• Garbiñe Muguruza [14] v Naomi Osaka [3]
  • Aryna Sabalenka [7] v Serena Williams [10]
  • Iga Swiatek [15] v Simona Halep [2]
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – It is not often we only go with one tour for the three to see, but on Valentine’s day we love the Rod Laver Arena WTA line-up!

 

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Aryna Sabalenka [7] v Serena Williams [10] H2H & Match Fundamentals

Aryna Sabalenka [7] v Serena Williams [10] H2H: First Meeting
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$260,000
Second Rod Laver Arena, not before 1pm (2am GMT) Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

A first meeting but one with huge significance as Serena Williams faces Aryna Sabalenka, as she continues her quest to win a 24th Open Era Slam title. Sabalenka has been the tour-level in form player as an unprecedented year came to a close, winning Ostrava and Linz back-to-back and winning Abu Dhabi as the season opener put her on a 15-match winning streak that came to an abrupt halt post-quarantine at the hands Kaia Kanepi in the first round of the WTA Gippsland Trophy.

For a long time now, Sabalenka has not managed to translate her tour successes onto the Grand Slam stage but has eased through her first three rounds without dropping a set.

Williams made it to the semi-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic but pulled out with a shoulder injury ahead of that match, and her first couple of rounds have looked routine enough for it not to be a concern, but she was tested by Anastasia Potapova and had to fight hard to take the first set on a tie-break before coasting in the second set.

With Sabalenka it is truly all or nothing in her playing style, as she plants herself on the baseline, and pounds the ball for all it is worth. She serves well, and actually has a decent net game, so it is a close match-up in styles as Williams’ serving has been a key feature throughout her career together with consistent ground-strokes.

It will come down to a purely mental game. Williams came back well against Potapova but was helped a lot by the youngster’s double-fault-itis. With Sabalenka’s style of play often comes a high number of winners and unforced errors, and Williams will need to call on all her experience to come through a similar power game to hers.

The upset is not going to be far away, but William can get over the line but will need to work for it, and it gets no easier for her from this point forward.

Prediction: Serena Williams in three sets.

 

READ MORE | Tennis | Australian Open 2021 | Latest Schedule, Draws, Results & How to Watch

 

Garbiñe Muguruza [14] v Naomi Osaka [3] H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Garbiñe Muguruza [14] v Naomi Osaka [3] H2H: First Meeting
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$260,000
First on Rod Laver Arena at 11pm

(Midnight GMT).

Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

Bizarrely this is also a first-time meeting for this pair of Slam champions, and opens the fourth round action on Rod Laver Arena. Both have pretty much sailed through their first three rounds looking extremely comfortable, and for Garbiñe Muguruza, she played all the way to the day before the tournament began and while others seem to have struggled with lockdown, and a short lead-in on top of the inevitable hit to conditioning, Muguruza seems to have thrived.

However, this will be the first real test for both of them. Both know what it is like to get to the pointy end of a Slam, and multiple times to boot. Both have weathered the storm of trying to defend those first titles and growing as a result of the (inevitable?) failure, and just both seem older and wiser.

Muguruza can not only match any aggressive play that Naomi Osaka can produce, but she can also defend as well as attack, and sometimes just having the patience to hang in the point and of course can be very handy at the net, which might disrupt Osaka trying to dictate from the baseline.

Prediction: Osaka in three sets.

 

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Iga Swiatek [15] v Simona Halep [2] H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Iga Swiatek [15] v Simona Halep [2] H2H: First Meeting
Australian Open Melbourne, Australia
Hard (O) Prize Money: A$260,000
First night match on Rod Laver Arena, not before 7pm, (8am GMT) Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available

 

 

The first time this pair met the then defending French Open champion Simona Halep blew her off the court for the loss of just one game, before being stunned in the next round by another teenager. The following year, Iga Swiatek repaid the favour on her way to her own Roland Garros title.

Now on a different surface, halfway around the world, who will come out on top? So far Swiatek has comparatively eased through her matches in straight sets and looked pretty comfortable. That has not been the case at all for the former Australian Open finalist. She had to come from a set down against home-crowd favourite Ajla Tomljanovic and has not always looked at full fitness but has played down injury fears.

Halep does go in as a slight favourite but can ill afford to get off to a slow start against Swiatek. She will be met with aggressive play from the outset, and an enormous amount of variety to the youngster’s game with a decent serve, capable ground-strokes and can happily come forward to the net with good volleying skills.

Halep, on her day is as determined a gritty scrambler as you will see with an equally aggressive baseline style and will need to be able to get about the court uninhibited to keep up.

Although their previous matches have been for the loss of three games or less, this feels like it might be the first to go the distance – if Halep is fully fit.

Prediction: Halep in three sets.

 

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