An intriguing quarterfinal clash at the Adelaide International will take place between sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka and second seed Simona Halep. The winner of this last eight clash will advance to the semifinals to face either Donna Vekic or Dayana Yastremska, who contest the first match on Center Court.
Sabalenka and Halep's road to the quarterfinals
Granted a wild card into the main draw, the Belarusian snuck past the tricky Su-wei Hsieh 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 in the first round while playing much better in round two to defeat American qualifier Bernarda Pera 7-5, 6-1.
Halep was seeded second and given a first-round bye. Her second round match, which was her first of the 2020 season, was a rather straightforward 6-4, 7-5 win over Ajla Tomljanovic to set up this meeting with Sabalenka.
This is the third meeting between Sabalenka and Halep with all three being played on hard courts as well as contested at the quarterfinal stage or later. The first matchup was a 6-2, 6-2 victory for the Romanian in the quarterfinals of Shenzhen in 2018. The second meeting came in the summer of that same year in Cincinnati with Halep again prevailing, this time by a 6-4, 6-4 scoreline in the semifinals.
Who will win?
This is a bad matchup for Sabalenka. That is the bottom line. One of the most powerful players on tour, if she's off by a little bit, Halep will punish her by getting a ton of balls back and forcing her into many unforced errors. While the Belarusian has certainly improved her game since their last meeting, it may still not be enough.
That being said, Halep is there for the taking. She's still with coach Darren Cahill, although their relationship is trying at best. The injury issues are not there as they were when the start of 2019 rolled around, but someone of the Romanian's limited physical stature may see her performance level drop as she gets older.
In the end, the match will, in many ways, be on Sabalenka's racket simply because she has the ability to blow Halep off the court. As already discussed, the issue is trying to control it. If she can, she'll win. If she can't, it'll be like the matches in Shenzhen and Cincinnati. Let's see if the sixth seed can step up and score a big win early in 2020.
Prediction: Halep in straight sets