Saturday, January 14, 2012
The Deuce Court: 8 Women's Must-See First-Rounders
Yesterday on The Deuce Court, we looked at some of the most mouth watering men's first round matchups. Today, we'll flip the dial and look at what's happening on the women's side in the first round.
Click here for the day 1 Australian Open Order of Play
1. Lucie Safarova vs. Christina McHale: American tennis fans might be surprised to know that the 19-year-old New Jersey-ite is ranked 2nd to only Serena Williams when it comes to American Women. McHale scored many convincing wins last year, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli and Svetlana Kuznetsova among them) and while she may be 18 spots behind Safarova in the rankings, she is not a heavy underdog in this match by any means.
2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Heather Watson: Watson, one of two young Brits that experts are high on (Laura Robson being the other) faces a heavy challenge in Victoria Azarenka in the first round. Azarenka, seeded No. 3 and fresh of the Sydney title, is a clear contender for the title, and many feel that this could be the year she finally takes the final step in her maturation. Watson, meanwhile, proved that she enjoys the spotlight when she nearly upset Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open last year. She is now doubt relishing the opportunity to take a shot at another well-established player.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands: This should be an interesting study in contrast, with the crafty, agile and wonderfully cerebral Radwanska pitted against the brash go-for-brokeness that is Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
4. Serena Williams vs. Tamira Paszek: They each reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year before falling out, but beyond that, the comparisons between the 13-time Grand Slam singles winner Williams and Paszek, who is currently ranked No. 45 in the world, end. Most will be watching this match to see how much Serena Williams is hindered or not hindered by her recently-injured ankle, and if it ends up being competitive, that will be gravy for the paying customers.
5. Madison Keys vs. Zheng Jie: A resurgent Jie, a year removed from wrist surgery, appears to have regained her singles mojo. The diminutive Chinese took her first title in five years in Brisbane, and she promises to be a big challenge in a small package for the very young, very raw, yet very promising 16-year-old American.
6. Samantha Stosur vs. Sorana Cirstea: Stosur has fallen into a bit of a post-glory slumber, winning only one of her first three matches of 2012. She will play her first Grand Slam tennis since defeating Serena Williams in last year's US Open final, and her opponent, long-noted for her promise, will no doubt feel inspired to keep Stosur on the snooze. Cirstea, a former French Open quarterfinalist and a former No. 23 in the world, comes to Melbourne in good form, having nearly made the semis in Hobart.
7. Maria Sharapova vs. Gisela Dulko: Maria has not been in action since she gruesomely sprained her ankle at the WTA Championships in Turkey. It was yet another injury-related setback for the valiant Russian, who has never lost her belief, or her incredible will to win, during her well-documented return to the top of the sport. But Dulko will present a daunting challenge for Sharapova, especially since Sharapova is likely to be shaking off rust in the early going, and may or not be experiencing some mobility issues.
8. Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Eleni Daniilidou: Hey, anytime you get to watch a 41-year-old woman compete for the second round of a Grand Slam, that's must-see tennis. End of story.