Continuation and end of the first round of this Australian Open with notably the entry of the American Sloane Stephens against the volcanic Yiula Putintseva. The Kazakhe participated in the tournament of players who underwent the strict confinement of the "Grampians Trophy". Beaten on the wire by Azarenka (11-9 in the super tie-break), she continued her good momentum from the Abu Dhabi tournament where she had reached the 3rd round. Her level of play is rather interesting but still a bit jagged. She is very athletic with the ability to return all the balls but also to break the rhythm enormously with rounded, bell-shaped or sliced balls. This so-called fast Australian surface is less favourable to its play compared to more powerful opponents. For this opening match, the former world number 3 Sloane Stephens, who had a very complicated first round last week (defeat 6-3, 6-1 against Fernandez), will be back in the match. However, this match does not remain very significant for a tournament scheduled at the last minute with players facing strict confinement. The American has had a big pre-season physical preparation with her coach Kamau Murray. We know her talent and her sense of anticipation in the game. Her often lymphatic attitude remains normal at home but her forehand and defensive qualities could well be useful to her in this match. The two players have already faced each other four times, each time in tight three-way matches. The balance is two wins on each side but 2-1 on hard for Stephens who could have her chance in this match with a desire to get back into a Grand Slam tournament that she has always enjoyed with notably a semi-final in 2013. Putintseva will have to play a little bit harder to hinder Stephens and it is not in the habit of the Kazakhe, who is a clear favourite in this match. However, the value is clearly on the side of the American who has the game to go for a set or even victory to get back on track.
Krystina Pliskova vs Heather Watson
The left-hander of the Pliskova sisters is a rather complicated player to decipher. She relies heavily on her service to easily win her service games. In the exchange, she quickly remains limited when the difficulty sets in against solid players like against Zvonareva last week. In the game, she is always looking for the short route with powerful first strokes. Her big size limits her in her movements and on low balls. She will be facing Heather Watson who showed interesting things in Abu Dhabi with an interesting and varied tennis. She likes to build up her points and vary her trajectories to work on her opponents. She moves very well with an explosiveness that allows her to compete in power. Her serve is also a weapon to consider with a variety of effects between slice, kick and flat play to disrupt the opponent's re-start. The two players faced each other three times on hard court. Watson leads 2 to 1. The last match dates back to the Australian Open in 2020 at the same stage of the competition and the British player was patient and applied to overcome the Czech giant (4-6, 6-3, 6-1). Mobility and variety could well be the keys to winning this match. Heather Watson will have the cards in her hand to win tonight.
Cori Gauff vs Jil Teichmann
The American starts a tournament where she had beaten a certain Naomi Osaka in 2020. Coco Gauff has been on alternating current since the recovery in August 2020. She bases her game on a solid bottom end but her serve is once again very irregular when she feels under pressure with an average of 7 double faults on her last two matches. She is promising but is still learning from the top of her 16 years old. Her presence in the top 50 gives her more of a role as a favourite than an outsider, which can be a pressure that is never easy to manage when faced with players who want to knock her down. She will be meeting an opponent she narrowly beat in the Gippsland Trophy tournament. Jil Teichmann showed at the end of 2020 that she could compete as much on hard as on clay with great performances in Cincinnati and Lexington. She has an offensive game with a real vista. Her sense of anticipation helps her a lot whether offensively or defensively. She has the game and the experience to put pressure on Coco Gauff. This match has an air of revenge for the Swiss who could well be inspired by Katie Boulter's victory over Coco Gauff. With her forward play, her solid serve and ability to put pressure on her opponent in return could well come to annoy her opponent. The American has a role of ultra favourite in this match that doesn't seem justified. The value is on the Swiss side.
Ann Li vs Shuai Zhang
The American will start her first round of the Australian Open after a very nice performance during the Grampians Trophy tournament with a final reached - but not contested - by beating players like Sorana Cirstea, Veronika Kudermetova or Jennifer Brady. She will have her first Grand Slam without going through the qualifications or even without a wildcard. She is a talented player who is part of the new generation of American tennis with a very complete game and a varied quality service, both flat and kicked. She also has a very offensive game with a good ball strike. She is able to vary the rhythm with her sliced backhand to speed up the ball and take her opponents by storm. She is in total confidence after a very solid preparation tournament. She will find a player with less rhythm. Shuai Zhang will play her recovery match more than three months after her defeat in the first round in Ostrava last October. She plays flat with very little variation and a serve that is the precursor of her game. She likes to play hard in cadence and hits at hip height. When her first ball breaks down, she can quickly find herself in trouble in the game. In 2019, she had her best result in Australia when she reached the round of sixteen stage. The American is a clear favourite compared to her performance last week. After that, we have to take this match with a grain of salt. Ann Li was physically fit but with a bandage on her thigh when she met Brady. In terms of style of play, she could take the lead over the Chinese with her variation of sliced backhand that glides well on this surface. Her offensive phases could well prevent Zhang from dictating the exchange as she likes to do.
Nao Hibino vs Astra Sharma
The Japanese rider is back in Australia after a nice end of the season on clay with a semi-final in Strasbourg and a nice performance at Roland Garros despite her elimination in the second round against Ons Jabeur. She is very mobile with a nice ball shot despite her small size. She has a lot of aggressiveness and opportunism in her game. She is able to vary her game with a few slices and also some bunt shots allowing her to alternate long and short game. She is rather complete and will be opposed to Astra Sharma, the Australian with a much bigger size. The latter has been alternating the good and the not so good for two years now to sail around the top 100. Sharma relies on a good quality of service and a very powerful and well scratched forehand. Its covered backhand struggles to hold in regularity and favours the slice more. She prefers the short course to the long rallies during which the Australian can quickly go to fault. The Japanese is a slight favourite with a justified status for a player who loves to play hard. Hibino should take her opponent to rallies and also offer a lot of aggressiveness on the return trip. This match should turn in her favour against a player who is still far too limited in the game.
Sorribes Tormo vs Daria Gavrilova
The Spaniard has had some good performances on hard lately with a quarter-final in Ostrava and another one in Abu Dhabi. She prefers to ride on clay but she has been able to develop her game which consists in making her opponents work by staying at the back of the court with a variation of trajectories and effects by feeding on the opponents' mistakes. She likes to face players with aggressive play and risk taking because she manages to push them to foul. She will face Daria Gavrilova who is back in business after three years of dearth between 2017 and 2020. She is on the WTA 2011 circuit but is only 26 years old. She has a very beautiful hand and multiple strings to her bow to adapt to her opponents with a very varied game alternating long and short game. She can also use slice effects to vary the rhythm of the game. She spins the ball very well with her forehand and gives it a lot of speed. Daria Gavrilova could well take the Spanish player out of her comfort zone, behind her line. With variation in spin, trajectories and a nice length of ball, she can disturb the plans of Sorribes Tormo. She loves to play at home and will have the chance to be supported by her public.
Editor's note ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Stephens 1 set / Victory Hibino / Teichmann 1 set / Victory Watson / Victory Gavrilova ⭐️ Victoire Stephens / Victoire Teichmann
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