16th seed Barbora Strycova faces a tricky opponent in her opening match of the Australian Open, having been drawn against qualifier Elizaveta Kulichkova. Kulichkova is a former junior champion here at the Australian Open and reached the third round here in Melbourne last year after defeating Andrea Petkovic along the way, whereas Strycova has achieved some great results here in Melbourne in the past too, having also been a junior champion at the exact same location in 2003. Having reached the fourth round here last year, Strycova has plenty of points to defend and has a tough path if she were to replicate last year’s run. Being higher-ranked and being the more experienced one should allow the Czech to be the big favourite in the match to progress to the second round. The result was the expected one as Strycova strolled to a straight-sets victory within just 75 minutes.
Strycova strolls to the first set victory
The Czech had a slow start to the match as she hit three forehand errors in the opening game of the match to allow Kulichkova to hold serve to start the match with. However, Kulichkova was having lots of problems while dealing with the Strycova serves, hitting four errors to allow the Czech to claim an easy service hold. A couple of comfortable holds of service followed next and the first real chance to break serve came at 2-2 for Strycova, who earned a break point but failed to convert it as she was forced to hit a forehand error, which eventually prevented Kulichkova from falling behind an early break. The first break of serve finally came soon in the seventh game when Strycova broke serve mainly thanks to four unforced errors from Kulichkova in the game, which gave the break away. The Czech then consolidated the break with a comfortable hold of serve, hitting an ace on game point to build up a lead of 5-3. Serving to stay in the set, the Russian fell victim to the nerves as she was broken for the second consecutive time and gifted the set to Strycova after just 37 minutes.
Strycova completes victory
An exchange of holds at the start of the second set made it seem like it was going to be a tight one as both players looked solid on their serves. Unexpectedly, it was the Russian who almost made the first breakthrough in the second set when she earned her first break points in the match. However, Kulichkova missed both opportunities and allowed Strycova to hold serve eventually. The Russian would rue the missed opportunity as she was broken immediately in the next game to gift Strycova her third break of the match overall. Kulichkova managed to stop the rout at 4-1 when she finally held her serve to win just her second game of the second set. Although the Russian made some resistance at the end of the match, it was still not enough as Strycova was just too good and strolled to the victory after just an hour and 15 minutes.
Next up for Strycova
The Czech would now face a very tough opponent in Andrea Petkovic in the second round on Thursday. Petkovic holds a 3-2 head-to-head record over Strycova in their careers and has been ranked in the top 10 previously, thus she definitely has the ability to beat the top players. It would definitely be a tight match and is one of the must-see matches of the second round.