The first match on Rod Laver Arena sees the six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams come up against the feisty Czech Barbora Strycova. Williams has played the Czech twice in the past. The first time was at the 2012 Australian Open where she won in straight sets and then they clashed racquets again in Wimbledon of the same year where Williams came out on top in similar fashion.
A lot has changed since 2012, Strycova is now a Top 20 player and feels even more comfortable in her own skin as one of the top players on the WTA Tour who continues to put on great performances week upon week. The greatest part of the Czech’s game is her ability to make her opponent feel uncomfortable on the court and to ensure that her opponent goes outside of their comfort zone in order to get the better of her. If a player is not feeling great about the level of tennis they are showing on the court then Strycova is a nightmare opponent for the majority of players.
Williams has romped through her draw despite playing some very difficult opponents. She beat Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova and Nicole Gibbs all in straight sets and will hope to maintain the same level as the tournament reaches a conclusion next Saturday.
Strycova can make this match competitive. I do not think she will fear Williams at all, but Williams’ overwhelming and domineering power game from the baseline should carry her through this tricky fourth round match-up.
This match has similar qualities to the Williams vs Strycova match. Karolina Pliskova is the power player that will look to shorten the points with two or three combinations after her big serve, while Daria Gavrilova‘s main focus will be on dragging Pliskova into positions she really does not want to be in by making the rallies drag on for as long as possible.
The Czech does not have the best footwork on the WTA Tour, so it would not surprise me if Gavrilova tried to spread the court with each and every shot, but the big question is whether Gavrilova has enough power to be able to dictate the rallies before Pliskova does. It is a tough challenge for the Australian, but if there is a tournament or a place where she can pull it off it would be in Melbourne at the Australian Open.
I think a fired-up Gavrilova can keep this tight, but Pliskova will be looking to respond after coming so close to losing in the third round to Jelena Ostapenko.
Prediction: Pliskova in a tight first set and one-sided second set.
Jennifer Brady vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni H2H: First meeting
Not many people would have predicted that Jennifer Brady and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni would make the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, but what a great opportunity it is for both women to make a rare quarter-final. TBrady has never been in this position before. This is the American’s first ever main draw at a Grand Slam having made it through the qualifying draw and now prepares for the second week of a major. It truly is an inspiring story for American tennis.
Lucic-Baroni has been on the tour for quite some time. She made the semi-finals of Wimbledon back in 1999, but has yet to reach another quarter-final since. Her commanding game can be too hot to handle even for some of the Top 10 players because she can take the racquet out of your hands and leave her opponent unable to find answers to the Lucic-Baroni game. That was evident in her win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round this year.
I think Lucic-Baroni’s additional experience of knowing what it takes to make a major quarter-final will guide her through this match.
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