Australian Open first round preview: Daria Kasatkina vs Peng Shuai

Australian Open first round preview: Daria Kasatkina vs Peng Shuai

The opening day of the Australian Open would see youngster Daria Kasatkina, the 23rd seed, face off against Peng Shuai in a must-see first round match.

don-han
Don Han

World number 26 and WTA rising star Daria Kasatkina will open her Australian Open campaign against a resurgent player in Peng Shuai, as the young Russian aims to create a deep run here. 

Kasatkina first became a prominent young figure on the WTA after the 2015 US Open when she reached the third round of the competition as a lucky loser who got into the draw just because her compatriot, Maria Sharapova, withdrew from the competition due to a leg injury.

The Russian then made good use of another good opportunity to achieve good results as she reached the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup having been given a wildcard. Kasatkina showcased her potential even more last year, which was her career-best season of her young career. She reached the quarterfinals of Montreal and Indian Wells. The Russian narrowly missed out on the medal rounds of the Rio Olympics after losing in the quarterfinal to Madison Keys.

Kasatkina in action last week in Sydney | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac
Kasatkina in action last week in Sydney | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac

Peng Shuai, on the other hand, has been a veteran on the WTA Tour having turned professional in 2001. Having a career-high ranking of 14, Peng reached the semifinals of the US Open in 2014 where she had to retire in the midst of the match due to a heat stroke that caused her to collapse on the ground. A former world number one in doubles, Peng can be considered one of the most successful tennis players from China.

Despite being previously ranked in the top 20 before a back injury almost derailed her career, Peng won her first career title just last year as a 182nd ranked wildcard in Tianjin. Taianjin is her home city, which made the victory even more special.

Peng Shuai in action at last year's China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Peng Shuai in action at last year's China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

Kasatkina’s 2017 results

The young Russian had some impressive results coming into the first grand slam of the year having reached the second round of the Brisbane International and the quarterfinals of the Sydney International, both as an unseeded player. Kasatkina almost had a chance to reach the quarterfinals of both tournaments but wasted a match point opportunity in her thrilling match against the Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza. The Russian youngster then earned the best win of her career when she defeated world number one Angelique Kerber in the second round of Sydney in straight sets, although it did not really come as a big surprise.

Daria Kasatkina earned her best victory of her career | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac
Daria Kasatkina earned her best victory of her career | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac

Peng’s 2017 results

The Chinese started the year in a poor fashion as she fell in the straight sets of the opening round at the Shenzhen Open to Katerina Siniakova, who was the eventual champion. However, Peng reunited with Andrea Hlavackova for doubles and triumphed in Shenzhen to become victorious for the third straight time in a span of three years as a pair. Peng did not play in the singles event for the second week, but played doubles alongside the Czech once again at the Sydney International. She was unable to duplicate their success, however, as they fell in straight sets to top seeds and eventual finalist Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova in the first round.

Their history

The duo have not met before this match. Peng was mostly barred from action due to a career-threatening back injury in the past few years and Kasatkina has only played senior tournaments these last two years. Nevertheless, it will definitely be an intriguing first meeting between both players.

Who gets through?

The inconsistency of both Kasatkina and Peng makes this match further unpredictable as both players definitely, have the weapons needed to triumph.

Peng uses a double-handed forehand, which can be utilized effectively to create powerful, consistent and accurate forehands. Peng's forehand could really give Kasatkina some trouble as it will allow Peng to get on the offensive most of the time. That lethal forehand could also give her an edge when it comes to the offensive style of tennis.​

Peng Shuai at the 2016 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Peng Shuai at the 2016 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

However, Kasatkina could also dictate the proceedings as her deep forehands could help her in the match. The Russian is also able to control play during a baseline rally as she could throw in some drop shots or slices to catch her opponent off-guard and win the point.

The relationship between her coach and her is also tipped to be one of the best in tennis, as her coach often gives her some constructive talk and good strategies and game plans during their on-court coaching sessions. However, at grand slams, there will not be any on-court coaching available.

Kasatkina in action at Brisbane | Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images AsiaPac
Kasatkina in action at Brisbane | Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images/ AsiaPac

This match will be between experience and youth. Kasatkina, having just been off from her career-best win, will definitely be motivated to perform well after gaining more confidence through that win. Peng will want to create an upset to allow herself to rise in the rankings and return to the top once again.

This match will be played on the opening day of the tournament on Court 19 as the last match on schedule. The winner of this match wll face a tough match-up as she would either play Louisa Chirico or Eugenie Bouchard, who has been on a great run recently.

Prediction: Kasatkina in straight sets

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