The first round that provoked the greatest reaction from the tennis world was seeing the wild-carded Maria Sharapova land in a captivating first round matchup against No.2 seed Simona Halep.
It is a repeat of the 2014 Roland Garros final, where Sharapova won a very, very close three-set match and has virtually dominated the head-to-head from start to finish. A lot has changed and happened since that Roland-Garros final. Sharapova returned from a doping ban in April, but this will be her first Grand Slam match since her return, because of an ongoing forearm injury that has affected her hardcourt preparation enormously.
Halep’s season has been consistent, but if one or two notable matches went her way, we would be talking about Halep having a great season rather than just a good one. She has let many big matches slip, which has prevented her from winning the World No.1 ranking and a first Grand Slam title in the process.
Halep has never beaten the Russian, but I think she will this time. The last time Halep lost in the first round stage of a WTA level event was back at the Australian Open and I just feel like the additional match-wins she has amassed on the hardcourt in Toronto and Cincinnati will help her against a rusty Sharapova.
Prediction: Halep in three sets
Garbiñe Muguruza  vs Varvara Lepchenko H2H: Tied at 1-1
The Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza‘s newly-found composure, confidence and steadiness is something that has been long overdue. Many wanted that stability in her tennis after the 2016 Roland Garros win, but she truly is looking like that regular and consistent Top 5 player since winning the second major of her career.
The Spaniard always seemed to struggle at Flushing Meadows. She is yet to make it past the second round of the tournament, which is surprising when you consider how well she can play on a hardcourt, which she displayed at Cincinnati, winning her fifth WTA title.
The World No.1 ranking is on the line for eight players and Muguruza is one of those players that will be looking to be the 24th WTA player to get to the top of the tree in singles. Her first round opponent will have something to say about that though. Varvara Lepchenko has been as high as No.19 in the world, but I think Muguruza will find a lot of joy out of the Lepchenko backhand side. She never rains winners from the backhand, but can pose a serious threat if she manages to find many of her trusty forehands.
If Muguruza plays similarly to how she did in the Cincinnati final, then she will be well on her way.
Prediction: Muguruza in two sets
Camila Giorgi vs Magdalena Rybarikova  H2H: Tied at 1-1
Two players that experienced tremendous grass-court success that are still capable of producing great results on the hard courts of New York. Camila Giorgi likes to take huge cuts at the ball and throws everything into every groundstroke and every serve (even the second serve), while Magdalena Rybarikova likes to play a chess game on the court. She does not beat you with sheer power, but she tries to topple her opponent with her court craft, which was great to see during her semi-final run at Wimbledon this year.
Giorgi can beat most players on her day, but the issue with the Italian is how often she actually has ‘her day.’ The Italian has beaten some very good players in recent months, including Elina Svitolina at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and I think she will knock down the No.31 seed on Monday.
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