Australian Open 🇦🇺 R1 Preview
(21) 🇩🇪 Angelique Kerber vs 🇩🇪 Anna-Lena Friedsam
Angelique Kerber arrives at Melbourne Park as the form player on tour heading into the first Grand Slam of the season. The 21st seed will start her 2018 Australian Open campaign against compatriot Anna-Lena Friedsam on Tuesday. Kerber had a very poor 2017 but has made an extremely impressive start to her 2018 campaign. Kerber has won 9 matches in lead-up to Melbourne, Kerber claimed her first title since her U.S Open triumph in 2016 by winning the Sydney International last week. If Kerber can bring the form she showed in Sydney to Melbourne, she will be one of the main contenders for the title over the next fortnight.
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Angelique Kerber’s struggles in 2017 were well documented. The signs are that those struggles are behind Kerber as the German showed signs of her 2016 form during the first 2 weeks of the new year. Kerber amassed a perfect 4-0 record at the Hopman Cup before heading to Sydney where she won her first title since 2016. Over the those two weeks, Kerber claimed notable victories over Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova, Venus Williams, Dominika Cibulkova and Ashleigh Barty amongst others. Not a bad list of scalps heading into the first major of the year. Kerber seems relaxed and fit, importantly she seems to be very motivated again which makes her a real threat.
Anna-Lena Friedsam made her comeback to the WTA tour late last year after over a year on the side-lines due to injury. Friedsam had some success late last year, coming through the qualifying draw to win the ITF 25K event in Shrewsbury. In 2018 the German started her season last week in Hobart. Friedsam was able to claim her first tour level victory since Wimbledon 2016 with a hard-fought 3 set win over Alison Van Uytvanck. The 23-year-old was beaten in the second round by eventual finalist Mihaela Buzarnescu in 2 tight sets.
The only previous match between the pair took place on clay in Nuremburg in 2014, Kerber won that match 6-2 7-6. On paper, this is a big mismatch, Kerber is ranked over 300 places above Friedsam and is in superb form. However, it may not be that easy, Friedsam is very talented and capable of playing great tennis, we saw that in 2016 when Friedsam reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Rome R2:
(1) 🇺🇸 Serena Williams vs. 🇩🇪 Anna-Lena Friedsam
Serena Williams will begin her Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign on Tuesday evening with a second round clash against Anna-Lena Friedsam. Interestingly, Anna-Lena pushed Serena to a third set in their only previous meeting at Roland Garros last year, Serena will be hoping for a far more straightforward victory on this occasion as she makes her first appearance on the tour since Miami a couple of months ago.
Serena Williams has only played 3 tournaments this year and is yet to win a title, the poorest start to a season the American has made for a long, long time. Serena is actually yet to win a title since her shock loss to Roberta Vinci at the U.S Open, at this point in time it seems like that infamous semi-final loss to the Italian may well have been a turning point in the American’s career. It seems like Serena is yet to fully recover from that loss. Serena is a 3-time former champion in Rome and should be very motivated to add another title to her collection this week given her recent (relative) struggles. Serena is also competing in the doubles draw alongside sister Venus this week, but the pair suffered a shock first round loss on Monday, but the match should still act as decent preparation for Serena's first round clash on Tuesday with Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Anna-Lena Friedsam is having a great year and continues to climb up the rankings. However, the German has generally struggled on clay throughout her career and has once again made a poor start to the clay court season in 2016, arriving in Rome on the back of a couple of disappointing early round exits. Friedsam made a decent start in Rome on Monday, recording a fairly comfortable 6-4 7-5 win over Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova to set up a clash with the world number 1 on Tuesday. A match the German will enter with nothing to lose and will be relatively confident after her strong showing against the American in their only previous match.
In the only previous meeting between the pair, it was Serena who recorded a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win over the German. Serena was really challenged in that match and is likely to be better prepared to tackle the German on this occasion. Friedsam will know that she is capable of competing with Serena and may sense some vulnerability in the American's game since Serena has not played a competitive singles match for such a long time. Given this is Serena’s first clay court match of the year, the American is likely to make a slow start but ultimately a seemingly motivated Williams should be good enough to win this match in straight sets despite some likely early challenges.
Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Anna-Lena Friedsam in 2 sets
Stuttgart R2: (7) Carla Suarez Navarro vs (wc) Anna-Lena Friedsam
Carla Suarez Navarro will be aiming to reach her third consecutive quarter-final in Stuttgart on Thursday when she comes up against German wild card Anna-Lena Friedsam. Suarez Navarro is always one to look out for during the clay court season and has been in some good form of late. Anna-Lena Friedsam is unlikely to be a pushover in this second round clash and will draw upon the support of the German crowd as she looks to pull off an upset.
Suarez Navarro’s form over the last couple of months has been quite up and down. The Spaniard claimed the biggest title of her career in Doha but was unable to win a match during the Indian Wells/Miami swing. Suarez Navarro will be looking for a more consistent couple of months on the clay, a surface that she has amassed an impressive 32-9 win/loss record on over the last two seasons. The seventh seed made a solid start to her Stuttgart campaign on Tuesday, winning 11 games in a row to record a 6-3 6-0 win over Oceane Dodin. The Spaniard looms as a potential champion this week.
Anna-Lena Friedsam recorded her first main draw victory in Stuttgart on Monday, the German wild card defeated Johanna Konta 6-3 6-3 to set up a second round clash with Carla Suarez Navarro. Friedsam’s form over the last couple of months has been quite solid and she continues to climb up the rankings. Friedsam has had some success on clay on the ITF circuit and certainly has the game to play good tennis on the surface, it will be interesting to see how far she can push the Spaniard. This match where give a good indication as to exactly where the German's level is at.
In the first career meeting between Suarez Navarro and Friedsam, I suspect the Spaniard will prove to be a class above her opponent. It is always very difficult to get past Suarez Navarro on a clay court, I doubt Friedsam has the mentality to the job done on this occasion but I do think this match will generally be quite competitive as the German does have some serious weapons and will be inspired by the vocal German crowd.
Prediction: Carla Suarez Navarro to defeat Anna-Lena Friedsam in 3 sets