Novak Djokovic didn’t have it all his own way during his four set victory over French qualifier Enzo Couacaud. However the nine-time champion won’t mind that too much as he showed great resilience to reach the third round in Melbourne. Doubts remain over Djokovic’s leg injury that he suffered in Adelaide but the Serb will look to overcome the pain barrier as he looks to equal Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam total and win his 23rd title at this level.
In order to achieve that Djokovic will have to first get past 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has had rusty form over the last couple of years but Dimitrov still seems to be enjoying his tennis and achieving consistent results at the big events. Dimitrov’s athleticism mixed with backhand power still makes him a threat on the big stages even if he struggles to perform to his potential on some weeks and the former Australian Open semi-finalist will look to cause a shock here.
Dimitrov will look to be aggressive at every opportunity and use his slice to neutralise some of Djokovic’s aggressive patterns of play. Meanwhile Djokovic will continue to absorb Dimitrov’s power and put the Bulgarian in uncomfortable situations on the court. Even though Djokovic has been struggling physically, mentally he is the toughest player on tour to beat and that will give him the advantage in a match like this against an opponent he has beaten on nine occasions.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.
Aryna Sabalenka  v Elise Mertens  H2H & Match Fundamentals
Aryna Sabalenka is full of confidence at the moment, having won the title in Adelaide leading up to Melbourne, the Belarusian has continued her great start to the season throughout the opening week. Sabalenka has only dropped nine games so far this week and is looking like joining Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula as one of the contenders of the title. However we’ve seen this story before and usually ends with Sabalenka being unable to keep a strong mentality throughout the tournament and falter when it matters most. Will that change in Melbourne?
Next for Sabalenka is former doubles partner Elise Mertens who has picked up a bit of form herself in the first week. Having beaten former Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the opening round, Mertens backed that up with an impressive win over Lauren Davis. Now Mertens looks to take her gritty baseline game to the next level and make a deep run at a Grand Slam.
Mertens will look to bring a consistent level to the match but will need to focus on quality of shot in this match as it will be Sabalenka who will dictate most of the match. If Mertens can make deep returns and shots within the rallies, then she has a chance of winning this match but Sabalenka’s form suggests that the Belarusian will prevail in three sets.
Belinda Bencic has started the season in red-hot form having won the Adelaide two event, Bencic has continued her impressive form in Melbourne. Having already won the Olympic title, Bencic will believe this year is the year to finally win a Grand Slam or at least reach a final with the Swiss yet to reach her potential at the big events.
Standing in Bencic’s way is fellow big-hitter Camila Giorgi who is still a dangerous presence on the WTA tour with her big serve and baseline game. The streaky Italian has the game to beat anyone on her day and has already shown she can put a run together at WTA 1000 level. Now Giorgi will look to upset the odds and put together another deep run but this time at Grand Slam level.
This will match will see a battle of power, control and domination as these two players only know how to play one way and that’s big. Bencic will look to use the angles and force Giorgi into errors while Giorgi will look to make high percentage patterns of play. This should be a good test for Bencic but one she should come through and reach the second week fairly unscathed.
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