One of the most intriguing third round clashes at the Australian Open sees fifth seed Elina Svitolina take on former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza for a place in the second week in Melbourne.
After a disappointing 2019 season, Muguruza finds herself unseeded at the first Grand Slam of the year, but will be hoping to surge back up the rankings with Conchita Martinez back in her team. Meanwhile, Svitolina did not pick up a title in 2019, but did reach her first Grand Slam semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, and will be looking to build on that.
The two have developed a rivalry over the past few years, having played ten times recently. Svitolina leads the head-to-head 6-4, having won six of their seven hard court meetings and their last meeting in Wuhan last year, though Muguruza has won all three of their previous Grand Slam meetings. The winner will face Zarina Diyas or ninth seed Kiki Bertens in the fourth round.
So Far in Melbourne
Svitolina came into Melbourne following a heavy defeat in Brisbane, though has picked up two solid wins to start her campaign, The fifth seed first overcome Katie Boulter in two tight sets, before picking up a similar win against the tricky Lauren Davis in round two. The Ukranian has reached the quarterfinals at this tournament the past two years, and her wins over two opponents who were playing some of their best tennis suggests she may be rounding into form once again.
Meanwhile, former world number one Muguruza has had a more bumpy road into the third round. The Spaniard was bageled in her opening set of the tournament against Shelby Rogers, though dropped just one game in the next two sets to reach round two. There, she overcame home favourite Aija Tomljanovic in three high-quality sets to reach the third round. Both her matches have been tough, though the fight the Spaniard has shown suggests she’ll be tough to beat.
A key feature of this match will be who can get on the front foot and successfully kill off points the most. Muguruza is the more powerful and naturally aggressive of the two, and will look to use her big groundstrokes to dictate play. However, the Spaniard can be error-prone at times, and Svitolina will look to use her movement to prolong rallies and force errors from her opponent. The fifth seed has also looked to be more aggressive with her tennis in recent seasons, though must be careful about when she chooses to attack.
Svitolina is arguably the better mover of the two, and will certainly look to use that to good effect. She will look to extend the rallies as much as possible to force Muguruza to make mistakes and force her out of position with slices and dropshots. However, Muguruza’s power means that she will be eyeing up the Ukranian’s serve, particularly the second serve, and may also look to approach the net to try and shorten the rallies.
This will not be an easy match for either woman, with both having demonstrated some strong tennis in Melbourne. Muguruza may have the edge in slams and certainly has a big opportunity here to reach the fourth round, though the head-to-head suggests that, on hard courts, Svitolina will just have the edge.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina in three sets