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W2W4 at Australian Open – Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens face troublesome openers


W2W4 at Australian Open – Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens face troublesome openers

Tennis could also be final “What have you ever achieved for me recently?” sport. You possibly can by no means relaxation in your laurels, irrespective of how nice you might be. We’ve ample proof of that when once more on the Australian Open. What did Roger Federer get in his return to Melbourne after that gorgeous, world-riveting efficiency in 2017? A nightmare draw, that is what. He has Novak Djokovic in his (backside) half, together with a slew of massive hitters led by No. Four Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro.

Serena Williams is not current to defend her title, however her opponent within the title match is again. That is Serena’s sister, Venus. She doubtlessly has as harrowing a path as Federer. Our recommendation to Roger and Venus: “Do not look again.” Listed below are three of essentially the most intriguing Day 1 matchups as the brand new Grand Slam yr will get underway:

No. Four seed Venus Williams vs. No. 98 Belinda Bencic (Williams leads head-to-head collection, Four-Zero)


So what’s to fret about, Venus followers? Simply have a look at these rankings. In addition to, Bencic hasn’t even taken a set from Williams, by no means thoughts a match. Sure, however Bencic, as soon as tabbed as a future No. 1 and maybe the following Martina Hingis (and never simply because each are Swiss), has been affected by accidents on and off for the previous two years.

Bencic remains to be simply 20. She’s a former No. 1 junior who gained French and Wimbledon singles titles earlier than making her approach to the primary draw. She appears to be returning to the shape that carried her into the highest 10 two years in the past. She gained 10 straight matches (and two $125Ok WTA titles) to finish 2017 and three of the 4 matches she performed in her solely warm-up occasion for this event, the Hopman Cup exhibition, the place she partnered with Federer to clinch the win for the Swiss.

Venus, against this, has performed simply as soon as for the reason that trophy match on the WTA Finals, and that was a loss in opposition to No. 22 Angelique Kerber final week in Sydney. At age 37, Venus definitely wants to choose her spots, however that is the damaging place the place the rubber of competitors meets the highway of age.

Venus might want to dial in her serve and most aggressive, smothering A-game shortly if she hopes to cease the resurgent Bencic’s momentum. The Swiss hits a really clear, practically flat ball, expertly adjustments the path of rallies and hits her down-the-line backhand fearlessly.

No. 50 Denis Shapovalov vs. No. 80 Stefanos Tsitsipas (first assembly)

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This match between two of essentially the most promising under-20 gamers on the tour could also be a preview of a rivalry that can outline tennis within the coming decade. Each gamers are that good. Tsitsipas is a former junior No. 1, however he by no means did win a junior Grand Slam title. He partly has Shapovalov to thank for that, because the Canadian tagged Tsitsipas within the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Shapovalov grew to become a sensation final summer time when he sliced up Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal on his approach to the semifinals on the Montreal Masters. A lefty with a one-handed backhand, the 18-year-old 6-footer performs an electrical, crowd-pleasing sport based mostly on daring shot-making.

At 6-foot-Four, Tsitsipas could also be much more explosive. He is received a booming serve delivered with a easy movement. He hits an enormous ball off each wings. Like Shapovalov, he hits a one-handed backhand. By the way, Tsitsipas shares an Aug. 12 birthday with one other participant of Greek heritage whom you may need heard of: Pete Sampras.

This guarantees to be riveting shootout — and a have a look at the way forward for males’s tennis.

No. 13 seed Sloane Stephens vs. No. 35 Shuai Zheng (Stephens leads collection, 2-1)

Sloane Stephens is assured she will be able to get again on observe to the place she was throughout her stellar run on the US Open. Steve Christo – Corbis/Getty Photographs

It is time for Stephens to cease the bleeding. She hasn’t gained a match since she gained the US Open again in early September, taking 5 consecutive losses — the final an unsightly 6-Three, 6-Zero drubbing in Sydney final week by the hands of Camila Giorgi. However Stephens appears desirous to return to high kind. As she advised reporters throughout media day Saturday: “I believe personally I had a whole lot of issues happening [late last year]. I am not going to look again on it. It is a new yr, new season.”

The problem for Stephens will likely be flipping no matter psychological or emotional change must be flicked to start a turnaround. And he or she’ll need to do it in opposition to a 28-year-old veteran who turned in her greatest Grand Slam efficiency in Melbourne Park in 2016, utilizing an upset of No. 2 Simona Halep as a springboard to the quarterfinals. The upside for Stephens: That is the event the place she broke by way of, reaching the semifinals by way of an upset of Serena in 2013.

Stephens performs a coy, wait-and-see sport at one of the best of instances. When she’s not desirous to reap the benefits of alternatives to counterpunch and assault, her passive sport is well contained. She wants to seek out motivation, and shortly, if she hopes to outlive in opposition to this skilled, diligent baseliner.

Upset particular: No. 38 David Ferrer over No. 30 seed Andrey Rublev

Ferrer, a 35-year-old, two-time Australian Open semifinalist, has the expertise to take advantage of the impatience and impetuosity of this rising younger star.

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