The opening match on Court 3 on the second day of action at the Australian Open sees former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer take on former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova, in what is one of the more intriguing unseeded first round matches in Melbourne.
With Wickmayer, ranked 60th, just one place above Safarova in the rankings it could be tight, and the fact that the two have split their previous two meetings adds more interest into the winner of this match.
Furthermore, the winner will face the victor of the blockbuster match between Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams in the second round, meaning another tricky match for either Wickmayer or Safarova.
So far in 2017
It’s been a mixed start to the season for Safarova, who suffered from injury problems last year. She started 2017 in Auckland, where she stormed past fellow Czech Denisa Allertova in the opening round, before falling to another Czech, Barbora Strycova, in three tight sets. She then went to Hobart, where she saw off Viktorija Golubic in straight sets before suffering a disappointing three sets defeat to Risa Ozaki.
Like her opponent, Wickmayer started the season in Auckland, though did not play last week in the build-up to this tournament. The Belgian started the ASB Classic with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson, though disappointed as she fell in the next round to Ana Konjuh by the same scoreline; both will be aiming to improve in this opening match.
There is no doubt that Wickmayer has the talent to win this match, but she is extremely inconsistent and though Safarova is evidently not at her best of late, she has the experience to make the Belgian for any mistakes and poor spells. Though it’s a risky tactic, Wickmayer should look to be aggressive and dictate play against Safarova, though must be patient as her opponent is quick, and could get a lot of balls back. The Belgian must also serve well, as she must try to not let Safarova get the upper hand early on in rallies.
One concern for Safarova is that both her losses this year have been deep in the first set; she must look to get this done quickly, and must also take any opportunities to close out the match at the first time of asking, to avoid becoming nervous. The Czech must be very solid in this match, especially against a powerful opponent like the Belgian, and will probably need to defend well, and be able to work her way into rallies; her experience suggests she is more likely to win the longer exchanges.
There is no doubt that this is a tough draw for both players, and with a big second round clash looming for the victor, the pressure is certainly on. Wickmayer certainly has the weapons to win this match, though Safarova is arguably a more consistent player on her day and should be able to edge this.
Prediction: Lucie Safarova in three sets