Two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber has a big 2017 ahead of her, where she will be defending two Grand Slam titles for the first time, starting with the Australian Open next week and the US Open later on this year in August. Moreover, the German reached the final at Wimbledon last July, losing to Serena Williams, the player she beat in Melbourne to claim her first Grand Slam singles title.
Daria Kasatkina will provide a tough test for Kerber, in their second round encounter at the Apia International Sydney, and the Russian announced herself to the tennis world, this time last year by defeating seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams at the ASB Classic in Auckland. The 19-year-old has reached the third round at all four Grand Slam tournaments, which is respectable for Kasatkina, and you can expect the Russian to make the quarterfinals or better at all four Slams in the future.
Both players competed at the first premier event of the year at the Brisbane International last week, and both had mixed fortunes at that event. The world number one, received a bye in the first round, but she was engaged in a three-set battle with Ashleigh Barty, however, the German came unstuck in the quarterfinals against Elina Svitolina losing in three sets to the Ukranian. Kasatkina thrashed Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round, but in the second round, Kasatkina played in one of the matches of the year against French Open champion Garbine Muguruza losing 7-6 in the final set, which was a valiant effort from the Russian considering that she held a match point on the Spaniard's serve in the tiebreak, who saved it brilliantly.
How they got here
Once again as the top seed, Kerber received a bye into the second round which could work against her as Kasatkina has already had a match and will be accustomed to the conditions, however, Kasatkina had to endure a three-set battle with Timea Babos, coming back from a set down to oust the hard-hitting Hungarian, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Kerber and Kasatkina have met once on hard courts and it was in the quarterfinals of the Coupe Rogers in Montreal, with Kerber having too much for Kasatkina on that day, coming through that encounter very easily 6-2, 6-2.
The world number one is a former finalist in Sydney, after having reached the final in 2014, losing to two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, nonetheless, the two-time Grand Slam champion will want to go one step further in Sydney, ahead of her title defence at the Australian Open.
The world number 26 will need to hang onto her service games, as the German is a good frontrunner in matches, and has become extremely hard to beat in the past 12 months. On the other hand, Kerber isn't the best of servers, and Kasatkina will need to take the opportunities that are gifted to her. The Russian possesses a good forehand, and she will need to keep the points short, as Kerber excels in long rallies, and usually, finds a way with her forehand down the line to shot to create winners.
Kasatkina will relish this challenge with Kerber as she pushed Muguruza last week, and she pushed Venus Williams in an amazing third round encounter at Wimbledon last year.
This is the second match scheduled in the Ken Rosewall Arena at not before 1:30 pm local time, following the conclusion of the men's single's match between Australian wildcard Alex De Minaur and Benoit Paire.
The winner of this second round match will play last year's Australian Open semifinalist and sixth seed Johanna Konta or Daria Gavrilova in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Kerber in straight sets