There can be no doubt that most anticipated match at the Sydney International pits two of the biggest names in tennis against each other, with former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber set to face fellow former world number one and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the second round.
This will be the eighth meeting between the two, with Kerber edging the head-to-head 4-3. However, it was Williams who won the last match between the two, in straight sets at the Miami Open last year, and the American will head into 2018 with bags of confidence after a stellar 2017 season.
This will be the fourth match on the Ken Rosewall Arena on Tuesday, taking place at around 18:00 local time. The winner will face either Dominika Cibulkova or Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals.
Kerber heads in with good form, whilst Williams makes 2018 debut
As previously mentioned, Williams had a very strong 2017 season, much more so that Kerber who struggled immensely throughout the year, though the German will head in with some belief after some very encouraging performances this year.
Though the Hopman Cup is technically an exhibition event, Kerber impressed in Perth. She won all four of her matches in straight sets, and looked as if she was heading back to the type of form she was displaying frequently in 2016. The German had an incredibly tough start in Sydney, saving match points to beat Lucie Safarova, though still played well against the tricky Czech and will have some confidence heading into this encounter.
Meanwhile, it is hard to tell how Williams will be playing, considering this will be her first match since she lost in the final at the WTA Finals. The American had a stellar 2017, reaching the final in Singapore as well as at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, though may be a little lacking in match practice. However, after such a resurgent year, she will undoubtedly have a lot of belief and has the win over Kerber in their previous match.
There can be no doubt that of the two, it is the American who has by far the biggest weapons of the two, and if she is playing well she will be incredibly tough to break down. What has been noticeable, however, over the past couple of seasons is that she can struggle on serve, and she must be looking to get as many first serves in as possible against an opponent who has frequently been looking to be aggressive early on this year. Williams should also be looking to attack as much as possible, and not allow the German to work her way into rallies.
Meanwhile, Kerber has been looking to be aggressive so far in 2018, though has not yet faced an opponent who can match Williams in terms of power. The German must take every opportunity she gets to step inside the court and dictate the rally, though must be able to effectively use her strong defense to stay in rallies against Williams, who will control the majority of rallies. Like the American, Kerber can also be vulnerable on her serve, so will be looking to place her serves well and keep a high first serve percentage, especially when the pressure is on.
This is certainly a blockbuster encounter, with it being very rare that two big names meet so early in a tournament, especially a week before a Grand Slam tournament. It is hard to call, but considering how Kerber has looked so far this season, it seems the German may be able to use that confidence to seal a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Angelique Kerber in three sets