MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Caroline Garcia faces a tough test of her Australian Open title credentials when she takes on former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez on day four of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Caroline Garcia began her Australian Open with a comfortable win over Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov. The fourth seed is looking to continue the momentum from the end of last year when she claimed the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals. However Garcia has never been able to make a deep run at a Grand Slam as the pressure seems to get to her when it matters most. Now Garcia is looking to prove the doubters wrong and finally start contending for Grand Slams on a regular basis and will be confident about her chances in Melbourne.
Those title credentials will be put through a severe test in the second round as she takes on former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez. Since reaching the US Open final in 2021, injuries have halted Fernandez’s progress but the Canadian still has bags of potential having not reached the peak of her career yet. Fernandez’s win over Alize Cornet in the first round will give her confidence that anything is possible over the next couple of weeks and going under the radar may be the best thing that could happen to the 20 year-old heading into the next fortnight.
Garcia will need to serve well in this match against a consistent returner like Fernandez with the Canadian looking to extend the rallies as much as possible. The fourth seed will also have the confidence to come into the net if things aren’t going her way which could play into her hands. This will be a tight match and it wouldn’t be surprising if Fernandez’s athletic game caused a shock on day four of the Australian Open.
Prediction: Fernandez in three sets.
Casper Ruud  v Jenson Brooksby H2H & Match Fundamentals
Casper Ruud hasn’t had the best starts to this season but the Norwegian would have been delighted to have grinded out a four set win over Tomas Machac in his opening round. Ruud has his sights set on being the world number one after a 2022 season that saw him reach two Grand Slam finals as well as being in the final of the Nitto ATP Finals. Now Ruud aims for a deep run in Melbourne as he looks to finally claim Grand Slam glory.
In order to do that Ruud will have to overcome dangerous American talent Jenson Brooksby in the second round. Brooksby has an athletic game style with solid defensive skills mixed with big serving and an aggressive backhand. The American’s consistency has seen him win some big matches over the past year and now he looks to rise further up the rankings in 2023 by performing better at the Grand Slams and can start that quest with a big win here.
This will be a match between two players who defend and cover the ground well with Brooksby looking to create angles to move Ruud out of position. Meanwhile Ruud will look to use depth as well as pace to force the errors out of the American. This should be a great match but the best of five set format should slightly favour Ruud as he can gradually improve his level as the match goes on.
It has been a hard last year to be a Karolina Pliskova fan as the Czech Republican has gone from title contender to just about being a seed for a Grand Slam. However Pliskova’s run to the semi-finals in Toronto last year and the quarter-finals at the US Open has given her some hope that she can still be a threat at the big tournaments. Now Pliskova will look to rediscover her form in Melbourne and become Grand Slam contender once again.
However a big test awaits Pliskova in the second round in the form of feisty Kazakh Yulia Putintseva. Putintseva has a gritty baseline game and is still being a nuisance to players across the tour with her dynamic game. The 28 year-old has been known for turning up on the big stages and will be looking to do the same in this match as she aims for a deep Grand Slam run.
This will be about mental strength and who can control their power the best with both players looking to dominate from the back of the court. If Pliskova can find the angles and keeps her movement sharp then she should edge this match but Putintseva will take the 30th seed all the way and make things as uncomfortable as possible.
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