In a battle of the qualifiers, Dan Evans now has a chance to prove he belongs back in top flight tennis, as he has a winnable opening start against Tatsuma Ito. Although they last met on the Challenger tour, you would have to hope by now that Evans takes his second chance in the sport seriously.
Certainly, he put in the hard yards after a losing start to the year at the Playford Challenger, and got some solid wins under his belt to come through qualifying. Ironically Ito had exactly the same start – he lost in the first round at Playford before turning his fortunes around with some tough matches in qualifying. In fact, perhaps Evans had a slightly more comfortable ride through the qualifying rounds.
Ito relies on his good movement to take the fight to players, so Evans can expect to be made to work hard it what is set to be brutal conditions. More importantly it will be interesting to see if the Brits in general, but the British men in particular rally around to improve their standing, after Andy Murray’s announcement to retire.
Prediction: Ito in four sets.
Evans & Ito are scheduled on Court 19, not before 2pm (3am GMT)
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Kyle Edmund  v Tomas Berdych | H2H: Berdych leads 1-0
Spare a measure of thought for Kyle Edmund, who now will carry the mantle of British Men’s tennis from this point on. But wait a moment – he already did that – when this time last year Murray withdraw from the Australian Open and Edmund not only coped with being the final hope, but so nearly made it to the final.
Wind through 2018 and a title at the end of the year, and a fair seeding means Edmund has a tough start but then again last year he downed Kevin Anderson in the opening round, so can he do the same with Tomas Berdych?
Berdych is on his way back after a long injury lay-off, but has come back in decent form, losing in the Doha final, whereas Edmund looked rusty in his first match in Brisbane, losing that opener, and then having to withdraw from Sydney with a niggling knee injury, as a precaution.
He looked ok hitting with Roger Federer in Melbourne, but this is going to be a tough fight – but so was Anderson. There will be a lot of forceful hitting, but if Edmund can get Berdych on the move and make him run back on himself, then he may be in with a chance.
Prediction: Edmund in five sets.
Edmund & Berdych are scheduled on Melbourne Area, not before 2:30pm (3:30am GMT)
Cameron Norrie v Taylor Fritz | H2H: Norrie leads 1-0
Probably the most in-form of the lot, Cameron Norrie arrives fresh from making his first ATP final in Auckland to facing Taylor Fritz again, who he ousted in the Auckland quarter-final.
With a lot of pressure on the Brits, the men in particular, Norrie might just give us a smile before we turn our heads towards Murray one more (last?) time. Norrie’s bigger picture game handled Fritz’s more immediate power game pretty handily, but over five sets, will test his stamina and mental fortitude.
Prediction: Norrie in four sets.
Norrie & Fritz are scheduled on Court 12, not before 5pm (6pm, GMT).
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