2020 Australian Open First Round Preview: Jennifer Brady vs Simona Halep
Jennifer Brady and Simona Halep had a close battle in Toronto last year | Photo: Julian Avram

Talking about tough draws, fourth seed Simona Halep will definitely rue her luck on Thursday as she was drawn to face the in-form Jennifer Brady in the first round of the Australian Open. It is one of the must-watch matches on Tuesday, with the upset alert turned on for this highly-intriguing clash.

Brady hopes to continue fine run

After a good off-season preparation, Brady came firing out of the blocks at the Brisbane International. She lost just 12 games in three qualifying matches en route to qualifying for the main draw, before stunning former world number one Maria Sharapova in a third-set tiebreak to reach the second round. There, she claimed the first top-10 win of her career over current top-ranked player Ashleigh Barty, triumphing 6-4, 7-6 without facing a break point in the process.

She had looked invincible on serve during the week, and rose to a new career-high ranking of 49 after that breakthrough performance. Brady’s best result at the Australian Open came back in 2017 when she reached the second week as a qualifier. The American recorded two fourth-round appearances at Grand Slams in her career, and with her form currently, another deep run is not entirely impossible.

Jennifer Brady was excellent in Brisbane, where she reached the quarterfinals | Photo: Chris Hyde
Jennifer Brady was excellent in Brisbane, where she reached the quarterfinals | Photo: Chris Hyde

Halep looks to avoid the upset

Halep opted to start her season one week later at the Adelaide International as compared to the rest of the players, getting straight to business with a solid straight-sets win over home favourite and wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic. The Romanian was stopped by world number 11 Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals, heading into Melbourne without much match practice.

A finalist at the Australian Open in 2018, Halep will look to replicate her success here although things can get tricky with Danielle Collins, last year’s surprise semifinalist and is on fire currently, possibly awaiting in the third round. She experienced a fourth-round exit to Serena Williams last year, but to reach the second week this year, the Romanian might have to defeat two hard-hitting, in-form Americans en route. 

Match Analysis

Halep has been prone to upsets in the early stages of the Major tournaments, having lost in the first or second round on seven occasions as a top-eight seed. Brady will look to pounce on that fact and take advantage of her red-hot form to chase for a second top-10 win of her career.

Simona Halep during a practice session in Melbourne | Photo: Darrian Traynor
Simona Halep during a practice session in Melbourne | Photo: Darrian Traynor

The pair have met once in the past, meeting in the second round of the Rogers Cup last year. Halep was coming off her Wimbledon triumph and was forced to fight through a final-set tiebreak to triumph in two hours and 25 minutes.

The Australian Open is using GreenSet as a new surface this year, and it will be interesting to see how both players will adapt to it. Halep will need to dial in as quickly as possible, and she has the ability to neutralize Brady’s bomb-like serves as one of the best returners on tour. 

To have any chance of triumphing, Brady would have to serve exceptionally well and paint the lines as Halep’s ability to lengthen the rallies is magnificent. Consistency would be the key to Halep’s chances as she will need to keep her first-serve percentage high, preventing her opponent from having any chances to punish her second serves.

This would be a big test for Halep, but it also acts as an indicator for Brady, who seems to be able to challenge the top players with her game now. Although the two-time Major champion is the favourite on paper, an upset is not out of the question.

Match Prediction: Halep d. Brady in three sets