weight of burden to reach 24 stays ever present for Serena Williams and in recent years she has reached finals and just lacked the final edge to get over the line. She looks fit and has been moving well so far in the preamble to the Australian Open, and like other players opted not to push things too much, withdrawing from a potential semi-final against World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the WTA Yarra Valley Classic.

We have seen a return to some of the classic play that has seen Serena be the greatest player of all time in terms of Slam durability, with dominant serving, controlling baseline play and can still polish off cutting volleys at the net with the best of them.

She has faced the feisty Laura Siegemund twice before and has rarely been troubled by the German. Siegemund certainly cannot match Williams in terms of the ferocity of a well-firing serve but will be able to trade blows from the back of the court as she enjoys taking the ball on the rise and probably has better luck with her backhand than her forehand, which can churn out errors more consistently on that wing.

She does like to chip and charge, so Williams may well have to get some volleying practice in, but all in all, should not be troubled too much, but it will serve as a decent indication as to whether she is struggling with injury and will want to be on and off the court as quickly as possible.

Prediction: Williams in straight sets.

 

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Denis Shapovalov [11] v Jannik Sinner H2H & Match Fundamentals

Denis Shapovalov [11] v Jannik Sinner H2H: First Meeting
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$100,000
Scheduled last  on Margaret Court Arena, not before 5:30pm  (6:30am GMT) Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

It will be interesting to see what effect winning the ATP Great Ocean Road Open title the day before opening his Australian Open campaign on teenager Jannik Sinner, against Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian was on ATP Cup duty but lost albeit two tight matches (against Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev).

Sinner displays a confidence wise beyond his years on court and moves extremely well with a very effective backhand. In fact, his movement has often been attributed to his skills on the ski slopes when he was younger – ironically a skill he shares with Novak Djokovic, and it is clear how good his lateral movement is on a court.

Shapovalov is one of the new batch of players with a fantastic serve as a great weapon, capably backed up with a punch of a forehand and a flat pacey single-handed backhand. He will come forward to punch home winners at the net, and Sinner will have to match that aggression with canniness.

But there is no denying that the young Italian comes in with a little more form, and perhaps just has the edge in this one.

Prediction: Sinner in three sets.

 

 

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